BookTube – a growing community of fans on YouTube that discuss books, and all things related – is on the cusp of a major change. Within the last few weeks, a conversation has been circling the community about the future direction of BookTube, and the implications of mainstream success. As the BookTubing community continues to grow, so does their influence on the publishing industry and publishers are taking note of this emerging trend. Some BookTubers are questioning whether or not it is possible for popular BookTubers who enter into deals with publishers to stay genuine.
The Controversy Surrounding BookTube
BookTube is in this moment experiencing a shift. With the community rapidly increasing in size, there has been a fluctuation in its balance, and some of the smaller BookTuber channels are feeling slighted by the bigger, more popular channels.
The question of authenticity has arisen with the professionalization of these larger channels. If these BookTubers are gaining enough success to sign deals with publishers, how can viewers be sure what they are saying is their own opinion?
It is important for influencers to address these issues but it is just as important for them to listen to their audiences by reading the comments because audiences always weigh in on issues of authenticity.
BookTube and the Publishing World
Some publishers have started sending popular BookTubers copies of books to review before they hit stores. For example, Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, sent Liz Vallish of Elizziebooks an advance copy of The Merciless by Danielle Vega, which she reviewed on her channel before the book’s publication.
The Book Expo America, an industry event featuring talks on current trends and news of the publishing world, has also taken notice of the BookTube trend. This year’s event had a panel titled “The Publishing Process: How Bloggers Have Changed the Game” that featured well-known BookTuber Christine Riccio of PolandbananasBOOKS, who, with over 120,000 subscribers, and 9 million views, is the most successful BookTuber to date. The panel actually ended up causing a little controversy among the book blogging and vlogging communities. Many people that attended were bloggers, not vloggers, and saw the title of the event misleading, and the BookTube focus not on point. This issue raises an interesting question about the merits of each.
BookCon, run by the same people who host BEA, is the open to the public gathering. It is a convention for people who love books, in the same way Comic-Con is for comics, and VidCon is for YouTube. BookTubers vlog about their experience at BookCon and have special haul videos dedicated to the books they get at the convention.
In addition to any brand-integration deals formed with publishers, many BookTubers use affiliate programs with BookDepository.com and other online book retailers as a source of revenue for their channels.
Staying True to Your Roots
BookTube allows readers to interact and engage with other readers in a way that no other social media site can. They have turned a typically solitary pastime into a social activity. Books, like other narratives, tend to be transformative because they hit on issues of identity. Like all fans, they have deep attachments to these books and finding others who connect with them in the same way affirms their passion. This is the essence of BookTube. Finding that connection.
Fans are protective of the things in their fandom and don’t take lightly to threats. Some BookTubers see professionalization and mainstreaming as a threat. This is why every emerging YouTube community goes through something similar to what is happening with BookTube.
Professionalization tends to be an inevitability for any growing community, and there will always be some who feel left out in the chaos of change. Does that mean that change will never happen? Of course not. Adjusting is never as easy as we hope but we also must have faith in the communities with whom we choose to interact.
A Growing Community
Even though some portions of a community will always question authenticity, it is important to acknowledge the stories of successful community professionalization. Both Beauty and Gaming are thriving on YouTube because of brand involvement incorporating those communities and their influencers into their strategies. Brand deals are necessary for YouTubers to go full-time, and provide inspiration for fledgling channels to work on their own growth. BookTube will no doubt follow in these footsteps.