C-SPAN2’s Book TV has covered the National Book Festival since its founding and will be back with live coverage for the 18th year this year. Peter Slen, senior executive producer of Book TV, discusses how Book TV became a destination for authors and books.
How did C-SPAN2’s Book TV get started – and how has it become such a fixture for all these years?
Book TV on C-SPAN2 began in 1998 in an effort to bring to light the many public policy books being written and not getting airtime. While C-SPAN’s Booknotes program featured 52 nonfiction authors a year, Book TV devoted 48 hours every weekend to authors and books, and 20 years later, it still does.
How has the programming evolved over time?
Over the years, our style and programming have changed and grown, as we’ve added productions such as our weekly author interview program, AfterWords, and author call-ins like In Depth, but our mission has remained constant. We’re C-SPAN in book form. We cover public policy, history and social commentary, in the same format as our parent network.
Why have you decided to be part of the National Book Festival for 18 consecutive years, providing live coverage each year?
Early on, Book TV began covering book fairs around the country, including those in Los Angeles, Austin and Miami. As of today, over 300 book fairs have been broadcast by Book TV. So, when Laura Bush and the Library of Congress proposed a National Book Festival in 2001, it was a natural fit for Book TV and C-SPAN. The range of authors, the location, the themes; they fit with our mission beautifully. Over the years, we’ve done many call-in programs, author talks and interviews from the past 18 National Book Festivals, which have included David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Buzz Aldrin, David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin, to name just a few. While the ambience of being outside on the National Mall is missed, the Festival has found a new home at the Convention Center that allows it to proceed rain or shine.
So, 18 years later, the National Book Festival has evolved, Book TV has evolved, but the basic principles underlying both remain the same: bringing attention to authors who discuss America’s history, ideals, and challenges…
Here’s to 18 more years!