Dive deep into the Book____s of the internet and see the good, the bad, and the literary.
By Emma Schneider, Summer Associate
June 10, 2021
I am a millennial on the cusp of Gen Z. What I am trying to insinuate is that I know a little about social media. I am not here to sermonize the importance of social media or that it is deeply interwoven into our society. No, I am here to talk about books. The bookish world of social media has become a major factor that determines the popularity of many books - especially for my generation. We find our latest reads on a post rather than in a newspaper (depressing, but true). Social media has really marketed the "reader" aesthetic by having bookish communities find themselves a book____. You will understand the blank in a minute, I promise. These book_____s introduce literary content into sites that were not initially created to be spaces to discuss books. So let's dive deep into some of the book____s of the internet and see the good, the bad, and the literary.
BookTube is a subgroup of the YouTube community where the sole focus is on all things bookish. It really came onto the scene in the 2010s where booktubers (usually college-aged individuals with opinions) would take to the platform to create videos. These videos were often focused on book reviews, completing tag challenges (like “Harry Potter Tag Challenge” where a prompt like Hagrid meant: Your favorite book with fictional creatures), and book hauls (showing off stacks of recently purchased books).
In about 2018, there became a clear backlash against the exclusivity of the BookTube community, in the sense that it was very difficult to break through the wall of about 20 booktubers that seemingly hoarded the power of BookTube. They were essentially the elite few that had started the BookTube craze and therefore had plenty of brand deals, wealth, trips to conventions, and author interviews. Also, most were white, CIS, straight voices so only a small demographic of readers was being represented. Some BookTubers made unsavory comments about libraries, and were immediately called out for being classist as many could not afford to spend large quantities of money on books like these individuals. Finally, there was also a pushback against what books were being discussed. YA (Young Adult) Literature was the main genre being represented and only a small fraction by the big name YA authors were being talked about. This became a problem for newer debut authors as well as those who enjoyed reading adult fiction and nonfiction.
These past three years have ushered in the emergence of a newer BookTube. Now there are voices coming to the forefront from all demographics that discuss a wide range of literature and topics. Gone are the days where you only hear about Cassandra Clare, Rick Riordan, and Sarah J Maas. The community is much more about celebrating what makes each reader unique and embracing what you enjoy reading regardless of whether it's “trendy”. It is honestly very fun now to listen to booktubers discuss books because they are all rarely reading the same thing and give much more helpful reviews. Also, now the videos are far more unique than the usual trends of the past because there is that diversity present in those creating content.
Remember those BookTubers? Well they and authors alike decided to create a book community on Twitter. Oh wow did it backfire. Book Twitter primarily involved following authors, publishing companies, book reviewers, and BookTubers to establish this community. Through retweets and commenting, it quickly found itself falling apart into eternal darkness fairly quickly.
On Twitter, people tend to just say stuff and hope it works out for the best. It rarely does. So Book Twitter lit itself on fire because authors began calling out book reviewers, saying problematic things, and therefore caused “cancel culture” to set in. Many big name YA authors tried to argue why their books have a lack of diversity and that set off a whole series of after effects. Authors and BookTubers alike decided it was fine to engage with their audience in an unprofessional and slightly too personal way by blatantly arguing with them.
Book Twitter is still a dumpster fire don’t worry. One major bonus about Book Twitter though is the fact that it does hold authors accountable for their behavior (sometimes to the extreme). This year alone several authors have been called out on Book Twitter for outlandish stunts to get themselves on the NYT Bestseller’s List (which genuinely doesn’t seem that hard in the first place but call me crazy), as well as checking authors who call out their book reviewers for not giving their latest book a five star rating. If you live for a little drama and very little reviewing of actual books, Book Twitter is where it is at.
I swear it all comes back to BookTube. Essentially, again, the same individuals began utilizing their Instagram accounts to create artistic photos of aesthetically pleasing books. This is where books become art and aesthetic choices. Bookstagram is all about finding the best covers and making gorgeous photos with them and a lot of props. In Bookstagram photos you are likely to find a picture of a nice cover surrounded by flowers, coffee, a cat, you name it. It is all about taking the aesthetic of reading and trying to be an influencer with it. Photography > Reading in many cases of this community.
Much like BookTube, it began as highly exclusive but did open up fairly quickly. However, it also still falls into that age-old problem of everyone using the same books (thus promoting them) because they have nice covers. Also, a focus on economic advantages is still apparent because in order to take these photos to be discovered, you have to spend quite a bit of money on cameras, editing software, and props. Furthermore, since it is about the aesthetic of reading, everything is innately about the illusion, everything has to be polished and perfect. It has also bled into Cosplay Culture in which money, looks, and artistic talent are tied into the community.
So I must be clear in the fact that I actively participate in Bookstagram (yikes I know). However, I have found a wide variety of bookstagrammers that just post what they are currently reading or enjoy reading - it has nothing to do with “what the algorithm wants”. I have honestly discovered a ton of now beloved reads by scrolling through pretty photos of books. Also with the “reels” feature on Instagram it brings books to life and allows bookstagrammers to make book recommendation videos or act out as their favorite characters. When you get out of the competitive side of Bookstagram, it is really quite wonderful in how it connects you with other readers.
Listen, I know I established a rule as to how I was presenting this information, but I simply cannot do it with BookTok. For one, I have vowed to never get the app out of spite - and this is a hill I will die on. So let me tell you what I do know. BookTok is a segment of the app TikTok in which book lovers can discuss books. It primarily promotes only a handful of books, again mostly YA. It also deals primarily with comedy rather than reviews. This platform has had a relatively short life compared to others on this list, so only time will tell how it develops. Now if you don’t mind, I am about to talk about essentially a dead site.
Tumblr. What a site. What a 2010-2017 time this site was. Oh, it still exists but essentially against its will. Tumblr is tied heavily to the world of geek culture and popular culture. Therefore the book connection is there. Booklr specializes in book fancasts (who readers want to play characters in live action adaptations, fanart, and fanfiction. Booklr is essentially a creative outlet for those with deep connections with books and fandoms to express themselves to others with similar interests.
There is probably no reason to create a Tumblr account as the site has been almost the same functioning wise since 2015. Also the age demographic skews to the adult age range as those of us who had Tumblrs during its peak are now in our 20s. Also, just know if you don’t have one, Tumblr is a wild time.
As said above, most of the Booklr community skews out of the teen range therefore there is now a lot more of a focus on academic literature due to the aesthetic that is there. Also it is just a nice place to gush about your fictional crushes (we all have them don’t try to act cool), come up with theories for the next book, and look at some pretty phenomenal artwork.
I genuinely don’t know if this is a thing, but I am making it one. On Spotify you can create playlists that you can curate with essentially any songs of your choosing. I curate Spotify playlists that relate to books that I am reading, beloved characters, etc. As do many others. If you search a favorite book in the search bar there is guaranteed to be a playlist (and if there isn’t you better beat me to making one because playlist making is my legacy). You can also find individuals that make uber specific bookish playlists such as “Dancing at the Ball with the Prince You Were Hired to Kill” and “Taking the Throne of a Dangerous Kingdom”, or my personal favorite “80s Vampire Vibe”. This platform allows you to make something so personal to your own tastes and relate it to a book you enjoyed reading.
Book_____s are all over the internet, and all offer a very different perspective at looking at books. All have a completely different aesthetic and focus. All are a great way to find your next read or listen to others who may have read the same books as you. Go and find your Book____, or don’t because the library is a special Book_____ of its own.