Video: Could E-Books Threaten Future of Children’s Bookstore?

The following video report was a collaborative effort of the News Literacy Project, De La Salle journalism students Ariana, John, Joyce, Leslie, Theodore and Yorlibeth and NLP journalist fellow Lam Thuy Vo of NPR’s “Planet Money.”

Economic Effect of E-Book Boom from De La Salle Academy on Vimeo.

Bank Street Bookstore is an independent children’s bookstore on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It’s been around since 1970 and its colorful loaded shelves haven’t changed much over the years, but the world of reading has.

More and more people are trading paper books for digital ones. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, nearly 30 percent of American adults own an e-reader or tablet. They are making the jump because of the convenience and cost.

“If you have your Kindle or whatever you’re using, then you’ll always have a book that you can read, whereas it’s difficult to carry lots of books around with you, so yes, I think that would be a distinct advantage to the e-books,” said Bank Street customer Bobbi Isbell.

“It’s less money you’re spending to buy a bookshelf and to dust it – all the dusting and cataloging. I think it’s just a very practical thing,” added Bank Street customer Claudia Latouche.

Although e-readers are the hot new gadget, the director of the Bank Street Bookstore echoes another finding of the Pew Study: when it comes to bedtime stories, print is still preferred – for now anyway.

“People still like to buy books for children that they can snuggle up together and turn and read the pages,” said Bank Street Bookstore director Beth Puffer. But as more and more young children get used to reading e-books that may change the future of what they want to read and how they want to read.”

“I’m a teacher – elementary school teacher – and I love paper,” said Isbell. “I love paper books. I think e-books are great in that sometimes they’re interactive and the characters can move and do those kinds of things, but I do love to feel a book.”

Bookstores are not the only ones feeling the e-reader pinch. Authors and publishers are also seeing their business models shift. According to fantasy author Peter Brett who spoke to us on Skype, e-book sales are harder to track and piracy cuts into profits. You’d think this would turn him against e-readers, but not so.

“When you’re a writer you want to get your books out to as many people as possible and some people only read e-books and some people only read print books and some people read both,” said Brett.

He also sees the value of brick and mortar bookstores to the community.

“Traditional bookstores do more than just sell books,” said Brett. “They host author events where you can come in and sign and meet your readers, they have cafes and places where people can gather and share in their love of books.”

It’s a sentiment shared by employees and customers alike at Bank Street.

“We can just offer so much more than Amazon online can,” said Bank Street Bookstore employee Andrea Wilk. “Every person who’s on our staff here knows books inside and out. Our manager only hires people who are really knowledgeable about children’s books and you can’t really replicate that online.”

“I would hate to see a bookstore like this not be in our neighborhood because people only buy e-books, so I like the idea of still having paper books and to be in a bookstore and browse,” said Isbell.

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Categories: Economics, Video & Audio Projects

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