Up until recently, I’ve been a staunch supporter of actual, physical books vs. e-books or audiobooks when I read. For starters, I like the feel of turning actual pages, and I like being able to see my progress when I stick my bookmark inside.

But I’ve come to discover that different book formats have their different uses, at least for me.

I started getting somewhat into audiobooks the last couple years because I discovered they were a good way to pass the time during long drives, like the 10-hour round trip to and from my parents’ house in central Wisconsin. In these instances, I usually just wanted an audio version of whatever book I was reading at the time so that I could continue the story while driving. But I could never bring myself to spend money on a second version of a book I already have in my library. I used up all the free trials I could find for audiobook apps — Audible, Scribd, Audiobooks.com — but that was OK for a time, as I didn’t go on long drives that frequently.

But then I recently came upon another dilemma. I decided I wanted to reread the Harry Potter series (the only books aside from “Jane Eyre” I’ve read more than once) but with so many unread novels on my bookshelves, I couldn’t justify taking the time to read something over again. I then decided I’d bite the bullet and invest in the audiobook versions. That way I could listen to them at times I wouldn’t be able to spend reading a book anyway — like working out or cleaning around the house.

But then I discovered hoopla, and everything changed.

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Hoopla is an app that allows me to use my Kitchigami Regional Library card to check out audiobooks and e-books on my phone for free. Game changer.

Kitchigami Regional Library card. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
Kitchigami Regional Library card. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

All seven Harry Potter audiobooks are available via hoopla with just the click of a button. After hitting the “borrow” button, it takes seconds to download the book and have it ready to listen to. Books are available for 21 days, and users can check out three books (or movies, TV shows or music albums) per month. Movies and TV shows are available for three days, while music is available for a week.

Just make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did and check out an e-book instead of an audiobook (or vice versa) and waste one of your credits.

Hoopla offers “Kids Mode,” a helpful setting for parents and children by only showing materials deemed suitable for kids up to the age of 12.

While I’ve only used the mobile app so far (available for both Apple and Android), hoopla is also accessible through a computer or TV devices, like Chromecast, Roku, Android TV, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

Just like Netflix, hoopla users can choose their favorite genres (for books, movies, TV shows or music) and get recommendations tailored to their preferences, helping with the dilemma of trying to decide what to read next.

Screenshot by Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
Screenshot by Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

The Kitchigami Regional Library System — with branches in Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Wadena counties — also offers e-books and audiobooks through the app Cloud Library, giving readers two different ways to access digital materials right from their homes at no charge.

I’ll be honest, I’m the kind of person who likes owning books instead of just borrowing them, so I don’t find myself checking out hard copy library books very often, but knowing I can easily get an audiobook on a moment’s notice before going for a run or embarking on a long drive makes me really happy. Plus, experiencing a series like Harry Potter on audiobook is so much different than reading the books on my own. Hoopla offers the American versions with Jim Dale as the narrator, and he does such an amazing job with a different voice for each character. I’ve come to realize that audiobooks are a great bridge between books and movies. While I will always love watching the Harry Potter movies, there’s no denying that there are a lot of pieces from the books missing. With the audiobooks, though, the story comes to life in a similar way as the movies but with every minute detail that makes the world really come to life.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.