June 18, 2024

How TikTok Made Reading “Cool” Again

Melissa Mercedes 24'

Photo Courtesy of Unsplashed, Susan Yin

Long gone are the days of #Bookstragam. The quirky Instagram posts of books with the Sepia filter from 2014 represent the last major reading craze on social media, led by millennials. Though some followers remain, its popularity has faded. Now, what’s called “BookTok” has come to take its place, led by Gen-Z readers. 

With the huge rise in popularity of video-based content on social media, TikTok has amassed over a billion active users around the world. Among the over thirty million videos posted each day, groups have formed with different interests, such as healthy cooking, Montessori parenting, or solo travel. BookTok is one of these groups, housing users who enjoy reading for fun. It branches off into many subdivisions that accommodate all genre preferences. 

Abandoning the habit of reading with age is a rather universal experience, but the reading community on TikTok has become a space to encourage young people, mostly women, to rediscover their love for books. The hashtag “BookTok” has been used in over 600 posts on the app. From videos on “10 Books You Need to Add to Your TBR (To Be Read List)” to the community bleeding into other platforms, the BookTok community offers a reprieve from—ironically—constant scrolling.  

Instead of spending hours on their phones, users are opting to dedicate this time to reading. BookTok has created an appeal to reading that was not as accessible in the past: readers are guaranteed a community that shares their love for the book—any book—in question. It resembles a massive, global book club, where there will always be a detailed book review video, memes, and “fan art” available for your favorite stories. 

However, BookTok has a mixed reputation. Some of its “subdivisions” are more prominent than others. For example, contemporary romance author Colleen Hoover is well-known among readers, and the reading community on TikTok is often reduced to her work and any trends associated with it. Contrary to such perceptions, BookTok encompasses a vast diversity of numerous subgenres within genres. This means that when someone tells you that they found their next read while scrolling on BookTok, they could be referring to a cheesy contemporary romantic comedy as much as they could be talking about an eight-book-long high fantasy series. 

Contrasting with the many facets of the app that have been considered harmful and leading to obsessive, endless scrolling, the reading community on TikTok offers a space where all can rediscover their love for reading and connect with those who enjoy the same types of books as they do. It is important to recognize, though, that BookTok has undergone much criticism, such as the claims that it promotes overconsumption, is turning the publishing world into “fast fashion,” and disregards genuine literary engagement. While there is some truth to all these observations, it is also undeniable that BookTok has helped millions of young people around the world to reduce their screen time. Those hours are now spent with words on paper, expanding their perspectives, growing their vocabulary, and stimulating their imagination. 

(A/N: If you think this topic is interesting enough and something that people would like to read, we could continue it by later writing an article on the criticism of BookTok. Just a thought!) 

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