NEW YORK — Two weeks after the 2004 presidential election, a postelection tradition appears on the verge of extinction: the campaign book.
For decades, elections were commemorated by a wave of insider chronicles, from Theodore White's "The Making of the President 1960," which popularized the genre, to such favorites as Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72" and Timothy Crouse's "The Boys on the Bus."
Numerous works came out after the historic 2000 race, which ended weeks after Election Day, including Jeffrey Toobin's "Too Close to Call," Dana Milbank's "Smashmouth" and Jeff Greenfield's " 'Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow!' "
But none of those books made any major impact and publishers, once inundated with proposals, now say they're receiving none. The likely culprit is the media. Revelations once saved for books now come out in magazines and newspapers; bloggers and TV pundits inform -- and exhaust -- the public with continuous commentary.
"Interest in those kinds of books has been going steadily downward, because with all the news coverage there's relatively little left that comes as a surprise for us," says Neil Nyren, publisher and editor-in-chief of Putnam, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) that published Greenfield's book.
"The days of Teddy White are gone," says John Sterling, publisher of Henry Holt and Company. "Let's face it, the commercial opportunities are not there."
So far, only one major campaign book has been announced: "Election 2004," to be written by the staff of Newsweek and published in January by PublicAffairs. Newsweek has been releasing campaign books since the 1984 election, even as sales have declined over the years.
"There used to be a rush of these books, but the well dried up; I think we're about the last ones standing," says Evan Thomas, the magazine's assistant managing editor.
"We've noticed diminishing public interest, but we still think an election is an inherently good yarn. And we think it's important to get it on library shelves because books last and magazines don't."
Campaign books may be on their way out, but political books as a whole should remain in fashion. Publishers and booksellers say President Bush's reelection likely means that demand will increase for works such as liberal Thomas Frank's bestselling "What's the Matter With Kansas?" and conservative Newt Gingrich's upcoming "Winning the Future," books that offer suggestions for how the respective political parties can increase their appeal.
"With the election over, we think there will be less interest in the vitriolic books, like Ann Coulter's, and more books about what kind of message the parties have and what their vision is," says Bob Wietrak, a vice president of merchandising for Barnes & Noble Inc.
Also anticipated are books by Bush administration officials who left during his first term or will soon leave.
Several publishers are bidding for a memoir by former CIA director George Tenet, who resigned last summer.
A book by Christine Todd Whitman, who in 2003 stepped down as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is due out in January.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who announced his resignation Monday, is widely perceived as the biggest catch, both because of his general popularity and because of his long-rumored conflicts with other Bush officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
There is no word yet on whether he'll write a book, but for the past year he has been giving interviews for a biography by Karen de Young, currently on leave from the Washington Post. Alfred A. Knopf hopes to publish the book by 2006.
Meanwhile, others leaving the Bush administration include Attorney General John Ashcroft, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Education Secretary Rod Paige and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
"If Ashcroft wants to write a book, I'm sure a conservative publisher would be interested," Putnam's Nyren said. "But none of the others in that crop have the kind of broad appeal that Powell has. I don't think they will raise the temperature much."
"John Ashcroft is certainly someone we have talked about internally as being appealing to a conservative readership," says Marji Ross, president of Regnery Publishing, a conservative press that will release Gingrich's book.
"Rod Paige is another good conservative we have talked about in the past, but it's harder to imagine that a book by someone from the education department would be a big bestseller."