Reaching New Audiences and Finding New Markets: Hoopla’s Jeff Jankowski Talks About Bringing Image Comics Into the Fold
Your local library is about to get an injection of Image Comics thanks to a new deal with Hoopla digital. Available through more than 4000 libraries in the United States and Canada, Hoopla offers a digital collection of movies, books, audio books, music and comics that bolsters your public library without the worry of being out of stock and the burden of late fees.
We spent some time with the app this past week in advance of the new deal with Image Comics, and spoke with founder and owner of Hoopla digital, Jeff Jankowski, about the service and it's future as a place to find comics with ease.
The app itself is easy to use, and accessing any of the available catalog is incredibly easy. Though I was given a complimentary pass to use Hoopla, a cursory search with the web portal showed six different public libraries in my immediate area that were already partnered with Hoopla should I need a location to get started. I haven't had a public library card since I moved out of the city, but after a day with Hoopla, and given its ease of access to content, I'll soon be rectifying that decision.
Part of the reason I haven't had a library card is due to the hassle of leaving my house. It sounds silly to say it, but honestly there's so much content at my fingertips on a daily basis, there seemed little need to make an effort to visit a library to take a book out, and deal with the restrictions of that arrangement. Hoopla gives me access to most of the same content without me having to leave my desk.
I primarily spent time within the app in the comic section, but the books and movies all worked as intended. There are a lot of comic book readers on the market, though Comixology has been at the forefront of the mobile market. With that in mind, you can't help but compare each and every other potential competitor to the app that's become the current standard. Getting books through Hoopla takes just a few minutes, which is comparable to the commercial models already available. That kind of speed comes from relatively small file sizes, which means the resolution isn't as high as the comics you'd pay for elsewhere. It's not really a noticeable issue at first, as single pages can be read just fine. However, when you hit a double-page spread and want to zoom in to read it properly, the resolution takes a massive dip.
This is true even in the action view, which moves panel by panel for what's supposed to be a more immersive experience. It works as intended, and a simple swipe keeps the comic action coming. It does take a minute to get used to swiping to flip the page after spending so much time with apps that allow you to merely tap on either the left or right to turn pages. Again, the single pages work fine, but the double-page spreads have a little hitch in the giddy-up when you change the screen orientation. Reading from the device in portrait keeps the spread too condensed, but there's a second that passes when you switch to landscape, and it pulls you out of the moment.
Now, comics are fairly new to Hoopla, and the company is eager for feedback on how to make comics reading more engaging. Plus, it's free (unless your local library charges a membership fee), so I'm willing to deal with a little inconvenience considering the barrier for entry is so low. I wish it worked better, but I'd run out of finger and toes real fast if I were to count the number of times Comixology or Marvel Unlimited crashed in their earliest days. You've also got all those movies and regular books in the Hoopla library too, which gives the app a bit more to work with versus some of the similar services.
ComicsAlliance: The big news this week is the addition of the Image Comics library. How extensive with the initial offering be for readers?
Jeff Jankowski: We are prioritizing the ingestion process, and the process is a little bit different than when we're just loading in word files for ebooks. We really want it to be a mobile-centric experience and so we actually have to prep the content to make it available for our action view, which we feel is the more immersive mobile experience. The Image deal is for pretty much the entire library, but we'll be starting with some of the more popular series first. We're really excited about having all The Walking Dead and Spawn Origins, and eventually we'll fill out with all the titles Image is willing to provide.
CA: Right now, the offerings include a lot of DC and Vertigo, with Boom, IDW and Zenescope included as well. When it comes to the acquisition of content, how are those deals for content made?
JJ: We've been serving public libraries for 25 years, so we're well aware of the needs of public libraries and their communities. One of the great things libraries can do for the comic industry is offer discovery in a place where there is a wide variety of demographics. Libraries have wanted a digital offering of their comic catalogs, and we wanted to use our digital platform to make it a mobile-centric experience. We have been introducing ourselves and talking to everyone in the comic space for quite a while now, and have signed a number of deals. Our goal is to eventually offer every comic book that we can and make it available through public libraries and Hoopla.
CA: For the most part in the app you have trade paperback collections, but there are some single issues available as well. How is the way the content is distributed arranged?
