Streaming is great — but not everyone has the cash for a monthly subscription to Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Now or Amazon Prime (or access to an HBO GO password). But if you have a New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) card, you have Hoopla (www.hoopladigital.com), a free streaming service that offers movies, TV shows, audiobooks, music and e-books for library patrons.
Since launching Hoopla last August, NOPL has streamed more than 8,000 titles, according to NOPL spokesman John Marc Sharpe. "You can listen to music for one week, audiobooks for three weeks and watch movies for three days before they are automatically returned," Sharpe says.
Hoopla may not have the latest titles (though it did offer the recent Kristen Wiig comedy Welcome to Me at the same time it was in theaters), but a quick look at the movie offerings includes Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and other acclaimed titles of relatively recent vintage. Cardholders can sort movies by genre (including "independent cinema").
TV offerings include Ken Burns' 10-part documentary Jazz, as well as other PBS and National Geographic programs, yoga and workout videos and more. "We had a patron tell us they've begun taking yoga classes because they were able to stream Yoga for Beginners videos and really enjoyed it," Sharpe says.
Audiobooks include Orange is the New Black and The Hunger Games, along with romance, kids' and young adult books, mystery/suspense and urban fiction. Among the musical selections are albums by Dr. John, Nicki Minaj and the Grateful Dead, as well as pop, country, soundtracks and musicals. Music titles can be sorted by decade. (Hoopla began loaning comic books in May, but Sharpe says NOPL isn't offering that part of the service.)
To begin using Hoopla, go to www.new- orleanspubliclibrary.org and click "Downloadables" on the home page. From there, you can go to the Hoopla site, enter your library card number and PIN and begin browsing and downloading titles. You can stream titles in nearly any browser provided you have an Internet connection, or download the Hoopla app for your tablet or smartphone. Borrowers are limited to 10 Hoopla titles per month. When a title is due back, it disappears from your device — no need to remember to return.
That's one other advantage to free streaming. "No late fees," Sharpe says, "which our patrons really like."