Who Needs Netflix When You Have a Library Card?

Category: Video

Modern libraries are marvels of information technology. Even in small towns, the local library often provides free WiFi and computer access to patrons. In larger cities, they offer free classes in everything from Internet safety to Web design. One popular library service competes with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming video services. If your library system is part of it, you’re in luck. Read on for the details...

Free Streaming Movies via Your Library

The service I mentioned above is called Kanopy and it could be your ticket to watch movies and TV shows for free, if you have a library card. Kanopy's mission is to "democratize meaningful film and television" through partnerships with public libraries and universities. Library patrons, students and faculty can watch Kanopy for free on a TV, desktop, laptop, or mobile device; the library pays on a per-view basis.

About 200 public and academic library systems subscribe to Kanopy. Most large cities and university libraries are under the Kanopy canopy. But don't assume that your small-town library isn't a Kanopy subscriber. My local library is located in a rural town, and sits across from a cow pasture. But I was pleasantly surprised that Kanopy is available there. You can search for your library by clicking “Watch Now” on Kanopy’s homepage. If your library system does not subscribe, you can send it a request from Kanopy’s search page.

Kanopy does not have millions of flicks; as of this writing, there are only about 32,000. But that’s a good thing because, let’s face it, most movies don’t deserve to be watched. Kanopy collects some of the finest films in the most popular genres; indeed, Forbes magazine called Kanopy, “One of the most unique and compelling film collections in the world.”

Free Movies with Kanopy

That said, you won't find the popular movies of recent years on Kanopy, such as "Star Wars" or "Mission Impossible." Kanopy does have "A Star is Born," but it's the 1937 version starring Janet Gaynor. Kanopy emphasizes classics, documentaries and international films. But you will also find classic children’s TV series like “Arthur,” classic comedy such as “Charade,” action films such as “Seven Samurai” (of which the Western classic “The Magnificent Seven” is a shameless rip-off), several John Wayne war films, Charlie Chaplin comedies and film noir (“Metropolis”), and much more.

International films are especially useful for broadening one’s perspective. I have added to my Kanopy watchlist “Pather Panchali,” a 1955 drama about the harsh everyday life of a young Indian boy, and "Bicycle Thieves," an Italian neorealist classic set in post-WWII Rome. I had never heard of the latter, which according to Kanopy, is "one of the greatest movies ever made." On a lighter note, Kanopy includes the cult horror-comedy “Little Shop of Horrors” and The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.”

See my article, “Are Public Libraries Obsolete?” to see what else your local libary may offer to kids, veterans, job seekers and people who want to learn new skills. If you're more into reading, see my article Get Your Free eBooks Here and learn how to access millions of free books in digital format.

The Science genre includes Neil de Grasse Tyson’s “Unsolved Mysteries;” several half-hour tours of the universe through the Hubble telescope’s eye; a surprising number of documentaries concerning the perils of “screen time” and social media; zoology from dinosaurs to animal rights; Stephen Hawking’s autobiographical documentary; “Meat,” a probably gruesome tracking of cattle from pasture to BBQ grill; and more subgenres such as Mathematics and Engineering.

How to Watch With Kanopy

Kanopy is available on your living room TV via Roku, on desktop computers via web browsers, and through mobile apps for Android and iOS, so you can watch movies anywhere. But don’t plan on binge-watching; each library system imposes a limit on the number of films a patron can stream per month, ranging from 2 to 20. But if your household has more than one library card, or if you have cards in multiple participating library systems, you can work around that limitation.

If your film cravings are not ruled by pop culture but by your own inner tastes and a willingness to explore, Kanopy will not disappoint you. If you want to learn a skill, a new language, or brush up on your quantum physics, Kanopy has what you need. It’s an example of how less can be more. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Who Needs Netflix When You Have a Library Card?"

Posted by:

CT
11 Dec 2018

Our Library has both Kanopy and Hoopla.

Hoopla has many of the more common movies and television shows. With both, there is little need for Netflix or cable.


Posted by:

Kathy F
11 Dec 2018

My library has Kanopy, but it also has free ebooks and free audio books, as well as free current magazines.


Posted by:

Tim
11 Dec 2018

Wow! This is great! My local library supports Kanopy. It works with Fire TV, too. Thanks for the tip on this!


Posted by:

Marty
11 Dec 2018

Couldn't find Kanopy except at the Universities.


Posted by:

jphuf
11 Dec 2018

Link for Hoopla

https://www.hoopladigital.com/


Posted by:

Robert T Deloyd
11 Dec 2018

I'll stick with my Netflix thank you..


Posted by:

Walter
11 Dec 2018

Our city library gives us access to both Kanopy and Hoopla, as well as eBooks and magazines (through Zino?). However, to claim that Kanopy is a good substitute for Netflix... well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Hoopla has a better selection of "popular" movies that Kanopy does.


Posted by:

Jeannie
12 Dec 2018

Who needs Netflix, period? There is no way I will ever give them one cent after all the years they spent spamming my computer with pop-ups and pop-unders, despite using a popup blocker. I was finally forced to get an ad blocker to stop them from invading my computer.


Posted by:

LeRoy
12 Dec 2018

Thanks! Los Angeles County Library is on board with Canopy. Looks promising.


Posted by:

artm
12 Dec 2018

Kanopy is sponsored by educational sites as its offerings are more of an educational bent. Kanopy includes the Criterion Collection for serious film buffs. Hoopla offers more films in the popular category. Hoopla also offers ebooks & music. Our local library sponsors Hoopla and says they cannot afford Kanopy.


Posted by:

artm
12 Dec 2018

Kanopy is sponsored by educational sites as its offerings are more of an educational bent. Kanopy includes the Criterion Collection for serious film buffs. Hoopla offers more films in the popular category. Hoopla also offers ebooks & music. Our local library sponsors Hoopla and says they cannot afford Kanopy.


Posted by:

artm
12 Dec 2018

Kanopy is sponsored by educational sites as its offerings are more of an educational bent. Kanopy includes the Criterion Collection for serious film buffs. Hoopla offers more films in the popular category. Hoopla also offers ebooks & music. Our local library sponsors Hoopla and says they cannot afford Kanopy.


Posted by:

Texas Girl
12 Dec 2018

Our local library subscribes to both Kanopy and Zinio - love the free access to quality films including international and documentaries. For current blockbuster films, the library has a great collection of DVDs for checkout. Who needs Netflix, Hulu, or any of the others? Just remember that libraries can provide these mainly due to the generosity of donors - individuals and corporations. Support your local library so that your community can benefit from Kanopy! Thanks Bob for letting everyone know about Kanopy.


Posted by:

CraftyLab
12 Dec 2018

I loved this reminder about the free resources at the local library! My library does not have any of the digital movie access sites mentioned, but I did find they offer a great selection of audio books and ebooks.


Posted by:

SharonH
12 Dec 2018

Kanopy sounds like my cup of tea. My tastes are not the usual, as I mostly watch documentaries and other educational offerings. The occasional movie and mostly those made before PC took over. I was shocked to find that my local library has Kanopy and will be checking them out. Thanks Bob, for the info.


Posted by:

Great Artiste
12 Dec 2018

Kanopy would be great to have, but each library or regional library cooperative system has to pay fees out of their limited budget to pay for it. There's another service out there called Hoopla which my library has similar to Kanopy. If your library doesn't have it, look and see if that's available. It works on the full range of devices including TV streamers like Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast etc.


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