In November 2014, Book View Now, a PBS show devoted to books and publishing, launched with livestream coverage of the Miami Book Fair International. Over the ensuing months, the program packed its schedule with reporting from some of the biggest events in the publishing industry—the L.A. Times Festival of Books in April, BookExpo America in May, and most recently, the Library of Congress National Book Festival in September. As it sets its sights on its second year of production, the show and the broadcaster are ramping up and diversifying their overall book programming.
“The goal is for Book View Now to become more of a public media book bureau,” said executive producer Rich Fahle, “building an active and growing content library that will feed other PBS shows, public media partners, other distribution partners... websites, educators, libraries, and other partner networks.”
In addition to continuing to work at festivals and fairs, the new year will also see Book View Now unfolding its “expanded multichannel vision,” according to Fahle. With PBS and other partners, the program is building a distribution platform that includes livestreaming, social media, third-party partners, original program development, and targeted content delivery to other public media partners based on genre and region-driven interests. PBS will also begin packaging portions of its interviews by theme and subject.
Book View Now got its start when Fahle, who worked in Michigan as a v-p at Borders, approached Detroit Public TV (which produces the program) about partnering to cover the Miami Book Fair for PBS. It is now hosted by Fahle, along with Jeffrey Brown, senior correspondent and chief arts correspondent for PBS NewsHour, and others. Authors have also come on board as guest hosts, including Kelly Corrigan, Kwame Alexander, Jon Scieszka, Leigh Bardugo, Gayle Forman, and David Leviathan.
“Books and literature have always been an integral part of the PBS mission and very clearly play an important role in the lives of PBS viewers,” said v-p of corporate communications at PBS Anne Bentley. “Book View Now’s approach has been very creative, using the many avenues of PBS and public television to deliver authors and their books to a wider audience, tapping into the full array of PBS distribution channels.”
The formation of Book View Now, with its emphasis on streaming live events, throws the broadcaster in the ring with C-SPAN’s BookTV, which debuted in 1998. “C-SPAN does a remarkable job providing coverage of serious nonfiction and public affairs books,” said Fahle, who himself worked for C-SPAN in the 1990s as a media relations manager and chief spokesperson. “But our PBS coverage is focused on a much broader group of viewers.” PBS is, according to Fahle, targeting a larger swath of readers—book club members, young adult readers, fiction aficionados, and buyers of mysteries and thrillers, graphic novels, and cookbooks. “That’s a huge percentage of additional genres and interest areas outside of those primarily nonfiction public affairs categories. Just as importantly, all of those additional categories... are PBS bull’s-eyes.”
PBS is also complementing its beefed-up festival coverage with some original programming. The organization is shooting its first episode of Adventures in Bookmobiling with author Jack Gantos this month. In the new series, authors are picked up and interviewed en route to a destination that’s meaningful to their books or work, in a fully-stocked “bookmobile.”
When asked why PBS has doubled down on its book coverage, Fahle said that he believes there is a “significant media opportunity” in covering books and authors. “Authors and their stories drive news cycles, create national conversations, and fill airtime as part of major news and entertainment guest lineups,” Fahle said. “Despite a continuous viewer desire and entertainment interest, no network or program has made a dedicated play on the continually flowing entertainment stream originating from the publishing industry’s perpetual rollout of experts and storytellers. Until now.”