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Saturday, March 2nd
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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