TikTok: by this point, everyone has heard of it. This social media platform for short-form videos has taken the world by storm the last couple of years, dominating online spaces across the globe- since its release in 2016, it has had rapidly growing user numbers, leading to a whopping 1 billion active monthly users as of September 2021. 


During this time, many communities have formed on the service, including a corner of it known as ‘BookTok’- a collection of creators posting literature-related videos and creating book discourse amongst TikTok users. This popularisation of reading and the enjoyment of books sounds perfect, and it’s a brilliant thing to endorse on social media, but does this have a more negative effect on the book industry than meets the eye?


TikTok’s use of hashtags to spread videos to a larger audience means that BookTok videos utilise this method too: essentially, books are stripped down to a range of tropes in order to be categorised and shown to audiences. This leads to nuanced plots and blurbs being left in the dust, as contemporary authors pander to this formula of assembling tropes to form books; great novels with less obvious components or those that don’t include the popularised cliches can get buried under formulaic storylines and generic characters.


Moreover, the majority of the novels publicised in this way are romance novels, which there is nothing wrong with- everyone has different tastes in books, and at its core, no genre is lesser. However, since these videos and books are mostly targeted at younger women and teenage girls, certain themes within these novels may be viewed as problematic regarding the audience- many sub-genres may glamourise topics that in real life are mentally and physically unhealthy; these topics may not be suitable for those with less developed media literacy skills, particularly younger people. 


Despite a few subjective negatives, this online phenomenon has significantly increased business for bookshops, as it has introduced a new generation of people to the wonders of reading, as well as created a boom in business for bookshops across the country. The Publishers Association found that 49% of Gen Z respondents (born 1995-2009) visited an in-person bookshop to acquire a book they were recommended online- the influence of BookTok has created a further wave of readers, and has had a positive impact on the literary industry that can be felt “directly on the high street” (Dan Conway, Chief Executive of the Publishing Association).