Baltimore County Public Library debuted a new e-book lending service at its on Wednesday.
The 3-M Cloud Library System allows county library card-holders to check out books through digital devices such as phones, computers and tablets. The Towson and branches also have terminals for customers to test out the service.
"It's about customer choice and convenience." said James Fish, director of the county library system.
Patrons can participate in the lending service by downloading the free 3-M app, which will give them instructions and access to more than 2,500 titles.
"[Baltimore County Public Library] was one of just a handful of beta test sites for 3M for this service," Fish said. "This will increase the number of e-books we have by about 400 percent."
County librarians have been testing and providing feedback on the service for about a year.
"It's really great," said librarian Jim DeArmey, who recently purchased his own tablet to take advantage of the service.
Through his testing, DeArmey discovered that patrons can check out four e-books at a time, which expire after three weeks. The library system purchases copies of each e-book, and customers have the option to put their name on a hold list if a selection isn't available, similiar to the standard check-out method.
"It's a brave new world," Fish said. "We didn't want to push [the service] until it was ready, and there will still be things to work out."
Fish expects the service will be popular, but doesn't think traditional books are going away anytime soon.
"I won't be alive to see that," he said with a laugh.