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Psst: There's a Legal Way to Read Your Favorite Comics for Free

We live in an age of digital streaming and subscription services where comics fans can choose between the likes ComiXology Unlimited, Marvel Unlimited and the recently-launched DC Universe, among others. But when you add the costs of those apps to the other streaming services most people already already pay for, like Netflix or Hulu, it really starts to take a toll on your wallet.

We have some good news, though. There's a streaming service out there that offers access to thousands of new and classic comics from companies like Marvel, DC and independent publishers. The cost of the service? It's free. Perhaps more importantly: There are no ads. All you need to do is take a trip to your local library and get yourself a library card (if you don't already have one).

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The name of this service is Hoopla Digital, and it's available at libraries across the country (a map of participating libraries can be found on the company’s website). The way it works is libraries pay a subscription fee to Hoopla that allows their patrons to digitally check out a certain number of titles each month. The lending library sets the limit.

Sometimes it can between eight and ten titles, while some libraries allow as many as 20. You have access to that title for three weeks, and you can read it directly on your computer or download it to the digital device of your choosing using the Hoopla app. If you're unable to finish it in that time period, you can check the item out again and it will even remember where you left off.

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Hoopla also offers a variety of other media options as well. In addition to comics, users have access to movies, music, television shows, audiobooks and ebooks. Libraries can customize the type of media they offer and the content (they can choose not to offer R-rated movies, for example), but comics are a standard feature of Hoopla.

The sheer amount and diversity of comics available on Hoopla is extraordinary, too. Readers can find classic stories and the most recent trades. Some publishers even provide current issues. Unable to find a copy of Batman: Damned #1 or the fist issue of Vertigo's new series Border Town? Both are available right now for checkout on Hoopla. Looking to catch up or get started on Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga series while it’s on a year-long break? Hoopla has all the trades, including Volume 9 (which was just released this past Wednesday). Just like in real-life, Wednesday is New Comic Day on Hoopla, too.

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Marvel Comics didn't start participating in Hoopla until last year, so the titles they offer may not be as current as DC, Image or Archie (which offers both brand-new issues and trades), but interested Marvel fans can find classic tales like The Infinity Gauntlet, Daredevil: Born Again and many offerings in the Marvel Masterworks series. There are also collections of recently-launched titles available, like Champions and the back half of Dan Slott's recently concluded Amazing Spider-Man run. Marvel also offers collections of their new Star Wars titles, as well as classic ones.

Other publishers with offerings on Hoopla include Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, IDW, Dynamite Entertainment, Valiant and Titan Comics

Hoopla isn't just a good way to catch up on classic or newer stories you may have missed. It's also a great way to try something new. You can search their comics via a variety of categories, including publisher, genres and Eisner Award-winning series. Hoopla also allows you to give a star rating to the titles you've read. It even recommends titles to you. You can customize your recommendations by adding the genres you prefer.

Digital comics aren't for everyone, but for those who don't mind or enjoy reading stories in that format, Hoopla is a great reading experience. You can view a whole comic page or go panel to panel in a style that's comparable to ComiXology. There’s also an option to turn a magnifying glass on or off to give extra close-up views of a panel.

Hoopla is a great example of the way libraries are evolving with the times. If you don’t have a library card yet, what are you waiting for? Head on down to your local library, sign up for a card and get ready to dive headfirst into a totally free collection of great comics.

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