Rare, festival-quality films, blockbuster movies & TV shows, best selling digital and audio books, even graphic novels -- you can get all these free from your local library! All you need is your free library card and the free Libby, Kanopy and Hoopla apps.
Here's how it works: Libby, Kanopy and Hoopla are services that have set up relationships with most libraries to stream content to their library card holders. Since we are already supporting our local public libraries with our taxes or our college and university libraries with our fees, we can get all this content for free and with no ads or commercials!*
So why pay to stream a movie? Why buy a book or graphic novel? Why not borrow and return them for free? Your library card and these apps will get you connected.
Your Golden Ticket: A Free Library Card
To get started, you'll need at least one library card** and your matching user ID, pin number or other account info. This is probably the only time that you'll be required to physically show up at your library. They'll want to see your driver's license or other documents to confirm your identity before they give you your card. After that, you can do the rest online from the comfort of your home. (TIP: While you're there, ask the librarian if the library has a relationship with Libby, Kanopy or Hoopla and ask if they have any advice for you about setting up the services.)
Libby: The Reading (and Audio Book) App
Using the Libby app on your phone or tablet you can download and read ebooks or listen to audio books. Depending on your library's rules, you can keep a book for up to two weeks, though you're typically able to renew it if you need more time. The app itself is feature-rich and really easy to use. And you can set it up to draw from more than one library if you have multiple library cards. You can use either the Libby app to read your downloaded books or, if you prefer, switch to your Kindle app. From within the app you can search each of your registered libraries for a book, reserve it, download it, read or listen to it, set bookmarks, highlight text and more. Check out the links below for more info.
- Libby App Preview (video)
- Libby Academy YouTube Channel (video collection)
- Libby Audiobooks, Tip & Tricks - Deerfield Library eTutor (video)
- Getting Started with Libby (web page)
Kanopy: Great Movies, Documentaries & Hard-to-Find Films
This is the app for film buffs, self-directed learners and popcorn-on-the-couch movie fans! You can use it on all all of your mobile devices or fire up that big, beautiful TV and stream HD through your Roku app or Chromecast.
The San Francisco Public Library summarizes: "Kanopy is an award-winning, on-demand streaming video platform for public libraries and universities that offers access to more than 30,000 independent and documentary films ─ titles of unique social and cultural value from The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, Media Education Foundation, and thousands of independent filmmakers." - SF Public Library FAQ
- Kanopy Review (A video overview from Tek411)
- Kanopy: Free Feature Films and Documentaries (video... examples of how to get started & use on different devices from Mobile Public Library)
- Kanopy App Tutorial (how-to video, using Kanopy on a smartphone from Attleboro Public Library)
- Kanopy website (Slick and beautiful! Browse the Kanopy collection here.)
Hoopla: All of the Above, Plus Music, TV Shows & Graphic Novels
From the Hoopla website: "Hoopla is a groundbreaking digital media service offered by your local public library that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics [graphic novels] and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV!"
Think of it this way: Hoopla provides the same categories of media as Libby and Kanopy, plus music, TV shows and graphic novels! What's more, it has a special Kids section with loads of boredom killers for your kids. While it's available via an app on all your portable devices, you can also stream the treasures you find via the Roku app, Chromecast, Fire, Apple TV & other devices.
- Hoopla - The Best FREE Movie & TV Service You Need to Know About (Legal) (video from Cord Cutters News)
- Hoopla Digital YouTube Channel
- Hoopla Tutorials (playlist from Hoopla Digital YouTube channel)
* The number of media items you can borrow in a given period (week, month, etc.) will vary depending on your library's rules and the contract restrictions placed on them by Kanopy or Hoopla. Libby automatically limits your downloads based on your library's rules.
** Don't have a library card?
I hear you! I was raised in the country, far from the many libraries that are easily accessible to us city folk. However, as a country kid I learned, much to my delight, that many nearby cities, counties or even larger state regions allow people to use their libraries free of charge, as neighbors and citizens of those broader areas. What's more, some local college and university libraries have community outreach programs that allow the public to use their services. So... If you don't have a library nearby, do a Google search for "closest public library" and see what you find. It may be worth a bit of a road trip to get hooked up with a shiny new library card and, in turn, one of the free services described here. (But don't forget to call ahead & tell them what you are looking for.) Good luck!
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