Suppose you want to get onto the download bandwagon and get free high quality content to enjoy in your pajamas, but you don't want to shell out money for iTunes, but don't really want the storm troopers of the RIAA chasing after you either? Or supposed you'd like to get a book from the library when the library isn't open; maybe after the last minute discovery that a kid has a book report due tomorrow, or a rainy day emergency that leaves you with nothing to entertain the kids and work to do.
The answer is DPL Downloads, available to anyone with a Denver Public Library card (about two-thirds of Denver residents do). You can download books, audio books, films, podcasts and more from the Denver Public Library on terms similar to those you've always enjoyed when you borrow real books, for free, using free software (computer not included). Some books on a 21 day borrowing term automatically expire when the term runs out, so you don't have to worry about returning books or late fees. Other books are out of copyright or under some special arrangement with the publisher, so you can keep them forever.
There are several different formats and I've tried most of them with good success so far, although I now have almost as many format specific media access software programs on my computer as I do store loyalty cards in my wallet.
It is all apparently legal (like any copyright geek, I'd be fascinated to know the details, although I have some educated guesses). There are a few bumps in the road associated with getting the software downloaded and set up properly the first time around, and longer media takes a while to download, but e-books aren't huge files. Once it is set up, it is even easier than Amazon.com or iTunes to use.
The new service is a valuable edition to the DPL range of services, which has appeared with very little fanfare. The only way I've grown aware of it at all is seeing the link on the front page of the library website which I previously used only for the card catalog, to renew books, and to see what I have checked out for the every once and a while rush to collect books in every nook and cranny in the house so that they can be returned.