Local discount chains including Lotte Mart Co. are decreasing the number of book sections in their stores while also shrinking floor space for the sale of books nationwide due to lower profitability, industry sources said Monday. Homeplus Co., the South Korean unit of British retail giant Tesco PLC, has decreased the number of book sections in its outlets to 28 this year from 79 in 2009. \"The decline in the number of book sections in our stores was attributable to their prolonged losses,\" an official at the discounter said. E-books and stiff competition with online book stores have driven discount chain operators to sharply lose ground in book sales, the industry sources said. E-Mart Co., the largest discount chain, has halved its business floor space for the sale of books from up to 231 square meters per store in the early 2000s, while Lotte Mart Co. has scaled back its floor space by 20 percent. E-Mart said its sales of books grew at a double-digit rate between 2000 and 2006, but this trend has reversed as book sales fell 12.1 percent last year from a year ago. Lotte Mart also said that its book sales dropped 10.3 percent in the January-June period from a year earlier. \"The demand for books in the discounters\' book sections has been on the decrease,\" an official at Lotte Mart said, adding the book sections in the discount chains are being run as rest places for shoppers rather than bookshops.