Our reviewers evaluate products and services based on unbiased research. Top Consumer Reviews may earn money when you click on a link. Learn more about our process.

Hoopla Review

Saturday, March 2nd

2024 Audiobook Store Reviews

Hoopla Review 4.5 Star Rating

Hoopla

4.5 Star Rating
  • Free digital lending system
  • Instant Borrows let you check out titles instantly without waiting
  • Varied content: audiobooks, movies, TV shows, music, and comics
  • BingePass: Stream diverse content for seven days with no added cost
  • Offline use available

Do you ever find yourself getting impatient when waiting to check out digital audiobooks from your library? It can be quite an exasperating experience being 15th in line for the next book in a series you've been devouring. The irony is that you're not even waiting on a physical copy to be dropped in the return slot at your local library, but rather a digital file that doesn't require any physical space or returns processing. Enter Hoopla, a library-based app that offers a fresh take on digital lending.

No waiting with Instant Borrows

Unlike our top library audiobook service which only purchases a specific number of digital copies for their catalog (just like physical books), Hoopla adds a twist. Yes, they also have this more conventional system, but in addition, they introduce "Instant Borrows". These titles are a godsend for the impatient reader. At the start of each calendar month, your library allocates you a given number of Instant Borrows (the number varies from library to library). What makes them "instant"? Well, these titles are always available, no holds or waiting, and multiple patrons can access the same title simultaneously. Just look for the lightning symbol next to the title. But remember, these don't roll over to the next month, and returning an Instant Borrow doesn't give you an additional one.

Type of Borrow indicated by symbol system

Flex Borrows are a bit different and can be identified by a symbol of two arrows circling each other. While Instant titles allow for simultaneous use by many, Flex titles operate on a one-person-at-a-time basis. If someone else is currently using a Flex title, you'll have to wait or place a hold, much like the traditional physical borrowing system. When all Flex titles are out on loan, you'll see a "Wait List" displayed above the title artwork.

Best Audiobook Stores

Libraries pay each time you check out an Instant Borrow

One librarian provided a clearer insight into this system: "Libraries set a maximum price threshold for items (some might be priced at .99, 1.99, with 5.99 being the highest). They also determine the monthly limit for each patron. For instance, we allow items under 3.99 and up to 10 checkouts per person. So, theoretically, a patron could cost us 39.90 a month at most." So don't feel bad about costing your library money by using Instant Borrows - they've budgeted for it.

Interface is a little clunkier than our top service

If you want to rewind while listening, you'll need to open the app and click the skip button. We observed that when listening through our car's Bluetooth system, pressing the back arrow on the steering wheel had no effect, and we encountered the same problem when using headphone controls. Given that most people listen to audiobooks while doing something else, this is a drawback worth mentioning.

Other listening features are typical

Hoopla's app comes equipped with a sleep timer, chapter navigation, and custom playback speed selection. Just make sure you download your audiobook to your device before you leave the house - books you've checked out won't be available for offline use unless you do this manually.

Best Audiobook Stores

Titles chosen by Hoopla

Unlike our top-ranked service, Hoopla's collection is not selected by your library. They receive new titles from different media vendors every week. Librarians can't suggest particular titles, either - the librarian quoted earlier in this review also wanted you to know that they've tried and been denied. Occasionally, Hoopla titles are added only for a limited time, so if you come across something you're interested in, make sure to take advantage of it.

Selection is a polyglot's dream

One of the things we love about Hoopla's audiobook catalog is the inclusion of titles in languages other than English. Want to listen to Harry Potter in German, Spanish, or Italian? No problem.

Bestsellers abound

When browsing the audiobook page, we were pleased to find a wide range of genres including many bestsellers available. And, although your library can't choose the titles Hoopla carries, they do still get to curate your browsing experience a bit. Look at the "Recently Added by Your Library" collection to see what they've picked out for you.

