Netflix-style on demand streaming movies, TV & audio coming to the Los Angeles Public Library

Want to borrow a movie from the library, but don't want to leave your couch? Or listen to The Hunger Games on your morning commute? There’s an app for that.

If you have a  Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) card and a computer or smartphone, you will soon be able to stream movies and listen to audiobooks from your digital devices for free through a new library service called hoopla.

A Holland, Ohio-based media distribution company, Midwest Tape, has launched the digital streaming service in Ohio and is expanding to Los Angeles in May or June, according to Sue Basuck, general manager of Midwest Tape.

After library patrons download the app on their choice of device – iPhone, iPad or an old-fashioned computer – they can rent and stream a collection of more than 300,000 digitized video and books. You can browse the selections of movies, music, audiobooks and television online.

The digital collection is still quite small, compared to other streaming services, but Midwest Tape is working to expand their list, Basuck said. If you want to watch a season of “Glee” or “Finding Nemo,” your DVD section at your local brick & mortar library may still be your best bet. As for hoopla's film collection, the pickings are limited to Gaiam fitness videos, foreign films, documentaries, PBS specials and independent movies at the moment.

There’s a larger children's television collection. Last month, Canadian producer DHX Media signed a deal with hoopla, bringing more than 1,000 episodes of children's programs from  Madeline to Inspector Gadget.

The best features? No overdue fees or waiting lists. When the loan period is up, the materials will be be returned automatically – you will simply no longer be able to view it.

Streaming is unlimited, so that means no more waiting lists.

Readers who have tried to borrow e-books from their libraries may have faced the digital waiting list for popular titles. Want to check out Life of Pi for your Kindle? Good luck – the LAPL’s waiting list was at 42 patrons on March 4. With hoopla, however, an unlimited number of people can stream a show or check out a book at the same time, Basuck said.

“We are excited about [hoopla]. It’s an innovative program and it’s one of the few projects that's actually completed. It just expands our current e-programs,” said Brenda J. Breaux, a public relations specialist at LAPL. LAPL already offers music downloading through Freegal, audiobook lending through OneClickDigital and e-books through Overdrive.

If you have an iPad or iPhone, you can download the Hoopla Digital app from iTunes and test their demo collection. An Android app is coming soon.

Don't have an LAPL library card? The library card is free to all California residents, with photo identification. Those younger than 18 will need a signature from a parent or guardian signature to get a card. Fill out the registration form online and pick up a card at your nearest branch.

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