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OF ROM AND RENTALS: SHOPPERS CAN TAKE DISKS FOR 2-NIGHT SPIN

For rent: an enticing recipe, sans the loose pages of a batter-stained cookbook.

Or an interactive video game, with the opportunity to play first, then buy the software if it suits you.On a rack in their video sections, two Wasatch Front supermarkets are exploring new multimedia territory - the rental market for CD-ROM disks.

For $4, shoppers at Smith's Food & Drug Centers in Orem and Sandy (10305 S. 1300 East), can browse new recipes with a rented CD-ROM cookbook. While parents pick up bread and milk, or a video, the kids can choose a game or educational program. The rentals are good for two nights/three days.

The concept is still in its infancy in Utah and most places across the country, wholesalers say. People are still getting used to the idea of so much information available on such a small disk - and at ever-dropping prices.

With many households already equipped with a CD-ROM setup, the idea of rentable software is long overdue, said Gene Martinez, who coordinates the rental service partnership involving wholesaler Ingram Entertainment and the Smith's stores.

"To put that in perspective: with the VCR, when it really started to take off, there were 5 million units (already installed in homes)," Martinez said. "(CD-ROM) is already up to 12 million."

Being at the forefront of an industry niche translates into a period of adjustment. With that in mind, the available disk titles may change to fit the response of the public, Martinez said. Educational programs, interactive games, movies and reference materials are all currently available on a CD-ROM format. "We're talking entertainment mostly with the Smith's (stores)," Martinez said. "Right now we're just trying to figure out what's going to work."

As multimedia titles become available, the new disks will rotate through the store's inventory. Currently, each Smith's Food & Drug Center store offers 25 CD-ROM products.

Perhaps the impetus behind the push for a rental service is the unique traits that make it difficult - or at least inconvenient - to pirate information contained on the compact disk. A single disk contains so much information, that to copy it would consume much of a computer's storage capacity.

"It gives them the opportunity to try that game or piece of software and see if they like it or not," he said. "Because if they like it, they're going to go buy it. It's something they'll keep."

Martinez said the supermarkets also sell the same CD-ROMs available for rent as well as other CD-ROM titles, mostly priced between $24 and $59.

"Renting is not going to be long-term. You could spend 200 hours on one game," Martinez said. "And it could take you a long time to go through any type of educational software."