How BookTok Revolutionized the Publishing World

By Rachel Giaquinto

Decades old books soaring to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, unknown authors becoming overnight sensations, and book sales rocketing to new heights all have one thing in common: BookTok. 

BookTok is a community made up of book lovers on the social media platform, TikTok.

This community began around April 2020 and has since grown a mass following. Today, the hashtag “BookTok” contains over 25.6 billion views of videos created by avid readers sharing their latest book recommendations with users on the platform. 

While some might see BookTok as nothing more than a passing trend on TikTok, the impact the community has had on the publishing industry is undeniable. According to NPD, a market research company,  from April  2020 to April 2021, young-adult fiction sales increased by 68%. The growth was directly correlated with the BookTok community. 

“BookTok has provided me with an endless amount of recommendations in every genre I could ever want,” said Katherine Gutierrez, marine biology major. “My to-read list has gotten so much longer, and I know I’ll be buying some of the recommended books soon.”

Book publishing companies are not the only ones reaping the benefits of this book community.  Retailers such as Barnes & Noble have found themselves integrating TikTok into their marketing. 

“We’re identifying these trends as big opportunities,” said Shannon Devito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, in a statement about the company’s view on BookTok. 

According to Devito, the use of customized BookTok shelves and having Barnes & Noble stores make their own TikToks are ways in which the company has taken advantage of the current virality of certain books. 

“I’m not the biggest reader, but when I go to Barnes & Noble I can’t help but look at the BookTok table,” said Alex Larson, an environmental science major. “I easily recognize the books from the app, and if so many people are recommending them they have to be good.”

While BookTok has brought many positive influences to the publishing world, the industry is now expected to face problems this holiday season. Issues within the global supply chain such as an inadequate amount of shipping containers and worker shortages are just some of the setbacks that are expected to disrupt the publishing and distribution of books in the coming months. 

According to an article by the New York Times, the holiday season is a crucial time for publishers and independent bookstores since their sales peak during this period of time. Some publishers are even postponing release dates, not wanting to risk a decrease in expected profit.

Retailers and publishers are asking readers to shop earlier rather than later, wanting to ensure that their customers are able to purchase and receive the books they want to buy. 

“I’m sure there are a lot of people who are going to be upset by not being able to get physical copies of books,” said Jaden Greenwald, cybersecurity major. “But I think ebooks are the next step in fixing the book publishing shortage. It lets you have books in the palm of your hand.”

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