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When it comes to checkouts, eBooks, digital magazines, streaming movies, and other digital media have different rules than traditional library materials. Here is a handy guide what, where and how long.

Digital Media Support

Help! I am having issues using a digital item!
Get help straight from the source: OverDrive, RBDigital, Kanopy, Flipster, Safari Books, Tumblebooks, NewsBank

Frequently Asked Questions: Digital Media

What kinds of digital items do you offer?

HCPL offers eBooks, eAudiobooks, digital magazines, digital newspapers and streaming video for your smartphone, tablet and other digital devices.

How do I check out and/or download digital media items on my computer, tablet or smartphone?

That varies based on each service, but if you take a look at our Digital Media FAQ, you'll find help with checking out and downloading or streaming items from each of those collections. (Insert link for Digital Media FAQ!)

What do I need to check out digital media?

You need to have an HCPL library card or an iKnow Digital Access Card in order to check out digital media. 

You can stop by any of our 26 branches and get a full-service Knowledge Card, or, if you are a Harris County resident, you can get instant access to all of our digital media with our iKnow Digital Access Card. 



How many items can I check out?

That varies based on the service. See below for current checkout periods for each of our digital media services.

Overdrive: 30 titles at any given time
RBDigital: 10 titles at any given time
Kanopy: 4 titles per month
Flipster: Unlimited 
Safari: Unlimited/Steaming 
Tumblebooks: Unlimited/Streaming

How long can I keep an item after I check it out?

This varies based on the service. 

Overdrive: 14 days
RBDigital: 14 days
Kanopy: 3 days (72 hours)
Flipster: Flipster allows for unlimited viewing of digital magazine issues, but issues downloaded to the Flipster app will only stay active for 3 days.  After that 3 days, you can download the issue again if you need more time with it. 
Safari: Safari Books online is more of a reference library of titles that are always available for viewing. While you can download or print limited pages or sections of titles, you don't really "check out" the titles. This service is also limited to 5 users at a time, so if you're turned away, wait a bit and try again. Visit the Safari Books support site for more information. 
Tumblebooks: With Tumblebooks you don't "check out" individual titles.  They are always available, so you simply log back in with your library card and you can access new titles or your old favorites. Visit the TumbleBooks support site for help with creating playlists and saving things to "MyCloud."

Can I renew digital media titles?

Yes, you can! That process varies based on the service, but you can find more detailed assistance by looking at the support site for the service you are using. Read more about it here. (Insert link to Digital Media FAQ site!)

Can I place holds on digital media items?

Yes, you can!  That process varies based on the service, but you can find more detailed assistance by looking at the support site for the service you're using. Read more about it here. (Insert link to Digital Media FAQ site!)

​​​​​​​What are the fines for overdue items?

Since digital media items automatically return at the end of their checkout period, there are never any fines!

How do I pay library fines on digital items?

You NEVER have to! They return themselves...on time...every time. Digital items have a license that allows HCPL library card holders to use an item for a set amount of time. When that time period is up, the item is automatically returned to the library. You will never pay fines on digital items!

Why do I have to wait for this eBook or eAudiobook? Aren't digital books unlimited?

Most of our digital items are like print items and only one person can borrow one copy at a time. Sometimes titles are available as Simultaneous Use and an unlimited number of people can borrow that title at the same time. Publishers decide how digital items can be used.

I don't have a library card—can I use HCPL's digital items?

You do need an HCPL card to use digital items, but you can get a card for free at any HCPL location or get an iKnow Digital Access card from home.

How do I ask the library to buy an eBook or eAudiobook that I want?

Please use our purchase suggestion form and make sure to choose the format you want.

I don't see an eAudiobook that I'm interested in. What should I do?

HCPL offers eAudiobooks through Overdrive and RBDigital. There are some titles that are only offered on RBDigital due to publisher restrictions. Some publishers don't make their titles available to libraries, so we're not able to offer them in eAudiobook format. Please submit a purchase suggestion form so that staff can see if your title is available.

Why aren't all books available in digital format?

The publisher that owns the digital rights has to make it available for purchase to libraries in digital format. Not all items available in print are available in digital formats.