The #BookTok Effect

Reading may never be the same, but #BookTok has created a community that will make it last.
The #BookTok Effect

As a thriving subculture on TikTok, #BookTok has cultivated a vibrant community, amassing over 202 billion views since its inception in early 2020.

Its members, which span from casual readers to full time ‘BookTokers,’ dedicate themselves to creating and disseminating an array of content that celebrates literature in all its forms. This includes insightful book reviews, curated reading lists, and engaging discussions about various literary themes and character intricacies.

Furthermore, these BookTok contributors often delight their audience by sharing glimpses of their current reads, artfully arranging their book collections, and participating in imaginative reading challenges and trends that sweep across the platform.

According to Publishers Association, 59 percent of 16-25 year old’s say BookTok has helped them discover a passion for reading.

The phenomenon has been a boon for independent bookstores, boosting their customer base and indirectly promoting a reduction in screen time, while simultaneously nurturing a renewed culture of reading. However, this success is not without its detractors. Critics contend that BookTok parallels the fast fashion trend, effectively diluting the quality of newly published books that achieve rapid popularity or ‘go viral’ on the platform.

Rebecca Yarros’ The Empyrean Series has become a standout trend on BookTok, capturing widespread attention. Published by the relatively new Red Tower Books, this series has played a significant role in reshaping the publishing landscape.

Particularly, Fourth Wing, the first book of the series, experienced phenomenal success on TikTok. Despite its initial small print run, which featured an exclusive special edition cover, the book quickly sold out. This scarcity led to resellers listing it at prices exceeding $100. In a strategic move to maintain a sense of exclusivity, the publisher released the regular edition in limited batches, effectively fueling the ongoing hype around the book.

Critics contend that BookTok parallels the fast fashion trend, effectively diluting the quality of newly published books that achieve rapid popularity or ‘go viral’ on the platform.

Red Tower Books also released a special edition book without a title, creating a sense of mystery that led to its rapid sell-out. However, readers were surprised to discover it was merely a holiday edition of Fourth Wing, a title already familiar to most customers. The overwhelming success of that book prompted a rushed publication of Iron Flame (Book 2), resulting in a print run that was, to put it mildly, less than polished.

According to Business Insider, “TikTokers shared videos of books that appeared printed entirely upside down, copies where the maps at the front or back of the book were flipped, and some showed a chunk of text printed the wrong way in the middle of their books. There were even readers who said their books were both backward and upside down.”

To great commercial success, the eagerly awaited Fourth Wing sequal debuted in May 2023. However, the initial excitement was soon overshadowed by reader complaints about defects in their copies. While some issues were minor, like missing chapter break illustrations, more significant problems such as pages being out of order were also reported. Furthermore, the book was marred by grammatical errors and inconsistent writing, suggesting a lack of thorough editing.

Moreover, according to Slate writer Laura Miller, “seemingly every single sentence in its 528 pages includes at least one cliché, and you can spend hours on the internet discovering which other books readers believe that Yarros has plundered for themes and motifs.”

BookTok has also been accused of having a culture of toxic competition. As more content creators move to BookTok as their full-time jobs, many BookTok creators read well above 100 books per year. Community members have felt a need to read as much as possible, prioritizing quality over quantity as they compare their reading habits to people who read for a living.

BookTok also has its upsides. It has pulled people away from their phones, but it has also allowed authors to market their books in a fresh light. Many authors market their books on TikTok, where they become wild successes. I Fell in Love With Hope by Lancali, which went viral, was originally a self-published title, but its success caused it to rise on the Amazon charts before earning a Goodreads Choice Award nomination. It was re-published by Harper Collins.

Overall, while BookTok has its downsides, it is here to stay. It has—and will continue to—change the landscape of the publishing industry. BookTok has brought back reading in a way that has never happened before. More and more teenagers are reading outside of the classroom. Adults who were avid readers as kids are returning to the hobby. It has connected people from all walks of life.

Reading may never be the same, but BookTok has created a community that will make it last.

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About the Contributors
Rachael Rosenberg, Journalist
Rachael is a 9th grader and has been at Brimmer since kindergarten. In her free time, she enjoys reading, sailing, theater and music. She is excited to be joining The Gator staff this year.
Livvy Avignon, Cartoonist

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