Best Audiobook Stores

Not just text- or audio-based media

In addition to ebooks and audiobooks, you can also find movies, music, TV shows, and even comics on Hoopla. This makes it a great one-stop shop for many of your media needs

BingePass for educational content

With a Hoopla BingePass, you have access to a wide range of premium digital content all in one place. It's perfect for beating boredom or engaging in targeted learning. The BingePass allows you to stream unlimited interactive, educational, and entertaining content, from magazines and podcasts to children's eBooks and documentaries. There's a BingePass for every interest. Just navigate to the "Browse" button next to the search bar and you'll find about 18 different collections to choose from, including Hallmark Movies, The Great Courses Video Library, and lots of children's media. Each BingePass is valid for seven days and is available for free to anyone with a public library membership. You can even suggest new BingePass options by consulting your local librarian. The BingePass can be accessed on the web and various mobile devices, but it's not compatible with set-top boxes like Roku, Fire TV/Stick, or Apple TV.

Strong choice

We think Hoopla is great, especially the Instant Borrow feature. The only reasons they don't get the top spot are that their interface isn't quite as intuitive to navigate as the top library service in our review, and there's an issue with skipping backwards or forwards in the app. We'd recommend you use our top service, and if you really can't wait for a title, check Hoopla to see if it's available as an instant borrow. Still, Hoopla is a fantastic resource for your audiobook needs and should not be missed.

Where Can You Find the Best Audiobook Listening Service?

The world of audiobooks has seen huge growth over the past decade, with industry surveys showing a double-digit increase for ten years in a row with no signs of slowing down. Various platforms for listening to audiobooks have popped up, each one catering to different user needs, budgets, and preferences.

The recent boom in the popularity of audiobooks can be attributed to a few different factors, but one of the biggest reasons is how well they fit into our busy, multitasking lives. You can listen while you're commuting, working out, or even doing household chores like folding the laundry. It's a great way to access intellectually engaging entertainment while getting some drudgery done.

The Best Audiobook Stores Compare Audiobook Stores Compare Audiobook Store Reviews What are the best Audiobook Stores Best Audiobook Store Reviews

Audiobook Store FAQ

It's exactly what you'd think: an audio recording of a narrator reading a novel, biography, or any other printed work. Some audiobooks are strictly narration, while others incorporate sound effects and other engineering to enrich the listening experience.
It's hard to multitask with a printed book in your hand, but listening to an audiobook gives people more freedom. Driving while listening to a self-help book, enjoying a thriller while on the treadmill, or relaxing outdoors while having a favorite narrator read the latest bestseller are just a few ways book-lovers can essentially have their cake and eat it too. Plus, for anyone who struggles to read print - because of dyslexia, vision impairment, and so on - audiobooks are a must.
A better question might be "what titles can't you get" ! From classic stories like Pollyanna and Dracula to the top 10 books on the NYT Best Sellers list, the possibilities are nearly endless. History buffs, sci-fi fanatics, autobiography lovers, romance addicts, and every other type of reader can find what they're looking for when it comes to audiobooks.
You can do either one - or both! Some audiobook services are subscription-based, giving you access to a certain number of titles for your monthly fee. Others provide titles a la carte, so you buy only what you want, when you want. There are even audiobook providers that let you rent what you read!
Not really. You can expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $30 for a single title, comparable to what you'd pay for the book itself. If you choose a membership service, fees usually range from $10 to $30 per month, depending on how many titles you'd like to have at any given time.
Not usually. You can stream titles if you prefer, but most audiobook platforms allow you to download the title to your phone or computer for offline listening. Of course, you'll need to be connected to the internet to select your book and download it, but you're free to disconnect once you have the title saved to your device.
That depends, both on the audiobook service you select and the app or platform you use for listening (and sometimes those two aspects are integrated). Some listeners appreciate being able to listen to titles at twice the speed (even though it comes out a little like a chipmunk!). You can also find services that let you sync up an audiobook with the print title, letting you essentially follow along in the book while it's read to you.
This is a hotly-debated topic! Some people say that audiobooks are a "lazy" way of reading - or that they don't even count as "reading" a book because you don't use your eyes on a page. Others fiercely advocate for audiobooks as an effective method of letting all people love books, even if the actual act of reading the words isn't part of the process. At the end of the day, if you enjoy audiobooks as a part of your life, we say "keep listening!"
Compare the Best Reviews

Continued from above...

