Clusters of TV and computer screens beam chatty videos about cooking, travel and wellness books. A music kiosk lets visitors download MP3s or burn CDs, while another offers tips on how to publish your own novel.

Welcome to the newly opened Borders "concept" bookstore in Southbury, Conn., which looks less like a traditional branch of the nation's second-largest book chain and more like what customers might see on their home computers.

"We wanted to go beyond selling books, CDs and DVDs and become a headquarters for knowledge and entertainment," said Borders Group Chief Executive George Jones. "We needed to do something new in our stores to compete with all the alternatives people have at home when they shop online."

As Book Expo America, the nation's largest annual book convention, opened Thursday in Los Angeles, innovation - some would say desperation - was the main order of business. More than 2,000 exhibitors from every facet of the publishing world, nearly 1,000 authors and more than 25,000 people were expected to gather at the Los Angeles Convention Center to discuss the state of an industry that's at a critical crossroads.

The $37 billion industry's generally flat sales are likely to continue and perhaps worsen in the near future, according to a report issued Friday by the Book Industry Study Group.

Dozens of Book Expo panels will explore the possibilities of digital publishing and the expanded use of the Web to market to customers

who view the Internet as the best way to buy books. Another promising trend is the rising sales in young adult fiction - Borders' concept stores have separated a young adult section from the children's books.

Nobody is immune from the economic turbulence: Barnes & Noble, the United States' largest book chain, is exploring a bid to gobble up financially troubled Borders. Random House, the nation's largest trade book publisher, was rocked last month when its German owners installed a new cost-cutting chief executive who is generally unknown in New York's insular book world.

"Change is the key word now," said Allison Hill, president of Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, which was recently named Bookseller of the Year by Publishers Weekly. "If you want to survive in publishing, you've got to start thinking outside the box."

The rapid growth of author videos is one example. In a small Manhattan studio, Marisa Benedetto is spearheading an effort at HarperCollins to produce more than 500 such interviews a year, which are designed for online distribution.

And although publishers are getting comfortable with the Internet, it still poses challenges for booksellers who are trying to hold on to loyal customers while attracting new ones who are used to buying books online.

Borders representatives said they hoped the new concept stores would bring the two worlds together. But even with all the bells and whistles of the Internet transplanted to a physical bookstore, there are some aspects of the online world - like digital publishing - that can bedevil smaller, independent shops.

E-books, which can be downloaded on demand and read on lightweight portable devices like the Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle, have captured only a small share of the general interest book market. Yet many believe the right device will eventually meet the right format, paving the way for a transforming "iPod moment" in the book world.

When this moment finally comes, how do you sell digital products to customers who prefer to buy traditional books? More important, how do you convince them that they can buy e-books just as easily from an independent store as they can from

Enter Peter Osnos. The founder of Public Affairs Books recently launched the Caravan Project, an experimental, grant-funded effort to educate publishers and an initial target group of independent bookstores about digital books. A key goal has been to show sellers that they can participate in the sale of digital books like anyone else. These days, that can include an e-book, a digital audio book, print-on-demand titles or the downloading of individual chapters.