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. Young and old authors shared their views on the evolving marketplace.
"The craft of storytelling is eternal in its appeal to human nature," Wouk told Reuters one day before appearing 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."
Other authors, young and new, shared their thoughts on storytelling and books sold electronically, which are projected to one day account for as much as 25 percent to 50 percent books sold.
Mystery author Mary Higgins Clark, 82, who has written 42 big-selling books, said she has adapted to changing technology several times in her career, both in terms of the market and her storytelling.
"I remember when they predicted that paperbacks would ruin the industry," Higgins told Reuters.
"I think iPads could be very helpful in the long run," she said noting she liked that readers could download a book on impulse with these devices.
As a crime novelist, Clark said she's always had to stay abreast of changes in forensic and telephone technology to keep her stories relevant.
Some novelists have used website programs to work collaboratively on novels, while stories are emerging daily about novelists tweeting away pieces of their novel a day on the micro-blogging site Twitter. Self-publishing, with the help of digital technology, also has exploded in recent years.
Indie rocker turned popular young adult novelist Cecil Castellucci, 40, believes digital publishing likely will bring new ways of storytelling by more authors to more people.
"Any time there's a new media, it's exciting because it offers new ways to tell the story and brings new people to writing," she told Reuters.
Editing by Bill Trott