E-Books Check Out
Public libraries are embracing e-books, thanks to technological advances that solve rights management issues, and soothe publisher fears.
In March, the Cleveland Public Library, in Ohio, became the first public library to offer an e-book system.
About 1,000 books, ranging from new releases like Michael Crichton's Prey to classic literature, are available as e-books. They can be checked out exactly like non-electronic titles.
The service is available inside a library branch, or over the Internet. It lets readers download publications onto personal computers and digital assistants.
New digital rights management (DRM) software is managing the downloads. After two weeks, the downloaded e-books expire, and disappear off the computing devices.
During the two week period, e-books are considered checked out from the library, just like paper-based titles.
The DRM technology is provided by Overdrive Inc., in Cleveland. The company also handles e-book order fulfillment for Barnes & Noble, W.H. Smith, and OfficeMax.
Overdrive also helped re-engineer the digital bookstore at Yahoo! Shopping. This large footprint in the e-books DRM space has helped Overdrive secure distribution rights to about 500 publishers.
Overdrive officials say librarians like e-books because they hold up better than print versions. "E-books are always in pristine condition," says Steve Potash, CEO of Overdrive. "People can't dog-ear them, they're never worn, and they can't be stolen."
E-book compatibility can be a problem for readers, however. For example, the Cleveland Public Library's e-book project only supports e-book readers from Adobe Systems Inc. and Palm Inc.
The reason: Microsoft's e-book reader software doesn't support expiration dates, so books can't be virtually checked-out and checked-in.
- Andy Patrizio