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Net service builds CDs to order

A Texas company presses children's CDs to order for customers of its Internet software service.

A Texas company is combining the Internet with CD-ROM technology to develop a software subscription service for the booming children's CD-ROM market.

Whole Village of Irving, Texas just launched the OpenMedia subscription service. Families can check out up to 20 titles a month for a $15 to $21 monthly fee.

All titles are ordered through the Internet site, which can provide suggestions and match children with corresponding titles. The titles then are pressed onto a set of CDs and shipped to the customer.

The CDs are programmed to automatically dial into the Web server each month to confirm that the subscription is still valid, explained David Lancashire, senior vice president of Whole Village. If it is, the Web site automatically downloads a key that will decode the encrypted software for that month and allow it to be used. Users can download new software every month, depending on their plan.

Anyone can get to the site from the Web, but the company also plans to have Internet service providers offer the service to customers. Many ISP customers buy computers specifically for their children, Lancashire said.

"For a lot of customers, that's why they have the computer," he said. "That's why they have the Internet."

Lancashire said his company has been testing the service with educational institutions and believes the market is ready. While consumers are interested in educational CD-ROMS, they aren't always easy to find because retailers don't always have the shelf space for them, he said.

Parents also have a hard time figuring out which titles their children will like.