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The Shift to Digital Media

By Dan Marcel, Olivia Danchik, Brianna Watts-El, Kate Dolgenos


The popularity of digital media has soared in recent years. Countless record stores have been forced to close down due to heavy competition from digital music vendors, like iTunes. Bookstores have also been affected. The Kindle, an e-reader sold by Amazon.com, allows readers to purchase books, magazines, and other media from any location with an Internet connection. Last year, Amazon sold more electronic "books" than actual hardcovers and paperbacks combined. Since the launch of the Kindle, similar devices have become popular. Digital media is generally cheaper than the products found in physical stores (Amazon claims that the Kindle pays for itself over time with the money saved on book purchases). These newfangled online businesses have forced many traditional stores to close. Only some remain. In one small pocket of Philadelphia, a bookstore and a music store have managed to consistently attract new customers and make a profit. How do these traditional stores compete?


Traditional bookstores find themselves having to compete with online booksellers.


"I don't compete with Amazon, because I don't carry those kinds of books. They sell everything too cheaply," says Jules Goldman of Jules Goldman Used Books and Antiques. Since bookstores like his generally cater to an older audience, they usually have fewer competitors. One consumer, seventy-nine-year old Josephine Pappalardo says she reads print "all the time" and "doesn't know anyone who reads the digital books". She acknowledges that this is partly because the people in her age group "don't have computers" and are " a little old-fashioned."


Libraries have adapted to the changing demands of their users by purchasing books online. The library has "downloadable audiobooks and downloadable eBooks," says Cathy Gilmore, a librarian. They also own a Sony Reader, a device similar to the Kindle. Ms. Gilmore also denies that children are reading less. "Children read less print books than they used to, but I know that the online children's books that we offer are a lot more popular this year than they were last year," she says.


According to a local librarian, eBooks have become more popular.


Traditional music and book stores are still around, so digital technology hasn't taken everyone's attention off of paperback and hardback books and CDs and records. "We specialize in selling to people...who still collect, who want to have the actual physical CD and record," explains Mia Poalo, an employee of aka Records. Although most people who purchase these items are older, the money they spend is enough to keep these types of small businesses afloat - at least for now.


"We specialize in selling to people... who want to have the actual physical CD and record"