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Book publishers say Oprah was a stimulus 'like nobody else'

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The publishing industry is among those saddened by the news that Oprah Winfrey’s talk show will end in 2011. As an unabashed book lover, Winfrey helped boost sales of countless reads—even those written by relatively unknown authors (see: Elizabeth Gilbert, David Wroblewski, Uwem Akpan, etc.) After all, it’s no secret that a single appearance on Winfrey’s show could directly lead an author right onto the best-seller list. “Listen, anytime we lose an outlet as significant as Oprah’s, it’s not a plus,” says Random House spokesperson Stuart Applebaum. “She had the potential to move that sales needle like nobody else on the air. Or frankly in any other medium we care about.”

Especially when you’re talking about a nation more likely to turn on the television than pick up a novel. Through her talk show, Winfrey often galvanized her mainstream audience—an attractive group of consumers for publishers—encouraging them to head to the bookstore.

But while Oprah’s departure is certainly a blow, don’t expect the publishing industry to burst into flames anytime soon. “I would say that we’re sad about the news, but we are certainly going to open for business on Monday,” Applebaum says.

And there’s reason to be optimistic. It’s entirely possible that Winfrey will schedule some sort of books-centric programming on her new network, OWN. And talk show hosts like Jon Stewart continue to help boost sales for authors. Applebaum, however, says none of them will compare to the Big O. “Will somebody come along?” he says. “We’ll see. Maybe the Beatles will finally find a successor in the next years ahead. But right now, it doesn’t look like that.”

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