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Cleveland library to launch eBook system

The new eBook collection, believed to be the first of its kind in a public library, will let people download publications onto their PCs and PDAs.

The Cleveland Public Library is launching an eBook system that will let people download publications onto their PCs and personal digital assistants.

The new eBook collection, which will go online in March, is believed to be the first of its kind in a public library and will operate much the same as a traditional library system. Patrons wishing to download the eBooks will need to have a Cleveland Public Library card. What's more, only a limited number of each eBook will be available, and after a preset number of days, the eBook will lock out the current reader so another patron can check it out.

About 1,000 books, including the latest titles from authors such as Michael Crichton, Clive Barker and Joyce Carol Oates, will be available as eBooks.

The eBook market has been slow to take off, mainly because of inadequate reading devices and publishers' worries that people would rampantly copy their books. The industry has come under fire for weak security technology.

But Steve Potash, CEO of Cleveland-based Overdrive, which provided the Cleveland library system, said improved software protections and the growth of tablet PCs are driving an increased demand for eBooks.

"It's really becoming a mainstay part of the publishing landscape," Potash said. During the past year, several major publishers have begun releasing titles in eBook format.

The Cleveland system offers several new features, including the ability to download books onto PCs and PDAs and create a portable eBook that can be read even when patrons are offline. In a statement announcing the new collection, library director Andrew Venable said the system would allow people to borrow books of all types "from the comfort of their home or office."