Internet booksellers continue to gain popularity and profitability, and e-book readers are attracting a growing number of followers. But brick-and-mortar bookstores still have their fans.
However, with the recent demise of Borders and the closing of Barnes & Noble in Hobart last year, local aficionados are seeing their choices dwindle.
"I'm going to look for independent, small bookstores," said Martha Wilke, of Munster, who recently shopped the going-out-of-business sale at the Highland Borders store. "I like the feel of books in my hand, and I like to look at books before I buy them."
During visits to her Florida home, Wilke said she loves to visit the local Books–A–Million bookstore. One of these stores will open in Hobart's Westfield Southlake mall in the Borders location, with a tentative opening in early fall, according to mall Marketing Director Lisa DeVries.
Another Borders bargain-hunter, Carrie Fleming, of Hammond, said she increasingly orders books from Amazon.com and recently joined Borders' Kobo eReader system.
That's not an option for Hammond resident Dan Ortega. The 31-year-old said he has been a Borders customer since the store opened in the late 1990s and visits the Highland bookstore once a week to check out the newest Anime books, a Japanese animation–based graphic series.
"I don't have a computer, so I can't order books online. I don't know where I'm going to go for these books now," Ortega said.
The Highland Borders is in the process of liquidating after the company declared bankruptcy. There is a Barnes & Noble in Valparaiso, but the next closest location for most region residents is in Orland Park.
Sixteen-year-old Frank Rodriguez, of Munster, declared himself "old-fashioned" in a generation of Internet and e-reader users.
"I like books because I don't have to scroll down," the Munster High School junior said. "I'm going to look for independent bookstores."
Griffith resident Roderick Jenkins said although he likes the idea of electronic books, the feel of a book in his hands is more satisfying.
"I like to flip through the pages and write notes in the margin," said the public relations/journalism student at Purdue University Calumet.
Bookstores have been "a cool social place" where friends could gather for coffee and check out books and magazines, Jenkins said
"I'll probably go to the library more now," he said.
Holding a book is an important part of the total reading experience, said Lela Simmons of Valparaiso, a veteran reading teacher in Lake County schools.
"The smell of the book, turning the pages instead of scrolling down, seeing how far you've come and how far you have to go -- these are all important, especially for students who are learning to read or have difficulty with reading," said Simmons, adding there's a sense of accomplishment when the book is finished.
"You get a percentage of the book you've read on Kindle, but it's not the same as seeing how much you've read," she said. "I'm not opposed to online or electronic readers. But what's nice about a bookstore is that you can sit in a chair and decide what books you want to read."