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First Impressions: Hoopla Comics, a Digital Borrowing Service

We take a look at what Hoopla has to offer in the way of comics for this free streaming service.

Hoopla is a pretty simple app available for both Android and iOS devices, as well as on their website. Members of their local library can log into this app, for free, and "borrow" books, movies, audiobooks, and comic books. You can borrow up to a number of items a month, depending on your library, and everything downloads right to your portable device or onto your personal computer.

We tested Hoopla on an iPad2 and a Nexus 6P with the latest OS for both platforms.

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Hoopla is incredibly intriguing considering that it is a free service for those who have access to their local library. It offers quite a lot of content for the low price of "free." Keep in mind, this is not a service that will completely replace a service like Netflix, Audible, Comixology, etc, but it is a nice addition to those services, especially in the realm of comic books, which it offers quite a bit of.

The app is small and a quick download and has a pretty easy to use interface that is straight to the point. The phone and tablet interfaces are nearly identical, so there's no real change there other than some color changes in the menus.

Hoopla recently started offering comic books to its users and most recently, Valiant got on the bandwagon and put quite a large collection of books onto the app, which we'll get more into later. Getting a book is easy. You find what you like, download it (borrow it), and then read it. You can also return the piece of media if you're running low on space.

Hoopla on the iPad
Hoopla on the iPad

One of the downsides to Hoopla is that when you want to read a comic, it has to download the whole book before you can read it, unlike Comixology, which lets you read as you download it. If you're impatient, this can be a bit frustrating, especially if you're trying to read a trade.

During Guided View, at times, the resolution for the original comic isn't that high, so when it's zoomed in on a frame, there's a bit of pixelation and it's not as clear and crisp as it should be.It's tough to say whether this is because of Hoopla or just the resolution of the original digital version they were given. This problem did not exist on the phone. Everything looked clear while reading the books.

The biggest drawback that some users will face is that you're allowed to download a certain number of things a month, depending on your library, which seems like quite a bit, but that goes across all media platforms, including movies, television, books, etc. If you read a lot of comics, that could be a problem. My biggest suggestion, while using the app, is to avoid downloading single issues at all costs because you won't get a big bang for your buck.

As for actually reading the comic, guided view exists here for those who really enjoy that feature from other online comic services. The animation is really smooth and there's no delay as you swipe across the screen when using a tablet. These animations did not exist while using the Nexus and the app felt a tad more responsive while moving through Guided View. There was a tiny delay on the iPad, but nothing too dramatic or frustrating.

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When it comes to the selection available to readers, Hoopla has a decent amount of books to choose from. With DC, there are quite a few New 52 books to choose from, but the best way to look at what Hoopla is offering is that there's tons of great stories. This also includes a wide selection of Vertigo books from SANDMAN to Y: THE LAST MAN to FABLES to V FOR VENDETTA. There is also books for kids like TEEN TITANS GO! and SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES. Everything DC offers is in a collected format, so there are no single issues and it's not as up-to-date as the stuff you can buy in the comic book shops.

Dark Horse Comics has selections from HELLBOY, AW YEAH COMICS, SIN CITY and more. Image has THE WALKING DEAD, CHEW, SAGA, and other not as high profile but still fantastic series.Valiant offers both trades and single issues. They're not up-to-date with comic shops, but there's a wide selection of books to check out. Again, avoid the single issue as they add to your total borrow tally. There are also offerings from LUMBERJANES, PEANUTS, STAR TREK, and more

Overall, it's a good experience with this app and a must have for those who have access to a local library, as long as you plan on reading comics that have already come out months or years ago. Hoopla is not a good way to keep up with current comics, but it is a good way to read some of the best that DC, Dark Horse, and Valiant have to offer. There is no offering for Marvel here though. While we didn't play too much with the website, this is a good product to take on the go. It won't replace Comixology, but it is a good addition to it to read those essential stories you've missed out on.

Check out Hoopla's website to learn more.