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Is Reading Popular Again? BookTok and Its Impact

I feel like I’ve lived under a rock because I don’t actually have TikTok and only see glimpses of the world of TikTok through Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts, but I can’t go into any bookstore now without seeing the massive ’BookTok’ sections that have massive stacks of popular romances I’ve been seeing rave about on all platforms in the last year at least.

It’s so cool to see so many books flourishing in an industry that many people were saying was on the verge on dying a few years ago. It’s true that the pandemic has largely helped some industries including publishing do incredibly well as people turned to books during lockdowns for something to entertain themselves with and escape from the real world situation. Now that many first world countries are out of lockdowns and living life as relatively normal as we can call it, it makes me so happy to see reading continue as a popular hobby and it has amazed me to see reading become a little more mainstream.

I’ve started to notice that even some lifestyle content creators on YouTube have shifted their content to essentially becoming BookTubers which is incredible to see! Some I can think of are Hailie Barber who used to be primarily a Beauty YouTuber and has now become a full fledged BookTuber and Alexa Raye who was more a of travel and lifestyle YouTuber and now creates great bookish content a lot more regularly.

Something that fascinates me as well are the new types of BookTubers that appear more like viral content creators and lifestyle content creators that have a completely different to what previous BookTubers (and existing in a way) have been doing. No longer are people doing the ’BookTube Newbie Tag’ to get started on their channel and we’re seeing a lot more secret TBRs and reading lists of books related to pop culture like ’I read every book X celebrity or actor recommended’ or ’I read every book X quoted in this movie’. It’s all an interesting evolution of how people are being brought into the reading community in various ways and it makes me wonder how this could’ve been achieved before or without a global pandemic.

In Australia alone, 2020 saw an increase of 7.8% in book sales and in 2021, saw another modest growth of 2.5% (roughly around $1.3 billion), and it’s not just physical old school fiction books either! Manga and audiobooks have been increasingly on the rise and apparently increased exponentially in 2021 with an increase of 86% for manga and 73% for audiobooks. I don’t actually read much manga but I recently visited Kinokuniya in Sydney when I was there for a week and I was amazed by the massive range of Manga available there! It was so cool to see so many people browsing and buying them in person. Not to mention that Sci-Fi and Fantasy has greatly benefited from the various book-to-screen adaptations like Dune and Shadow & Bone/Six of Crows. We also saw our fair share of romance and YA adaptations like The Summer I Turned Pretty, Heartstopper and The Hating Game (of the three, I saw the last two and LOVED them!).

Another big win for BookTok was obviously the romances which saw an increase of 16% overall in 2021, where the frontrunner was good ol’ Colleen Hoover. Whether many people bought her books to genuinely enjoy them or to read them and criticise for content, it’s had an overall positive impact for her and the overall publishing industry! I personally haven’t read any books by her and I frankly don’t have much interest in doing so but I do acknowledge her contribution in helping reading not only become more popular and loved, but less stigmatised in mainstream circles.

I feel like for a while now, I’ve noticed that even though most people know that people do read, it was still like a strange hobby amongst people that don’t. I think that’s why the book community could truly appreciate each other because we could relate to each other, fangirl about a character, a book, an author and not feel judged or different for having a hobby that’s fun, fulfilling and actually good for your health. Now that it’s in a wider mainstream view, I am interested in seeing how this evolves – will this just be a short term TikTok fad that the general young population of readers will ditch over time for other activities as life gets somewhat back to what it normally was pre-Covid? Or will this continue to evolve and propel other genres even further into the spotlight?

I certainly hope it’s the latter, rather than the former. What are your thoughts on the impact of BookTok and your view of reading in terms of the wider population?

Until next time,

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  • Malka @ Paper Procrastinators

    This is such an interesting post and I absolutely love the research that went into writing this! I don’t have TikTok either, but I’ve definitely seen those same tables in bookstores as well! I think it’s great that it’s getting more people to read, though I do wish that recommendations were more diverse, and more plentiful. I get tired about hearing the exact same books that were popular years ago on other platforms now making a resurgence because of BookTok. But hey, if it gets more people to read and keeps the book and publishing industry thriving, I guess I can’t really complain too much!

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