Libby vs. Hoopla: Do You Really Need Both?

Tell all ya friends and neighbors!

Who reigns supreme in this standoff of the Libby vs. Hoopla app?

reading apps on iPhone home screen


Here I am talking about books on a mainly home decor blog again.

But it’s mine and I’ll do it if I wanna.

Anyway, I wanted to chat about 2 incredible (FREEEEEEE) apps I use with my library that I couldn’t read a majority of my books without – Libby and Hoopla.

They do essentially the same thing, but there are some key differences and quite honestly, I use both and think you should too!

Most libraries use one or the other, and some (like mine) use both! Let’s talk about it.

Overview of Libby

Libby app home screen

Libby is an app designed to help you access digital content from your local public library.

By using your library card, you can borrow ebooks, audiobooks, and even magazines without stepping foot inside the library – ALL FO’ FREE, homie!

User Interface and Ease of Use

The user interface in Libby has been built with simplicity in mind.

It is pretty easy for you to browse, search, and borrow books from your library’s collection and is compatible with Android and iOS.

My favorite feature of the Libby app is that you can check a book out and then get it sent directly to your Kindle. This gets major bonus points in my book. (ha! book! I’m hilarious and you know it).

When I was hashing out whether a Kindle Unlimited subscription was worth it or not, I talked a lot about how much I do not like reading things on a screen of phone or tablet.

Book Selection and Availability

screenshot of audiobook on Libby app

This is one thing about Libby that I think is actually not so great.

Compared to Hoopla, I feel like their selection is honestly lacking a lot.

categories on Libby app

I can’t blame the app for that though. Libraries have limited budgets, which can in turn affect content availability.

Libby works on a holds system, meaning that if a book is currently unavailable, you can place a hold and will be notified when it becomes available. This is in contrast to Hoopla, which allow instant access for a lot of items without waiting times.

Libby app with books marked as notify me

Libby just added a new feature with the past couple months of this “notify me” tag. It allows you to tag books that aren’t available and if Libby ever adds them to the library, you will get a notification and can borrow them.

Pros and Cons of Using Libby


  • FREE y’all. Totally free to use with a library card
  • Access to a (decently) large collection of ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines
  • User-friendly interface. Bugs out less with Apple CarPlay than Hoopla
  • Compatible with multiple devices
  • Offline access to content
  • Ability to download directly to Kindle
  • Can add your own tags to books, as well as built in smart tags in the app


  • Content availability depends on the library’s budget and collection and ours personally doesn’t have as much as Hoopla
  • Hold times for popular or newer titles
  • Limited compatibility with some e-readers
  • No access to music, television shows, or movies (unlike Hoopla)
  • Can only place 5 holds at a time (and can only have 5 books on your shelf)

Overview of Hoopla

Moving on to Hoopla.

Much like Libby, Hoopla is also a library media streaming platform that allows you to access a wide range of digital content, but the difference is that in addition to books like Libby, Hoopla lets you have movies, TV shows, and music.

User Interface and Ease of Use

I’ll go ahead and say it.

screenshot of homepage of Hoopla app

I don’t like the interface of Hoopla nearly as much. It feels real “busy” and overstimulating.

It also craps out a lot more than Libby and I have to force close it to restart it which is super annoying.

Book Selection and Availability

Hoopla’s book selection is extensive, and I will say in my market at least, Hoopla’s audiobook selection is way better.

I tried to show an example of searching for a Chevy Stevens book (because as you know from my book reviews, that dark thriller vibe Chevy writes is RIGHT up my alley.

You can see that Libby has exactly 0 Chevy Stevens books and Hoopla has both audiobooks and ebooks available. I find this happen a lot where it’s not on Libby but is on Hoopla.

They do also allow for you to request books to be added to the library, but the only time that ever happened was when I requested a child’s book that Charlotte wanted. They were able to get it within a month or so.

requested books in Libby app

You can see in this pic that I requested these months ago to no avail.

Features and Functionalities

In addition to its book selection, Hoopla offers other types of media, like movies, TV shows, and music.

Admittedly, I haven’t used any of these features because I am just here for the books, ya feel me. So I can’t attest to whether the selection is good or not but I can’t imagine it’s going to replace your Netflix or Hulu anytime soon.

popular books on Hoopla app home screen

I wanted to chat about flex borrows vs. instant borrows in Hoopla. This is a feature that’s still hard for me to understand sometimes, but I tried to take a photo of it so you can understand.

screenshot of what Hoopla flex borrows means

Flex borrows are basically your only option in Libby. They work like regular holds in that you can check it out immediately if it’s available or if there is a waiting list, you put yourself on it and wait for it to be ready for you.

screenshot of what Hoopla instant borrows means

Instant borrows are always available immediately and have no holds or waiting. You get 13 of these monthly which sounds like a TON and I guess if you’re using the music or movies feature could go quick, but there are hardly any books I read or want to read that ride on that flex borrows list.

Pros and Cons of Using Hoopla


  • No wait times for holds if you’re using the flex borrows
  • Access to more than just books/audiobooks
  • Audiobook selection is better than Libby
  • Stream or download content for offline use
  • New releases get added rather quickly


  • App can be glitchy, especially with Apple CarPlay
  • Books can’t be sent to your Kindle
  • App feels less user friendly

Side by Side Comparison of Libby vs. Hoopla

User experience and interface comparison

When using Libby, I have found the app to be cleaner and easy to navigate. The app focuses on ebooks and audiobooks, making it easier for you to organize your collections.

Hoopla has a slightly different user interface. While the app is still fairly user-friendly, the broader range of content may make it feel slightly cluttered compared to Libby.

Book selection and availability comparison

screenshot of favorites list on Hoopla

I love Libby so much, but when it comes to book selection, Hoopla wins this no doubt.

Features and functionalities comparison

screenshot of Libby app with audiobook playing

Libby has the ability to:

  • Borrow and download ebooks and audiobooks
  • Send ebooks to Kindle devices
  • Add your personal tags so you can save things for later
screenshot of Hoopla popular movies

Hoopla provides these features, plus:

  • A selection of things you can instantly stream and borrow without a waiting list
  • Also has movies, music, and comics
  • Kid-safe content mode for little ones
  • Uses “favorites” list instead of tags

I think this is all going to boil down to personal preference, and I honestly didn’t think I needed both apps.

reading apps on iPhone home screen

However, now that I’ve used Libby almost daily for well over a year and Hoopla for almost 7 years, I can definitely say that there are benefits to having both apps and I love the variety and selection having both of them provides!

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