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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
USC

Festival Of Books Visitors Wary Of E-Books

USC hosted the two-day event on its campus and held panels, book signings, and speeches featuring more than 400 authors.

This weekend marks the 17th annual Los Angeles Times "Festival of Books." USC hosted the two-day event on its campus and held panels, book signings, and speeches featuring more than 400 authors.

Despite the increasing popularity of digital books - available on Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other "e-readers" - many of these authors are confident that publishing "real books" will still be profitable for them, and invaluable for readers. According to Angela Gomez, a teacher and festival volunteer, promoting paper books guarantees accessible education for underprivileged schools and low-income communities.

"It's great for technology, but not everybody can afford iPods and iPads," says Gomez. "Schools are actually requiring it, as far as their curriculum, and requiring students to have iPods. And it's very much a disadvantage to those who cannot afford them."

Gomez encourages people who cannot purchase digital alternatives to take advantage of local libraries - an institution that she says is "alive and well."

For kindergartener Isabella Gardea, the library is a "treasure trove" of picture books. She enjoyed the Festival of Books with her father this weekend, but says most of her Sunday afternoons are spent in the children's section of her local library.

The focus was, naturally, on paper books at the Festival of Books, but some of the 400 authors featured on campus are also offering digital versions of their work - and many readers say they're downloading these instead of buying books.

"I have a Nook and I love it," says festival-goer Cynthia Alanis. "It's convenient; I don't have to go anywhere or purchase anything. It's all there, you know? You just have to have the Nook in front of you and push buttons."

Doug Beaver, aspiring author and Festival of Books regular, says he's too old to get swept up by the digital trend. However, he does see his son making the most of it.

"My son works for Sony and is always traveling," Beaver explains. "He loves to put a book in his laptop when he's on a long flight. It's not for me, but I know there are a lot of people who do that."

Beaver is finishing up a book set in 1960s Las Vegas, and is searching for a publisher. Ideally, he wants to find somebody who is experienced in both the print and digital markets.

"I hope if I can ever get my book published, it goes both ways," Beaver says.

John Paul Owles, president of Joshua Tree Publishing, agrees this is a smart move. However, he is quick to emphasize that, despite the rise of e-books and digital readers, nothing will ever replace the "feel of a real book."

"The digital experience is a digital experience, but there's still something about a book to have in your hands and to keep... I don't think that's going to go away," says Owles with a smile, glancing at passing festival-goers flipping through newly purchased books.

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