Americans Are Reading More, Thanks To BookTok. So Who’s Against It?
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern Alexandra Speck. Find her on Instagram at @alexandraspeckk. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at email@example.com.
BookTok – natural Tiktok habitat to readers, writers, and artists – is one of the largest communities on the platform, boasting nearly 150 billion views and thousands of creators. BookTok dominates The New York Times Best Sellers list, catapults new authors to fame overnight, and inspires screen adaptations of trending novels. Why are some literature lovers now asking, “Is BookTok ruining reading?” Scroll ahead to find out.
What Is BookTok?
BookTok entered the social media mainstream during the COVID-19 pandemic as a space for like-minded readers to escape an uncertain world. BookTok is primarily a celebration of fiction, with romance authors like Colleen Hoover and Sarah J. Maas reigning supreme. Fantasy, thriller, mystery, and nonfiction all have their niches, and it’s up to the TikTok algorithm to guide you to your favorites.
BookTok isn’t immune to social media drama, but it is a largely positive and informative place of community. While casually scrolling, you’ll likely find reviews, recommendations, memes, and bookstore hauls. Some titles are recommended time and time again, like the ones mentioned in this video.
What’s The Problem? BookTok And Consumerism
I’ve recently noticed a surge in anti-BookTok sentiment, perhaps in accordance with our heightening aversion to influencer culture. In this article from British GQ, “In the shallow world of BookTok, being ‘a reader’ is more important than actually reading,” Barry Pierce condemns BookTok for consumerist culture and performative tendencies. Pierce sketches BookTok creators as panderers to the algorithm, with more energy “being put into being seen as a reader” than into the practice itself.
On her popular YouTube channel The Book Leo, reader Leonie Christel explains the irony in criticizing BookTok for meticulously filled shelves and romantic, indulgent videos. Would BookTok’s disparagers be appeased by plain videography and haphazard stacks?
Some suggest that BookTok sets a standard of reading too much and promotes unattainable reading goals. Viewers have reported that this “quantity over quality” rhetoric generates insecurity and inhibits reading for enjoyment.
Minimalists also criticize BookTokers for buying vast quantities of books, but I think that the shoppers are harmless. It’s not as if buying a few reads – thereby supporting authors, publishers, and independent bookstores – is comparable to a Shein spree. Every industry is flawed, but buying too many books – books! – is hardly criminal. Moreover, eBooks are a cheaper and more convenient alternative to paperbacks, so everyone seeking out hard copies evidently values them enough to invest the extra time and money.
Regardless, there are many that support BookTok and recognize its positive impact on social media at large.
People are reading more because of BookTok. Book sales have dramatically increased from their pre-TikTok standings. It is impossible to argue that BookTok discourages the practice of actually reading. Nearly half of American TikTok users reported reading more because of BookTok. And not by a small margin – they’re reading 60% more.
Most importantly, it is one of the few social media spaces that regularly enriches real life. Many, myself included, credit BookTok with “rekindling their love of reading.” Books from TikTok have been a point of connection with many people in my real life, transcending age and gender barriers. Numerous creators recommend diverse books and thoughtfully examine controversial themes, circumventing the algorithm’s “shadow bans” to promote an inclusive environment.
TikTok is a platform with many flaws, and social media isn’t always my cup of tea… but BookTok is the least of its faults.
Is BookTok ruining reading? Or do you support it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!