Taiwan Libraries to Offer 11,000 Titles for E-readers

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Taiwan's semi-governmental technology research arm plans to offer about 11,000 public library books for download to e-readers in 2012, potentially bringing those titles to the entire Chinese-literate world, it announced Wednesday.

Users of e-readers that can display documents in the Epub format will be able to join Taiwan's 500 participating libraries online to borrow titles.

"It's not related to location, as long as you're a library member with an account," said Chi Chao-yin, deputy director of the Industrial Technology Research Institute's electronics division. "People from mainland China and foreigners would be able to borrow if they apply for memberships."

The 11,000 titles are those that the 500 participating libraries have offered into the pool.

The number of Chinese-language titles available is expected to climb as high as 120,000 if much larger mainland China joins the scheme later, following informal talks now with Taiwan. Smartphones and tablet computers may also be able to download the borrowed books.

The Taiwanese system will use DRM (digital rights management) technology to limit who can read the borrowed books. Some loan periods will be limited to 14 days, and the number of readers per book will also be limited, according to a research institute representative.

A particularly aggressive library in Taichung, Taiwan, already expects as many as 260,000 people to download its titles.

Libraries in English-speaking countries such as the U.S. now offer books for e-readers, Chi said, but Taiwan's libraries are more united in the effort.

Taiwan began linking libraries to e-readers in July, as the devices gained popularity and fell in price. Manufacturers of e-readers are still cutting prices while making them lighter and more portable.

The Taiwanese downloadable library project will be hosted on cloud computing services, the research institute said.

E-reader library access follows a five-year NT$50 billion (US$1.67 billion) plan to bring information technology, including e-readers, into Taiwanese classrooms from 2010.

Bringing libraries to e-readers is part of the Taiwan research institute's longer-term plan to design more modern e-reading tools, including some with near-paper quality screens, by building on its legacy of contract work for foreign designers.

Taiwan's e-reader industry, based largely on contracts today, was worth NT$49.3 billion last year.

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