And, thanks to technological advancements, it's easier than ever to access audiobooks. It used to be that you had to confine yourself to a room with a CD player to listen to an audiobook, but now, anyone with a smartphone has thousands of audiobooks available at their fingertips. Plus, as audiobooks have grown in popularity, so has their production quality.

Audiobook narrators aren't merely reciting the words on the e-reader in front of them in the recording booth; they are acting out the story. Accomplished actors and seasoned voice artists can bring stories to life, adding an auditory dimension to characters and settings that can sometimes rival or surpass the imagination. Narrators are often chosen because the story resonates with them personally, adding an extra layer of emotion to the performance and making it feel more human.

For those apprehensive about putting on their headphones instead of picking up a book, it's worth addressing some common misconceptions about audiobooks. Contrary to the belief that listening to a book is "cheating" or less intellectually engaging than reading, many studies show that the comprehension levels between reading and listening are strikingly similar. What's more, audiobooks can be particularly beneficial for those with reading difficulties, allowing them to enjoy literature they might otherwise struggle with. They are not a replacement for traditional reading but rather a complementary medium, broadening the horizons of literary engagement.

When it comes to audiobook services, there are several types to choose from. First, there are library-based services which partner with local libraries to allow users to digitally borrow audiobooks. Much like a traditional library, you can "check out" titles for a specific time frame using your library card. However, be mindful that sought-after titles might have waiting lists. Another option is subscription-based services. With a recurring fee, usually monthly, users can access a broad range of audiobooks. Depending on the service, you might get a set number of credits to pick audiobooks each month or even enjoy unlimited listening. Lastly, there are pay-per-title services where, rather than a subscription, you buy each audiobook separately. While there's no monthly commitment, the upfront cost for each audiobook can be higher. The upside is that you typically get to keep the audiobook forever once you've bought it.

When deciding on the right audiobook service, several considerations can help guide your decision:

  • Cost: Determine your budget for audiobooks. Some services might have a higher monthly fee but offer more benefits, while others might be more cost-effective for infrequent listeners.
  • Subscription model: Evaluate if you'd prefer a monthly subscription, a pay-per-title approach, or a library-based system. Your listening habits (how many books you listen to each month) can help inform this choice.
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM): DRM policies can restrict how you use, transfer, and download audiobooks. Make sure the platform gives you the necessary flexibility and control, as owning a title doesn't always guarantee freedom over it. A more restrictive DRM can limit your ability to move titles between devices or even result in losing access to your books if the service shuts down. Choose platforms that respect your rights as a user.
  • Selection: Check the variety and volume of titles available, especially in genres or topics you prefer. Some services might excel in fiction, while others might cater more to non-fiction or educational content.
  • Trial period: See if the service offers a free trial. This can be a risk-free way to gauge the platform's interface, selection, and overall experience.
  • Usability: The user interface and ease of navigation are essential. You want a service that's intuitive and doesn't frustrate you every time you want to find a new book or pick up where you left off.
  • Offline listening: Be sure the platform lets you download titles for offline access, vital for travel or areas with spotty internet.
  • Playback features: Look for features like bookmarking, sleep timers, chapter navigation, and personalized recommendations that can enhance your listening experience.

If you want a detailed overview of the best audiobook services out there, Top Consumer Reviews has your back. We trust our ranked evaluations will guide you to the audiobook platform that best matches your listening habits and lifestyle!

The Best Reviews of Audiobook Stores