PBS Anchor Admits Book Industry Is In 'Transition'

     If you want to write the next great American novel, you could have a tough go of it considering the current situation in publishing.


     Maybe it’s the digital age, but people just aren’t reading books like they used to, according to PBS’s Jim Lehrer, long-time anchor of “The NewsHour.” (Click here for audio)


     “Well, this is what is called a transition time, meaning they’re not doing very well right now,” Lehrer said. “There are a lot of books being published. Too many books are being published. As I tell people all the time, I wish a whole of people would quit writing ‘em and just start buying ‘em and reading ‘em.”


     So what is bucking the trend? According to Lehrer, nonfiction books are doing well, particularly books like former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s book, “The Age of Turbulence,” which has been a fixture on The New York Times Bestsellers List for the previous 10 weeks.


     Fiction on the other hand is struggling.


     “Fiction is not doing well, except pulp fiction,” Lehrer said. “Pulp fiction is doing very well. Kind of what you’d called mid-list fiction is not doing well. Serious literary fiction – some of it does well – whatever. Stuff that is making money apart from the publishers are these huge, blockbuster, nonfiction, “let-me-tell-you-how-I-got-be-famous-and-how-important-I-am” books. You know, these are the 8 million, 5 million [copies] things and they usually make their money on subsidiary rights, not on the hardback, but on the softback and the international sales and all of that,” said Lehrer.


     Lehrer is the author of 17 novels and the sole anchor of the PBS newscast since 1995. He appeared at the Arlington, Va. Public Library on December 5 to discuss his newest book, “Eureka.”