Festival brings authors to fans as industry changes

Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:56pm EDT
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fans met authors at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books -- billed as North America's biggest literary event -- where in a sign of the times Apple's new iPad also made a huge splash.

The weekend festival drew more than 130,000 people to signings and panels gathering more than 400 authors at a time when book publishing and the way people read books are undergoing vast change.

The writers ranged from 94-year-old Herman Wouk, who penned "The Caine Mutiny," and best-sellers Mary Higgins Clark and Meg Cabot to celebrity authors such as Sarah Silverman and Alicia Silverstone.

"The craft of storytelling is eternal in its appeal to human nature," Wouk told Reuters at the festival. "The forms change; the hunger for stories doesn't."

Wouk said he had tried e-books and was not that comfortable with them. "Still, as author I'd want 'The Language God Talks' to be available in any form accessible and agreeable to readers," he said, referring to his newly published book on faith and science.

Festival organizers this year launched a mobile scavenger hunt offering a grand prize of an iPad from Apple, the newest entry in the fast-growing electronic book market that has been led by Amazon.com's Kindle.

While accounting for only $313 million of the overall $24 billion U.S. book market, e-book sales soared 177 percent in 2009, while overall book sales fell 1.8 percent from 2008.

"This event is a celebration of literacy and we like to stay ahead of the curve," said Anna Magzanyan, vice president of Times marketing. "Since the iPad is a hot topic and a great tool, we were excited to give someone an iPad."   Continued...