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Decatur festival celebrates books in an e-reader era | News

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Decatur festival celebrates books in an e-reader era
Decatur festival celebrates books in an e-reader era

DECATUR, Ga. -- The good news for Decatur's book festival is this: Books are popular and that popularity is rising. But here's the hitch, as stated by Georgia State University freshman Alejandro Hernandez:

"I do not like traditional books. I hated reading until I got an Ipad."

Go to a college campus, and you'll see students reading books. But many of the books are electronic. Jeannie Nguyen carries a Kindle.

"I read this more than the traditional books," Nguyen said.  "Because I can take it everywhere and I can kind of switch between books."

This new attitude toward books puts the Decatur Book Festival in a bit of a spot. It's one of America's largest book festivals, yet it's only six years old.

"The whole e-book thing was not happening when we started the festival," said festival program director Terra Elan McVoy.

Yet McVoy says the festival has no intention of abandoning as its centerpiece the traditional paper and ink hardback.

"We celebrate the actual book, and we celebrate what the book inspires in people," she said.

Nearby, a bookstore called Little Shop of Stories revels in the book festival at its doorstep -- while adjusting for the head-spinning drop in demand for the product on its shelves.

"The shift to digital books has been much much faster than I had ever thought," said the store's owner, Dave Shallenberger. "The price of e-readers keeps declining. It's definitely a format that people are interested in."  Shallenberger says he's now selling e-books at his store's website, but will have to make additional adjustments to survive. 

The Decatur book festival will attract tens of thousands of readers, drawn in part by encounters with the artists and authors who produce the material -- while the very definition of "book" evolves.