TikTok turns ten-year-old books into bestsellers for the first time as it inspires a reading renaissance

  • One of TIC TacOne of the many niches in #BookTok, which has billions of views. It was a godsend for the delivered industry.
  • Even Barnes & Noble locations now have TikTok-inspired displays featuring books on #BookTok.
  • “A lot of authors like me say their sales have never been higher than they are today, thanks to BookTok,” user Sydney Blanchard told Insider.

In a world full of new technologies, digital media and traditional media seem to be on competing sides of the spectrum. Audiobooks and e-books are instantly available on our phones or tablets, while printed books require a trip to the nearest store or at least a waiting period at the mailbox. TikTok, however, may be on the verge of reconciling them.

#BookTok is an online community of readers that has recently made a name for itself on TikTok. The hashtag has billions of views and climbs from users around the world sharing their favorite “enemies of lovers” arcs, BIPOC authors, and even their own writing.

Isabelle Gerli, who has 50,000 subscribers on TikTok, posted their first #BookTok video in June. “I then decided to start videos of books because I had recently entered the world of reading,” she told Insider.


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♬ Pretty girl – Clairo

Some have joined the book side of TikTok in hopes of sharing their longtime favorites. “Why not show off all those books that I have and liked and recommend new titles in the hopes of finding readers like me? ” Sydney blanchard, which has around 120,000 subscribers on the platform, told Insider.

Other readers have joined #BookTok to provide a platform for underrepresented authors. Simone siew, which has around 12,000 subscribers, has made it a personal mission to spotlight Asian writers on her account.

“I wish more people would read Asian writers and listen to our stories,” she told Insider, noting the paucity of Asian stories she read in school.

While #BookTok started out as a community of casual readers, it is paving the way for an economic phenomenon. When BookTokkers shares their recommendations, they subsequently expand the market for those books.

This led to reading trends that organized the “canon” of #BookTok, with users posting their sobbing reactions to Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles”, which recently became a # 1 New York Times bestseller – exactly a decade after it was first published in 2011.


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Get Into It (Yuh) – Doja Cat

This renaissance of reading also occurs at a time when books have become a sort of “aesthetic”, with Pinterest boards replacing the handbag for the tote bag and bookstore races become fashionable. Generation Z is nearing its peak of overstimulation, with many turning to a Sunday picnic Mon as the highest form of personal care.

Is this movement to romanticize reading enough to save a faltering book industry? It just might be, and a walk around your local Barnes & Noble shows how it already happens. Barnes & Noble branches across the country have erected #BookTok poster of the most talked about books on TikTok, from “They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera to “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover.

Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, told Insider that the idea for #BookTok screens first surfaced last summer, when they noticed a resurgence of paperbacks (older books from a publisher which are still in press). DeVito said that Stephanie Pinheiro, Category Manager for YA, has seen a lot of #BookTok videos and noticed the reading trends that were circulating, opening up significant online and in-store opportunities. While #BookTok screens started off with just a few pounds, they are now over 80.

“The impact has been huge for us in terms of sales,” said DeVito. B & N’s Top 10 titles were in their Top 50 last year, and their Top 10 sold tens of thousands of copies – “The Song of Achilles” over 100,000. In fact, Victorville Barnes & Noble TikTok account shared a comic video to restock “Achilles’ Song” on their shelves “for the 1000th time” due to demand from #BookTok.


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Too bad – Khleo Thomas

Gerli, Blanchard, and Siew all cited BookTok as the reason they discovered and bought more books.

“Many authors like me have said that their book sales have never been higher than they are today, thanks to BookTok,” added Blanchard.

#BookTok is a testament to the inimitable power of social media in conserving niche communities like the book community. “Readers want to find what’s trending, what to make a video about next, whether it’s to be ahead of the game or just be part of the conversation,” DeVito said. Books present a single channel of content capitalizing on content.

From a retailer’s perspective, #BookTok is also the pinnacle of organic marketing. Book sales have increased because readers are genuinely intrigued by the books available to them. DeVito said monetizing #BookTok could damage the integrity of an honest recommendation, but noticed that paid book advertising gets fewer views than when readers are heavily attached to a book anyway.

“It is clear that there is a real emotion behind the videos that work,” she said.


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He’s half of my soul – americab2004

What makes TikTok such an attractive app for readers? The answer lies in the accessibility and convenience of the algorithm. “The more you interact with certain video styles or genres of books, the more the algorithm knows it’s bringing more to your page for you, so you never run out of book recommendations,” Blanchard said.

The community aspect of #BookTok also adds an empathetic dimension to readers. “Reading can be an island activity,” said Siew. “But once you’ve read the same book, you feel like you’re in a collective conversation.” #BookTok offered new and longtime readers around the world the opportunity to forge relationships at a time when we have never been so isolated.

#BookTok lead to a industry boom for bookstores who have long struggled to compete in a digitalising world?

“The advent of eBooks was considered the death of the written word, but it has leveled off, print sales have increased,” DeVito said. She is cautiously optimistic about the future of the industry, but she is definitely optimistic about how they are doing with TikTok.

“I hope this will continue to support and generate interest in the books,” she said.

Perhaps Shakespeare’s early odes that the written word never dies hold true even in the age of media.

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