The decline in giving books as gifts appears to be leveling off. Last year, 17 percent of all books bought for adults were given as gifts, the same percentage as 1998. According to the NPD Group, gift-giving of books has been steadily decreasing over the past few years, from a high of 21 percent in 1995. What gives? Seems that consumers have opted for higher-ticket items in these healthy economic times. Recently, though, the Internet and the popularity of Harry Potter have played a role in stabilizing sales of books as gifts. Ten percent of all holiday gift books were purchased online last year. And more than half of all Harry Potter books bought in 1999 were intended as a gift - about twice as many as the market overall. Perhaps this year marks a new chapter, with better times to come.