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Publishing Industry Confronts Changing Reader Habits

As the recession pushes more readers into cash-strapped libraries, some are turning to electronic books to satisfy their literary appetites. Ray Suarez looks at this nascent industry with two publishers.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, the future of book publishing in the digital age. Ray Suarez has our Media Unit story.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    When you hear talk about the book business, this isn't what most readily comes to most people's minds. But, more and more, readers are trying electronic reading devices like Amazon.com's Kindle.

    Although the Kindle has been the market leader in e-readers, with the latest edition out this winter, others, like the Sony Reader, are also attracting eyeballs, too.

    Early electronic prototypes like these e-books from the beginning of the decade have evolved into sleeker, smaller, faster units, some of which can store as many as 3,500 books at a time.

    The uptick in online reading is only the latest wrinkle in the unfolding story of how people read and where they get their books. It's an industry, like many, in the middle of change.

    The trend is rippling across the country at the same time as dwindling tax dollars are forcing libraries to close branches, cut hours, and end programs.

    At this public library in Virginia, librarians say they can't keep the shelves stocked quickly enough as they're experiencing an upsurge in the number of people who are coming to visit. As the economy spirals downward, people are looking for information, the Internet, and escape by reading.

    SUSAN MCCARTHY, librarian, Arlington County, Virginia: We're really happy to see new customers coming in. And at this library, we have 300 to 500 new users every month coming in to register for library cards. But we are beginning to see the strain on staff as we work harder and faster.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Meanwhile, independent bookstores, like the Tattered Cover in Denver, one of the largest independent bookstores in the country, are hitting hard times. This one has laid off some workers.

    Author and faithful Tattered Cover customer Asma Hasan says she's trying to provide life support.

    ASMA HASAN, book buyer and author: The people at independent bookstores really get to know you, really start to look out for the kinds of things that you like, and can make personal recommendations. I heard that the Tattered Cover wasn't doing well, and I immediately made it a point to come out, and I did some binge book-shopping.

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