JJ: It's our goal to have and carry every title, but we have different deals with different publishers. Some are experimenting a bit with different items, which is why you'll see some single issues in addition to the graphic novels. Just a few months ago we went live with DC Comics, and only started with their essential 25 graphic novels. Now we have a couple hundred titles, and in the coming months we hope to hit over 400 titles from DC alone.
We have 2500 different comics and graphic novels available today, and we're going to be announcing more deals and expansions. It's constantly evolving, as it's really still in its infancy.
CA: With your reader, you state the action view is the focus, but compared to the other comic specific apps already available, what do you feel some of the strengths are for Hoopla that make it attractive to readers?
JJ: We know there are other commercial apps out there that do similar things, but in the library space, I believe we're the only ones with a mobile experience. We're very excited about that. The really good thing about libraries and Hoopla is with physical and digital collections within the libraries themselves, there's one user and one copy; there has to be access to a buyer. Our goal is to empower the reader and the community to allow them to choose and read what they want. It comes down to our ability to offer access to all titles without having to wait. It's not a good digital experience to have to make someone wait, as that's not something modern digital readers are used to.
From a consumer standpoint, the user library offers one app for all the content, whether it's music, books or comics. For example, with Amazon, you need a separate app for the comics, an app for music and an app for video. With us, you have one central point of discovery, and unlike traditional libraries, there are no late fees and no waiting.
CA: With the reach right now hitting around 4000 different libraries in the US and Canada, what plans do you have in store to make Hoopla available to more readers?
JJ: We've had amazing response from libraries and cardholders, and both the libraries and the communities have provided some great competitive intelligence. About 26 months ago, we were in two library systems; now we're in 800, and are able to reach millions of people in some of the larger cities in North America. We're really just getting started, and have had tremendous growth in that timeframe. We're looking to ramp this up more throughout North America.
CA: Hoopla is a standalone that bolsters a library's collection, but is there ever any issue or conflict that you might carry something, be it a book or movie, that the library using your system may not for whatever reason?
JJ: Libraries actually want us to carry all the titles, and we're helping solve a distribution problem. And that's not just for the libraries and the communities, but for publishers as well. So it may be that they prefer they don't own it, or if they do, that it's complemented by digital. It's about access to information and empowering the community, and discovery and being entertained. With digital access, there's greater power of discovery, and letting users find their own voice instead of being limited to certain items.
CA: Since comics have been added to Hoopla's database, what's the response been like so far? Do you see a lot of high borrowing numbers in that department?
JJ: It's quickly becoming one of our most popular formats. Thousands of items are being borrowed every week. Of the 2500 titles that we currently have, 75% of them went out in the first two months. For a fairly new product, and comics being new to Hoopla, it's being embraced quite well. Readers are finding things that aren't being featured in the app itself, and we're excited for the opportunities for the backlist and catalog from more niche comic providers. It really does help them reach new audiences and find new markets, and that's what we're there for.
We're interested in all titles, and we're seeing a wide variety of titles go out as well. The top titles not only include books from DC, but Lumberjanes and Doctor Who, and there's lots of different audiences finding these books.
CA: While Hoopla is currently available to library card holders that are part of your network, have you looked at a model that might make it accessible to people outside that framework, or that don't have access to one of those libraries?
JJ: No, we really haven't. Our history is tied to public libraries, and our parent company (Midwest Tape) has only ever dealt with public libraries in its 25 years. We are experimenting with university libraries and other library institutions, but we're really focused on serving that community, and have no intentions for making Hoopla a consumer service.
We do have plans to get much wider usage in both larger and smaller communities, and while there may be libraries that don't offer Hoopla yet, there are likely other libraries in that state that may. There are a lot of libraries that support statewide addresses, so we do encourage readers to check that out.
You can see if your public library is compatible with Hoopla right here, and check out the full list of Image Comics titles coming to the service starting today below. We've also included the full press release from Hoopla about the Image deal.
