It might get me a lifetime ban from the Pawnee Parks & Rec department, but I’ve always loved libraries. I remember the first time I realized I could burn The Who’s “Tommy,” Led Zeppelin I-IV, and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” onto my computer with FREE checked-out CDs. (This was before Spotify. We played guitar uphill in the snow, both ways, and we liked it.)
I also remember staring wide-eyed and ecstatic at the collections of Marvel Essentials in my local public library as I was first diving into the Marvel Universe. I don’t want to say that’s totally heaven, but toss in some pizza, beer, and a Cubs World Series (oh, and my wife), and that’s totally my heaven.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited to learn about Hoopla Digital, an online-only extension of your local library, that just so happens to feature a pretty excellent comic book collection.
Hoopla Digital For Comic Books
While Hoopla offers books, CDs, movies and more, I’ll be focusing exclusively on the comic book offering and reading experience.
In the simplest terms, I’m really happy with my Hoopla experience to date. The selection of comics is great, the reading experience on a tablet is strong, and offline reading is virtually flawless.
Here’s how this works, and the major catch – If your local library falls within Hoopla’s syndicate of participants (Hoopla is live within more than 800 libraries nationwide), all you need is your library card and you’re good to create an account and access the app for free.
What Comics Are In Hoopla Digital?
Essentially, Hoopla offers a “greatest hits” smattering of comics from some of the best and biggest publishers in the industry. You’ll find strong collections from DC Comics, Vertigo, Image, and (as of last week) Dark Horse.
Much like Scribd Unlimited (and unlike Marvel Unlimited), comics are presented in their collected edition format, meaning you download around 6 to 12 issues at a time, as part of one complete story arc (which is often part of a still larger whole).
I won’t list out every issue available, but I will mention that I’ve felt like a kid on Christmas combing this library. My personal saved favorites are as follows:
Batman and Son
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth
B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs
John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 1: Original Sins
The Walking Dead
Is This Secretly Kind Of DC Unlimited?
As mentioned above, Hoopla offers a solid collection of DC Comics, making this the strongest “all-you-can-eat” digital version of DC books that I’ve seen. The appetite for DC Comics is off-the-charts, to the point that I see searchers by the thousands scanning my Scribd Unlimited review just for a whiff of hope that DC Unlimited might exist (sad spoiler from that post: it doesn’t!).
Hoopla is a plausible DC Unlimited alternative, and since it’s free, it’s my personal favorite option. Comixology is great, but you have to pay per issue (like a common contributing member of society!), and torrenting DC comics makes me feel like I just took a bath with Swamp Thing (note to self: stop telling people you took a bath with Swamp Thing).
Quite clearly, the selection of comics currently on Hoopla is far from “unlimited.” You could sit here all day listing pretty great comics that aren’t in the library. Nonetheless, if you’re new to the DC Universe, there’s a pitch perfect mix of essentials (Dark Knight, Killing Joke, etc) and New 52 standouts. And again, it’s free.
How Does Hoopla Compare to Scribd, Marvel Unlimited, and Comixology?
The biggest advantages for reading comics with Hoopla are:
If you have a library card, it’s completely free.
Offline reading for borrowed titles is excellent (this is one of Marvel Unlimited’s major drawbacks).
Hoopla’s library offers a lot of great comics not available in either Scribd or MU.
The biggest problems with Hoopla?
Downloading trades to read takes a lonnnngggg time (upwards of half an hour to an hour on solid WiFi)
No Marvel comics (or for that matter, no Top Shelf comics like Scribd has)
These are borrowed titles, but they will “return” automatically, so no late fees
Check-outs are limited around 4 to 15 per month depending on your local library
The active-view panel by panel reading isn’t as high quality as Comixology, although I would put it on par or superior to Marvel Unlimited’s smart panels.
How Does The App Reading Experience Compare?
On a tablet, the Hoopla app is simply solid and dependable. Active-view panel by panel reading can diminish your image clarity, and two-page spreads (horizontal reading) is a challenge with a fair amount of wasted screen space.
Otherwise, vertical singe page reading is simple and enjoyable.
A tip from my reading so far:
You can double tap to engage active-view reading. If you want to go back to full-page reading, hit the back button on your device. Double tapping again (and again, and again) will not restore full page.
Couldn’t I Do All This By Just, Like, Going To The Library?
The upside I’ve enjoyed from Hoopla is mostly a matter of convenience. For starters, downloading the next volume of Fables is as simple as deciding “I want to read the next volume of Fables” and clicking “borrow” on the app. As opposed to placing this book on hold, and waiting for my local library to obtain a copy (not to mention driving to a building inhabited by humans, and potentially speaking with said humans in order to check out my book *shudders*).
I’ve also found a surprising amount of preference for taking digital reads on my daily commute. It’s just easier to carry around my Nook HD+ (represent!) than a hardcover 12 issue Preacher collection.
Hoopla is Also Kind of a Fun Word To Say
End of the day, if you fall within the library restrictions, I recommend giving Hoopla a look. I have no affiliate with the service (classic Comic Book Herald), but I’ve really enjoyed using it for the past month or so.
What do you think? Have you used Hoopla in the past? What do you think of the selection? Is this the DC Unlimitd we’ve dreamed of since we were young? Do what feels right to you in the comments.
And as always, enjoy the comics!