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Your Library Card is Your Ticket to Free Streaming Videos

 by Ruth Schneider   Posted on August 12 2013

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Move over, Netflix and Hulu Plus. There's a new video-streaming source in town -- and its offerings are free.

Hoopla, a free app available on both Android phones and iPhones, is joining forces with libraries across the nation offering free access to thousands of videos, music albums and e-books. It's only in a dozen or so libraries now, but by the end of 2013, Hoopla should be available through about 100 of the nation's libraries.

All it takes is a library card and a participating library in your area.

While e-book lending is nothing new, typically it can be a tedious process. When a new highly anticipated e-book hits the library shelves, often there are long waiting lists of patrons vying for one of a limited number of copies. Hoopla's collection, in contrast, allows unlimited viewers of the same media. No long waiting lists.

But there are limits -- not set by Hoopla, but by the libraries themselves. For example, the Seattle Public Library, which just began offering the service in July, limits library patrons to 20 titles per month. The Columbus Metropolitan Library, in Ohio, put the cap at eight titles, regardless of format.

Hoopla users are also limited to the collection that their local library pays to rent through Hoopla.

Another caveat: You're probably not going to find "Iron Man 3" or the last season of "Game of Thrones" on the e-shelves anytime soon. Think more along the lines of "Father Knows Best" and the 2004 remake of "The Stepford Wives.

In contrast, the music selection offers more recent releases. Magna Carta... Holy Grail, Jay-Z's new touted opus is available. It could be an ideal way for music buffs to listen to complete albums prior to purchase, rather than be restricted to snippets of songs like iTunes.

Or it could be a good way to watch some free flicks. But you probably don't want to ditch those Netflix or Hulu Plus subscriptions. At least, not yet.

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