- Chew, Vol. 1-8
- Invincible, Vol. 1-20
- Morning Glories, Vol. 1-6
- Saga, Vol. 1-4
- Saga: Book One
- Spawn Origins Collection, Vol. 1-10
- The Walking Dead, Vol. 1-23
- The Walking Dead Compendium 2
HOLLAND, Ohio (Aug. 26, 2015) – hoopla digital (hoopladigital.com), the category-creating mobile and online service for public libraries, today announced the addition of new titles from Image Comics, home to numerous best-selling creator-owned properties. hoopla digital’s app and online service adds iconic titles—through Image Comics’ global digital distribution partner Trajectory, Inc.— including Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead (Vol. 1-23) and extraterrestrial superhero adventure, Invincible (Vol. 1-20); Todd McFarlane's horror anti-hero tale, Spawn Origins Collection (Vol. 1-10); and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' space opera fantasy, Saga (Vol. 1-4). These titles and more are now available for patrons to access instantly on hoopla digital’s app and online service via their smartphones, tablets and computers.
Inclusion of Image Comics titles broadens hoopla digital’s catalog of more than 350,000 movies, TV shows, music albums, eBooks, audiobooks and comics. hoopla digital partners with public libraries across North America to provide patrons with online and mobile access to dynamic digital content.
“We built hoopla’s Action View experience especially for celebrated titles like The Walking Dead so fans can truly appreciate the artistry of these iconic stories and we’re thrilled to partner with Image Comics to bring their celebrated titles to library cardholders anytime, without any holds or waits,” said Jeff Jankowski, founder and owner of hoopla digital.
hoopla digital’s innovative Action View creates one-of-a-kind immersive digital reading by allowing for full page and panel-by-panel views of comics and illustrations.
“Patron reception to our new comics offering has been overwhelmingly positive,” continued Jankowski. “Comic books are quickly becoming one of the most popular formats on hoopla digital, with thousands of titles being circulated every week and we want to continue to offer dynamic content when and how patrons want it.”
AMC’s “The Walking Dead”, based on Robert Kirkman’s New York Times bestselling graphic novel series, reigns as the most-watched show among adults 18-49. The hit television series recently spawned the premier of the highly anticipated AMC prequel, “Fear the Walking Dead” on August 23rd.
There is no waiting to borrow titles on hoopla digital since on-demand content can be enjoyed by multiple patrons simultaneously. Patrons who use hoopla digital also avoid library late fees as digital content borrowing periods simply expire without charges.
“The comic and graphic novel culture in St. Louis is extraordinarily engaged, attracting readers of all ages and backgrounds,” said Rob Tygett, Manager of Digital Services for the St. Louis Public Library. “We’ve found that our patrons enjoy hoopla digital because it not only gives them free access to high-quality, in-demand comics and graphic novels such as The Walking Dead, but the opportunity to experience these titles in a format that’s just as captivating and intimate as a physical comic book.”
hoopla digital has partnerships with more than 800 public library systems across North America including St. Louis Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, Boston Public Library, Edmonton Public Library and Houston Public Library.
To begin enjoying comics on hoopla digital, library-card holders can download the free hoopla digital mobile app on their Android or IOS device or visit hoopladigital.com. New comic books will be added to the service weekly. The service is available only to patrons of participating public libraries.
About hoopla digital
hoopla digital is a category-creating service that partners with public libraries across North America to provide online and mobile access to thousands of Movies, TV Shows, Music, eBooks, Audiobooks and Comics. With hoopla digital, patrons can borrow, instantly stream and download dynamic content with a valid library card. All content is accessible via hoopla digital’s mobile app and online at www.hoopladigital.com. hoopla digital is a service of Midwest Tape – a trusted partner to public libraries for over 25 years.
For more information, please contact 800-875-2785 (US) or 866-698-2231 (Canada).
About Image Comics
Image Comics is a comic book and graphic novel publisher founded in 1992 by a collective of best-selling artists. Image has since gone on to become one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. Image currently has five partners: Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino. It consists of five major houses: Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline, Skybound and Image Central. Image publishes comics and graphic novels in nearly every genre, sub-genre, and style imaginable. It offers science fiction, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today. For more information, visit www.imagecomics.com.
Trajectory is a Marblehead, MA based intelligent network that connects publishers with its global digital distribution network of eBook retailers, libraries, school, and APP distributors. The Trajectory network delivers 300+ international points of distribution representing over 230,000+ digital endpoints including every relevant eBook retailer, library distributor, school distributor and alternative digital sales channel all from a single on-boarding point. Trajectory has recently invented a series of algorithms that are being used to address the “Book Discoverability” issue facing international publishing.