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Kindle, Price War Changing the Way We Read

Jeffrey Brown explores the shifting world of book publishing, and examines how technology and readers are changing the industry.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Finally tonight: What is a book anyway, and where can you get one?

    Jeffrey Brown looks at the changing world of publishing, selling and reading books.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In the world of books these days, the stories keep coming, but not only the ones written by authors.

    First, there's the "How low can you go?" story. In the latest chapter, superstore Wal-Mart recently announced it will sell popular hardbacks online for just $8.98, after offering the titles at low prices which Target, another big-box store, quickly matched. Those are well below the typical retail price, which can reach $25 or more.

    Good for consumers? Well, perhaps, but the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent stores, calls it predatory pricing, and has asked the Justice Department to investigate Wal-Mart, Target, and online giant Amazon.

  • One fear:

    independent bookstores, like Denver's Tattered Cover, one of the largest in the country, will be driven even further into hard times, if they can survive at all. Stores like this, of course, already face huge competition from national book chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders.

    Then there's story number two, not only what we read in the old-fashioned sense of picking a certain author or genre, but, literally what we read, an actual book or an electronic reading device which allows readers to choose from thousands of titles and stores hundreds at a time.

    Amazon's Kindle, which has been updated and expanded several times, remains the market leader. But competition here, too, is growing. Sony's Reader has also been updated to support more books. And Barnes & Noble will soon release its new Nook, which will allow readers to browse and sample books for free.

    All these devices have come a long way from early prototypes, and they're catching on. According to Forrester Research, some three million e-readers will be sold this year, and the number is expected to double next year.

    At Kramerbooks, an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C., we found mixed reaction to the e-books.

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