Feeling Pressured To Read? The Toxic Side Of Booktube

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The Booktube community has been growing rapidly in recent years, with Booktubers being able to generate a cult-like following. For those whose friends do not share the same reading hobby that they do, Booktube is a great way to meet like-minded people, get all of the newest book recommendations, and discuss your unpopular bookish opinions. It is a subsection of YouTube where people who have a passion for books create videos to share their interest with those who have a similar taste in authors or genres. Some of the most popular videos include reading a celebrity’s book recommendations or suggesting books based on certain moods. Whilst this community seems incredibly wholesome on the outside, there are many problematic aspects of Booktube that are hidden beneath this innocent façade. 

For many who frequently tune into popular Booktube channels, reading can feel more like a competition than a casual hobby. Many Booktubers often boast about the huge amount of books, many being tough classics or excessively long, that they completed within a month whilst maintaining a stable job or schoolwork. A lot of readers may only complete one or two books maximum in a single month due to possible time restraints and other commitments. It can be demotivating to see other avid readers finishing many more books than you have and can often make readers feel inferior to the Booktubers they admire. When did the calming hobby of reading turn into a competition to see who can read the most pages in one month?

To further this sense of inferiority, many Booktubers prioritised buying copious amounts of new books rather than reviewing the books that they have read. Viewers are drawn towards channels that show off their extensive book collections and aesthetically pleasing bookcases. The promotion of overconsumption is unattainable for many and, quite frankly, unsustainable environmentally. The prioritisation of book hauls and reorganising bookshelves have taken over from the original chatty, insightful book videos. Booktubers tend to rush to buy the newest releases from the biggest authors in order to prove their status as an avid reader but then leave these books untouched for years due to a lack of interest or simply forgetting they even existed. Booktube channels often promote buying expensive hardback books rather than buying second-hand or supporting their local independent bookstores. For many, buying books from big corporate companies such as Amazon just isn’t an option available to them. A lot of the general public rely on their local libraries and thrift stores for their reading material, meaning that they aren’t often able to keep up with book trends or buying the most attractive edition of certain books. Does this deem someone a “better” reader? 

Not only is the obsession with buying new books incredibly damaging to the environment and encourages materialism, but Booktubers also seem to only promote the newest books from the most famous authors and publishing houses, such as Cassandra Clare and Sarah J. Maas. This makes the book world an increasingly difficult place to break out into. Overlooking talented creatives in order to generate the optimum SEO for your channel is a sad reality, particularly as panicked Booktubers worry about their relevance. Smaller authors may be unmotivated due to the unwelcoming atmosphere that is created by prioritising the recommendation of trending, popular authors. 

In no way is this representative of the Booktube community as a whole. However, the majority of the extremely popular channels do seem to follow these trends in order to stay relevant within their niche community. Should we be bringing down these individuals or rather taking a look at our society and how we value aesthetics and the ownership of new items over affordability and sustainability? Those who are fans of Booktube do not need to give up their hobby, but instead be more conscious of the people that they support and give their viewership to. Watching channels that promote thrifting and reusing books can help to change the popular trends that are harmful to both us and the environment.

Words by Amy Britton

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