OverDrive Inc., the e-wholesaler and e-publishing vendor, announced two separate ventures that will expand the availability of e-book titles to online consumers and library patrons. The company has reached an agreement to supply the Cleveland Public Library with e-books that can be downloaded to PCs, laptops and handheld devices; the Cleveland-based e-vendor will also take over fulfillment for Yahoo.com's e-bookstore.

The new library e-book service will debut in March. Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, told PW the deal offers "mobility and portability to library patrons. Before, you had to be online to read library e-books. Now you can download to your PDA and read them offline."

Susan Gibbons, a librarian who maintains Electronic Books in Libraries, a Web site (www.lib.rochester.edu/main/ebooks/index.htm) and e-newsletter on e-books, hailed the new library service. "Students like e-books, but they want to download them. If they can use their own devices and don't have to come to the library, that will make a big difference."

Because of publisher concern over digital copying, libraries have mostly offered online access to e-books through services like netLibrary or provided some circulation of copyright-protected devices like the Gemstar-Rocket e-Book. The agreement with OverDrive will allow Cleveland Public Library to offer DRM-protected downloadable e-books with timed circulation restrictions and one-e-book-per-customer restrictions. Like a print title, Potash emphasized, the library will have to buy multiple copies to satisfy demand for a popular title.

Significantly, the new deal will allow the Cleveland Public Library to circulate e-books in the Palm e-book format readable on PocketPC and Sony handheld devices as well as on Windows and Mac OS desktops and laptops. The deal will also feature digital audiobooks, and libraries can set up physical kiosks in their branches to download titles.

OverDrive will make about 10,000 titles (including many bestsellers) available to its library clients, and CPL will start by making about 1,000 titles available to library patrons. Potash said he was negotiating with publishers and that the number of titles offered to libraries will increase. The service is scaled to small and large libraries and can be set up for fees that range from around $20,000 to $100,000. CPL reportedly paid about $50,000 to set up its service.

In a separate agreement, OverDrive will take over the inventory and digital fulfillment of the e-book store on Yahoo.com. The new arrangement will increase the number of e-titles from about 5,000 to more than 40,000, including downloadable audiobooks and periodical content. And now the site will also be able to offer e-books in the Palm Digital Media format, the most popular format with more than 10 million of the devices in use.