Hoopla or Libby: What's the Difference?

Hoopla and Libby 

If you are always on the hunt for new e-books and e-audiobooks like I am, then you’ve probably had a run-in or two with Libby (previously Overdrive) or Hoopla. If you’ve never heard of either, don’t worry – this is the place to be to learn more about them! 


Ebooks, Audiobooks, Music Video - Hoopla ; Ebooks, Audiobooks, and Magazines - Libby


How to Use Libby and Hoopla 

Iowa City Public Library is only able to provide access to these services to residents of our primary service area: Iowa City, Hills, Lone Tree, University Heights, and rural Johnson County. If you live outside of these areas, check with your local library to see which digital services they offer.  


Here are some recorded classes on the Library’s YouTube channel about the basics of using Libby: 


Here are some recorded classes on the Library’s YouTube channel about the basics of using Libby: 


And if you prefer learning from a live class, we have a couple of classes coming up that will cover the topic of searching and borrowing eBooks from both Hoopla and Libby. 


Hoopla or Libby: What’s the Difference? 

Regardless of whether you use these apps every day or have never heard of them before, you might still be wondering why the Library is offering two digital services that sound so similar. Long story short, we offer both services to our patrons so that you can have access to the widest amount of materials possible while staying within our budget for digital materials. 



Okay, so I may have made the long story too short in the previous paragraph. If you still have some questions about why the Library is offering both services, hopefully the answers to these frequently asked questions will clear things up for you.  


  1. Is the content similar on Libby and Hoopla? 
  • Yes, there are similarities between the content on Libby and Hoopla. Libby offers e-books, e-audiobooks, and magazines. Hoopla offers all of that, AND movies, television shows, music, and some instructional classes. 
  1. So how is the content different between the two platforms? 
  • You will be more likely to find popular items and new releases on Libby. Hoopla, however, not only has more types of items than Libby, but just more items in general. The collection on Hoopla is made up of over 500,000 items – that well beats ICPL’s 45,000 title collection on Libby.   
  1. Help! I’m not seeing items from Hoopla in ICPL’s catalog! 
  • If you’re looking for a specific item and you don’t see it on the ICPL catalog, you might still be able to access it on Hoopla. We can’t import the entire 500,000 item Hoopla collection into our ICPL catalog – it's too many! So, even if an item doesn’t show up in our catalog, it is possible that it is in Hoopla’s collection. Double check by searching on the Hoopla app or website.  
  1. How many items can I check out on Libby? 
  • Libby has a check-out limit of five items at one time. That means that you could check-out five items, read them all in one week, return them all early, and immediately check-out another five items.  
  1. How many items can I check out on Hoopla? 
  • You can check out eight items a month. Once you’ve checked out your eight items, you must wait until the first of the next month to get more check-out credits. It doesn’t matter if you don’t open the item at all - once you’ve used a check-out credit, you can’t get it back.  
  1. Can I save up my check-out credits on Hoopla? 
  • You can’t save up check-out credits. If you don’t use your eight credits within a month, they go away, and you start over on the first of the month with just eight credits once again. 
  1. Can I return an item early? 
  • Yes, you can return an item early with both services. Returning items early in Libby makes them available to other patrons or those on the waiting list, just like it does when you return a physical copy of an item to the Library. Unlike Libby, returning items early on Hoopla does not impact other users – no one will ever be waiting for something you have checked out on Hoopla.  
  • P.S. - You can never accidentally keep an item too late on either service – they'll always be automatically returned on their due date. 
  1. How do holds work on Libby? 
  • Holds on Libby work just like holds on ICPL’s physical collection. If someone else is using the item you want, you can add it to your holds list, which means that the current user can’t renew the item and that you will receive the item when they return it. You can have up to 10 items on hold at one time on Libby.  
  1. How do holds work on Hoopla? 
  • Hoopla doesn’t have holds or wait lists. If an item is in the Hoopla collection, you will have instant access to it, no matter how many other people are using it. 
  1. Why do I have to wait so long for my holds on Libby?  
  • The holds list or wait time for items can sometimes be longer on Libby than it is for the physical copy of the item. This has to do with the cost of purchasing the digital license vs the cost of the physical item. Digital licensing rights are often two to three times more expensive than the physical item – and can be even more expensive for popular or new items! That means that we’ll often purchase extra physical copies of an item to reduce the wait time for it, but that we aren’t always able to purchase extra digital copies due to pricing issues. 
  1. Why is there never a waitlist on Hoopla, but so many on Libby? 
  • There are two main ways for libraries to get digital content; the “one copy, one user” model, and the “pay-per-use" model. 
  • For the one copy, one user model, you purchase the rights to one digital copy of an item, which can be used by one person at a time – just like a physical book. These generally come with an expiration date – either based on time or the number of uses – after which, the library must repurchase the rights.  
  • For the pay-per-use model, you get the rights to an item, and then pay a small fee every time the item is checked out. The rights tend to be more expensive for this model than the previous one, but you can have unlimited simultaneous users with this model – aka, no wait lists. 
  • Libby uses the “one copy, one user” model and Hoopla uses the “pay-per-use" model. That’s why you encounter waitlists on Libby, but not on Hoopla! 
  1. Does ICPL have any control over what goes on these services? 
  • Librarians here at ICPL select titles for Libby that are of interest to our community and purchase the rights to them. They get added to ICPL’s Libby collection, and patrons can check them out or put a hold on them.  
  • Unlike Libby, ICPL has no say in what materials are added to or removed from the Hoopla collection. Hoopla selects and purchases the more expensive pay-per-use rights for materials. They then charge the libraries that use their service a fee for every item that gets checked-out by their patrons. This allows ICPL to pay a small fee for items instead of paying for the full rights.  



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