Will E-Books Transform the Way We Read?

No, it's not a rock concert or a food festival that is daring crowds to the National Mall. It's the printed page - which still has the power to enthrall.

Though at a bookmobile, there's not a printed page in sight, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

"They can download digital media for free, and that's audio books, e-books, music and video," said Renee San Jose, a marketing and events coordinator with Overdrive.

It's not sponsored by some high-tech company, but your public library.

Surprised? Libraries are changing with the times, said Washington D.C.'s chief librarian.

"While we used to be the place that held the books we're now in some places the connection point," said Ginnie Cooper, the chief librarian of D.C. Public Libraries.

Many public libraries are making books available by way of their websites for free.

All you need is a device to download them and a library card. No returns and no late fees.

"The titles automatically expire at the end of each lending period," San Jose said. "So there is no worry for the expiration date or having to go back to the library to physically return the book."

Overdrive, the company that manages more than 9,000 library Web sites, estimates 30 million people have visited the Web site of their local library in 2008, a 63 percent increase over 2007.

"It's gotten more people reading one way or another. And I think the e-book format really appeals to a lot of folks," Cooper said. "I see them on Metro, on airplanes, I love it."

On some college campuses, e-books are replacing textbooks. This fall, six universities were selected to try the Kindle DX, Amazon's newest digital reader.

"I like to think what you hold in your hand tonight is the future," said a professor from Pace University.

And how does the future feel for students at New York's Pace University?

"I have friends that have come out of the bookstore paying $800 for a semester of books," said Nina Schoeler, a Pace student. "So the books being so cheap on the Kindle it's definitely well worth it."

But not everyone agrees.

"It's confusing to learn how to navigate," said Dan Santagata, another student. "I'd rather, much rather, open up a textbook and flip to the page."

And going digital can be costly. The newest Kindle DX sells for just under $500.
  • Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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