Let’s Get Lit-erary: Cultivating community through BookTube

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BookTube refers the subsection of Youtube, that includes “BookTubers’ who review literature. In recent days, these BookTubers have been exposed to numerous opportunities through their channels, along with building community for all book lovers alike. Photo courtesy of Yidio.

To some, partaking in book clubs can feel antiquated. Others crave the opportunity to talk about their most beloved stories, but lack local bibliophiles to engage with. However, with the internet, there are a myriad of virtual communities to turn to. There are book blogs and podcasts, along with Goodreads, which is essentially a social media platform where readers can share their progress, reviews and recent reads. On pre-existing social media platforms, there’s BookTok, Bookstagram and most notably, BookTube.  

BookTube, as the name suggests, is a community of readers on YouTube creating all sorts of bookish content. It serves as an outlet for conversation, a sense of mutual understanding and appreciation for literature that most readers struggle to find with the people in their day-to-day lives. Started in the early 2010s, a few creators began uploading videos in this subset of YouTube, posting tags, TBRs (To Be Read), reviews, hauls, wrap-ups and more, bringing about a whole slew of reader vocabulary.  

“It serves as an outlet for conversation, a sense of mutual understanding and appreciation for literature that most readers struggle to find with the people in their day-to-day lives.”

These early creators, often considered the founders of BookTube, remain prominent figures today. Now, there are thousands of BookTubers out there, but it’s considerably more difficult to rise the ranks. Some of these original creators are Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Jesse George (jessethereader) and Regan Perusse (PeruseProject). These figureheads have been given tremendous opportunities as a result.  

Along with other successful BookTubers, they hold a lot of power in the publishing industry. “The Big 5” of Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster and Macmillan are constantly seeking their approval. They are sent advanced reading copies to get an early glimpse of upcoming releases, are given the opportunity to interview renowned authors and even star in some book-to-movie adaptations. Often, I would watch in a mixture of envy and enjoyment as I saw vlogs of creators making cameos in “Divergent” or “The Hate U Give.”  

Despite the purpose of BookTube being to fawn over literature, many booktubers have acquired a fan base, and attend events such as BookCon, to meet their fans. Photo courtesy of the BookCon website.

Though the original purpose of these BookTube channels was to fawn over moments in literature, ironically enough, many popular BookTubers themselves have a substantial fanbase. They flock to conventions like BookCon or YALLFest to meet authors and, in turn, subscribers flock to meet BookTubers. Recently, content creators have been able to host panels alongside authors, becoming the attraction themselves.  

BookTubers are also invited to projects I’d consider next-level. For example, creators were featured on a YouTube Originals series entitled BookTube, where they chatted with John Green, James Patterson, Melinda Gates and both Barack and Michelle Obama.  

Furthermore, several BookTubers have been able to use their status to their advantage, easing their transition into authorhood. In 2017, 14 BookTubers collaborated with popular authors, including Nicola Yoon and Adam Silvera, to compose “Because You Love to Hate Me,” a YA anthology of reimagined fairy tales. Every November, subscribers can expect a flood of NaNoWriMo content, where BookTubers grind to finish their novels within the month. Alsberg has published “The Androma Saga,” while Riccio has put out “Again, but Better” and is currently promoting her upcoming novel, “Better Again.” They have already built a following, amassing readers from their channel. It’s not my intention to discredit BookTubers as novelists, but it’s something to consider when we see their works make their way to “The New York Times” Bestseller list. 

The idea of BookTube as a whole can be confusing to some. Why waste time watching people talk about reading when you could be reading yourself? But BookTube is like any other subset of YouTube; there are channels catered toward beauty, gaming, technology and food. The appeal is that it offers a place to chat about, or even just listen to, things you are passionate about. It’s nice to know there are people like you out there.  

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