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Ebook service Hoopla brings anti-vax, Holocaust denial, and pro-LGBTQ conversion books to libraries

Thousands of public libraries in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand subscribe to Hoopla for ebooks

Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge

An ebook subscription platform used by thousands of public libraries in the US and elsewhere is offering Holocaust denial, COVID disinformation, LGBTQ conversion therapy, and other conspiracy theory books, according to a report by Motherboard.

Hoopla — a Netflix-like subscription service that libraries use for audiobooks, ebooks, and movies — serves more than 8,500 public libraries in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Titles on Hoopla included antisemitic books like Debating The Holocaust and A New Nobility of Blood and Soil. Unlike physical books, which libraries can order individually, Hoopla sells libraries a subscription to its service, meaning librarians don’t always have control over what is being offered. OverDrive, another popular ebook platform, allows libraries to request individual titles.

Some librarians began noticing the books in February and released a statement demanding accountability and transparency about how content is approved from both Hoopla and OverDrive. In an email response to concerned librarians, Hoopla CEO Jeff Jankowski said the flagged books come from a network of 18,000 publishers and slipped through “both human and system-driven reviews and screening.” The flagged books were removed, according to Jankowski.

“These eBooks are inaccurate and sources of propaganda that have no place in the hoopla Instant collection,” he said at the time.

But a keyword search by Motherboard for “homosexuality” in Hoopla’s library returned dozens of titles under the “nonfiction” category, including ebooks promoting conversion therapy and other anti-LGBTQ content. Hoopla did not immediately respond to questions about how it vetted the titles it offers.

In their February letter, the librarians said shrinking library budgets, media consolidation, and other austerity measures have led to “a proliferation of disinformation, especially in digital information feeds and platforms.”

“Libraries should be trusted hubs for quality information, and these companies are undermining the library’s traditional role in the information landscape,” they wrote.