First you could check out e-books, then digital music and magazines. The Salt Lake County Library is now tapping into the latest frontier of digital content by making streaming and downloadable movies available for loan to patrons.
These aren't just public domain movies of Charlie Chaplin shorts or obscure documentaries about the African Serengeti. The movies that are available to check out for computers and mobile devices are Hollywood films and TV shows such as Harrison Ford's "K-19: The Widowmaker," the fantasy film "The Neverending Story," and the PBS kid's animated series, "Arthur." Salt Lake County is the only library system in Utah to offer these kinds of films digitally for check-out.
"We're really excited to be able to offer this," said Greg Near, Salt Lake County Library System spokesman. "It's new, and it provides service and product for our customers who are on the go using their digital devices."
To provide the service, the Salt Lake County Library turned to Holland, Ohio, company Hoopla Digital, which now provides downloadable and streaming videos to 20 library systems around the country. Salt Lake County was one of 10 initial libraries that was beta-testing the Hoopla service since June. It officially opened it up to patrons last month.
"So far the feedback has been very positive, and patrons have been really enjoying the service," Near said. "There's such a mix of content."
To use the service, patrons can either access Hoopla through a web browser at http://www.hoopladigital.com or by downloading the mobile app available through iTunes for iOS devices or Google Play for Android devices.
It requires a Salt Lake County Library card. The patron registers with Hoopla Digital and creates a password, then the movies and television shows will be available for streaming. On mobile devices, the title can either be streamed or downloaded to be watched offline later. Patrons can borrow a title for up to three days and can watch it as many times as they want during that rental period. Then the video is deleted or locked from further viewing unless they borrow it again. Unlike borrowing e-books or a DVD movie from the library, there are no limited numbers of copies of each video, so any number of people can borrow a title at the same time.
There are some limitations. To prevent anyone from making a copy of the movie or television show, copy protection is embedded in each video. A patron cannot copy the movie to a disc or make a duplicate of the file. You can, however, display the movie from your mobile device or computer to a television.
Patrons can only stream or download 10 titles per month because it costs the library between 99 cents and $2.99 per downloaded title, Near said. The service has no ads. Instead, it is funded by government funding for the library.
Hoopla Digital is a subsidiary of Midwest Tape, which has provided copies of movies to libraries for 25 years, and has leveraged its relationships with movie studios to make this kind of digital service available for libraries, said Hoopla's founder and owner, Jeff Jankowski.
"We're just getting started. Not even half of the major studios are on board," he said. "We're in various stages of negotiations with the rest of them. We have big expectations to expand this program."
Right now, the county library has access to Hoopla's 10,000 movies and television shows, and beginning this week it also will make Hoopla's 10,000 audiobooks available. The only content from Hoopla that the county is not accessing is its music library.
The county library system already has 195,000 music CDs and 185,000 DVDs available for rent from any of its 18 library branches. It also makes digital songs available to patrons through a service called Freegal, and digital magazines are accessible through another service called Zinio. It also has e-books through a system called Overdrive that patrons can read on iPads and Kindles. Movies and television shows are just the next step in making digital content available to its patrons.
"The availablity of content is changing all the time, and our patrons are always looking for something new, so we try to keep up," Near said. "You don't know what's around the corner."
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