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Univ. of Va. E-library Draws Readers, (October 23, 2000).

Think that it may be a few years before this e-book download thing takes off? Think again.

The University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center (Etext) center has 50,000 texts digitized in HTML and XML for downloading via the Internet; 5,000 are accessible to the general public--all for free. Of the public titles, more than 1,200 are available in Microsof Reader format. Since the Reader software became widely available in August, the center', director, David Seaman, reports, there were 347,000 downloads in August, and 323,000 it September.

Just the place when you're looking for a relatively obscure Early American writer like Fenimore Cooper--that's Susan Fenimore Cooper, of whom the Etext Center has the premier collection; the center also has many titles by her more-famous dad.

What's the most-sought e-book? "Aesop's Fables has been downloaded more than 4,000 times," Seaman said.

Though the university's 18,000 students use the center frequently, Seaman told PW, "The largest number of users are high school students and teachers, all around the world, followed by the general public."

Readers from more than 100 countries have downloaded e-books from the Etext Center. "The use of our books is truly global," Seaman told PW. "Users live in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, even the Russian Federation.

As one might expect, UVA has one of the most extensive collections of Thomas Jefferson's writings, and also has one of the best collections of Mark Twain, and covers most early American writers, as well as Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, the American Civil War, African-American history, and American Indian language and culture studies. The center is also proud of its collections in medieval French and English poetry and illuminated manuscripts and rare books, including 21 versions of the Bible.

For more information, visit the Etext center's Web site:

Paul Hilts.