Westport Public Library was recently selected by Library Ideas LLC as one of 10 libraries in the nation -- and the only one in the tri-state area -- to offer Freading, a system for checking out e-books. The program will begin later this year.

The implementation of Freading, based on Freegal, a method for downloading music through libraries, was announced by Library Ideas co-founder Brian Downing at the recent American Library Association annual meeting held in New Orleans.

Freading will offer 20,000 copyrighted titles from 16 publishers when it goes online, Downing said. The titles will use Adobe Digital Editions and will work on every major electronic reading device except the Kindle.

With Freading, library patrons can download books for a two-week loan with a two-week renewal option. The library is charged for each download, with the cost being related to the age of the book. A library would establish a budget for downloads, just as is done for adding books to the shelves.

According to Westport Library Director Maxine Bleiweis, the plan is to give Westport Library card holders access to a specific number of e-book downloads per week, similar to the way card holders can now download three music tracks a week with Freegal.

"The attraction of Freading is the ability to have multiple users simultaneously check out the same book. That hasn't been available before," she said in a statement. "It's also attractive to have titles available that don't need to be paid for until they are used, increasing the options for library users."

Some of the other libraries involved in the pilot program are Orange County Public Library System in Forida, the Free Library of Philadelphia, Maricopa County Library District in Arizona, and Los Gatos Public Library in California.