The Impact of Electronic Readers

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Electronic readers, or E-readers, were one of the hot gift items of the last Christmas season. They are changing the publishing industry, and they are forcing libraries to change the way they do business.

When it come so E-readers, there are two basic types, the Nook and the Kindle.

Barnes and Noble is the company behind the Nook. Amazon is responsible for the Kindle.

There are many similarities.

"It's pretty simple. You can search for the book you want or you can find some of the hot buys going on right now. They have different deals for you. It's as easy as clicking and hitting buy, and it downloads it for you," explained Phil Walter of Best Buy.

He gave Newswatch 16 the run through at the Best Buy store near Wilkes-Barre.

The Nook and the Kindle are not compatible, but both offer the same things, the classics and the best sellers.

Some titles are free. Others cost a few dollars. Books on the New York Times best seller list cost about $15 to load in to your E-reader. That is a lot cheaper than the print version.

As far as the appliances, some E-readers now sell for less than $100. The top of the line Kindle sells for around $200, but it also gives you internet access.

If you want to spend more, there are plenty of tablets out there competing with iPads, sort of the new version of laptop computers that also function as E-readers.

Physicist Isaac Newton proved that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We have already seen a reaction to the E-reader, and it cost some people in the publishing business their jobs.

Offset Paperback Manufacturing in Dallas laid off nearly 70 full timers at the end of January. The reason? Book sales are down because E-reader use is up.

A study released last month said 29 percent of Americans own at least one E-reader, and that is up nine percent from late last year.

So, how do E-readers affect someone else in the book business? The Osterhout Free Library in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

"It's comfortable to come here, and I'm from the old school. That's what it is," said Diane Swanson. She and her son came to the Osterhout to do some research for a school paper, things they said they couldn't find online.

Osterhout's executive director, Richard Miller, notes they are in the business of providing information and delivering content. Now, that content is print. Miller sees it gradually moving toward electronic.

"The difficult thing for libraries, of course, is like many businesses and organizations, we're under intense financial pressure," Miller said.

He added it's also possible to download some books off the Osterhout's web site. They want to do more, but moving into e-delivery will take at least $20,000 to start.

He is confident the shelves and stacks of books at the library will never go away because, for a lot of people, after a day of staring at a screen, they just want to hold a book, a real book, in their hands.

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