BookTok: Introduction And Body Paragraph 1
Established in 2018, the social media app TikTok has become a powerhouse, gaining over two billion monthly users making it the single most popular platform in the entire world. Consisting of short-form videos that last on average from 30-50 seconds, users are able to gorge themselves on content galore based on the sheer amounts of information thrown at them as opposed to previous long-form entertainment such as television, movies, and books. What’s fascinating, however, is that short and long-form entertainment has seen a merging with TikTok’s ‘BookTok,’ a subsection of the platform devoted to book recommendations and reviews. In practice, ‘BookTok’ sounds wonderful—as reading rates have decreased among the younger generation, a place where people are once again encouraged to read sounds like paradise. During America’s case against TikTok, TikTok’s CEO even lists ‘BookTok’ as a prime example for TikTok’s beneficial effects. However, humans don’t exist in a vacuum and in the modern world of rapid digitization, books are not able to keep the same form as they previously existed in on TikTok’s ‘BookTok’. While acknowledging BookTok’s benefits in its uncanny ability to encourage more to read, it’s important to also point out its not-so-desirable effects, namely its pigeonholing of authors and book genres and its encouragement of polarization and book-censoring.
With ‘BookTok’s hashtag on TikTok attaining over one hundred thirty-four billion views, it is evident it’s influence in the literary world. For example, Holly Black’s novel The Cruel Prince saw an almost four hundred percent increase in sales after going viral on said platform—indicating how fruitful rewards for author and publisher may be if viralness is achieved. Even in physical book stores such as those of Barnes and Nobles, shelves are being structured to fit the preferences of TikTok users, with viral books gaining priority in terms of shelving and visibility. The bottom line is that booksellers and creators serve to gain a lot from BookTok and therefore focus a lot of their marketing on or around it. Due to TikTok’s aggressive algorithm of similarity however, this can be harmful for diversity within books and an author’s freedom. The algorithm capitalizes on user interest by placing on feed videos that users previously engaged with. BookTok operates accordingly and therefore certain genres and authors prioritized due to algorithm structure. Therefore, some book-types are deemed ‘easily marketable’ and others aren’t. Those in the previous category are preferred by publishing companies as well as the easily manipulated user-base. This is why if one ventures on BookTok they will rarely see books outside the young adult fantasy and romance genre. These are after all, the ones that ‘make it’ in terms of social media due to easily consumable and understandable quotes and plots. One specific example is author Alex Aster who has over 1 million followers on her TikTok account. By strategically posting short snippets, book quotes & image reels, according to specific mold she built up significant excitement for her novel Lightlark and received six-figure publishing and movie deals. However, when her book was released many complained that the plot and writing was lacking, hinting that what works on TikTok often doesn’t translate in book form, and much of what was promoted was not included in the book. This is a Disturbing literary trend that quality and popularity no longer walk hand-in-hand and reminds me of the Hollywood parallel in which the Lines ‘because I was in love with you’ & ‘The summer Gellert and I fell in love” were deleted by Warner Bros during Chinese showing so that China could continue their long history of homophobia by taking advantage of Hollywood’s dependence on financial contributions. Just like how Vision of directors & writers discarded for promise of financial gain, On Tiktok, authors discouraged from writing freely due to being encouraged to present themselves in a manner algorithm approves of. As Albert Camus said on artists, “Artistic creation is a demand for unity and a rejection of the world…rebellion can be observed here in its pure state and in its original complexities.” True artists infuse rebellion into their creations; they express original opinions through their art. BookTok discourages authors from being ‘true artists’ and literature increasingly fades to the generic.