The online bookish community contains many flaws, but its assets shine through

A+TikTok+portraying+the+proliferation+of+BookTok+books+as+well+as+their+continued+judgement

LarryReads

A TikTok portraying the proliferation of “BookTok” books as well as their continued judgement

The library is a beautiful place. I used to go to the library to read blurbs and first pages and scrutinize covers until something jumped out at me. Librarians were my book recommenders.

Now, though, I go to the library to pick up books that I have on my “to be read” list—my TBR—that now contains exactly 621 books. Even I can see that it is a bit excessive, but I see books I want to read everywhere through social media.

BookTok is probably the most popular platform for book lovers, but I actually started my online book journey with BookTube, then Bookstagram, and finally, BookTok, just a few months ago. From recommendations to reading vlogs to book hauls, the bookish side of social media drew me in.

It created my endless TBR and also made me a book collector rather than simply a reader. I now scour shelves for the prettiest editions of my favorite books, and I prefer to read books that I own.

Although these impacts of book social media may seem extreme, they have been an overall positive influence on my reading. I have joined GoodReads, I take joy in tracking my reading, and since discovering this side of social media, I have read more new favorite books than ever before.

As with any form of social media, though, BookTube, Bookstagram, and especially BookTok have their downsides. Even on GoodReads, a social media platform dedicated completely to readers and books, problems arise.

One of the biggest issues in the online bookish community is an extremely high expectation of how many words, pages, books, and series people read. This standard is, thankfully, being addressed and changed by many BookTokers; it was definitely an issue in the formative years of this community.

The book community should be a welcoming and open place to recommend, inform, and share—not hate.”

People involved in BookTok or the other platforms, especially those creating content, felt an enormous pressure to read books extremely fast so they could talk about a new book every day. Both content creators and consumers thought that the number of books they read defined whether or not they were a “reader” when, in reality, someone who only reads one book every ten years is still a reader.

This has died down more recently, with many creators experiencing burnouts and reading slumps, realizing that the cause was this pressure, and seeking to reverse it for both themselves and the consumers of their content.

Soon, though, another issue cropped up to replace this. The topic of “BookTok books”—books constantly recommended on BookTok and other social media—became an issue of much contempt. 

Many readers despised the idea of such books. Some believed that these books would never be able to live up to the expectations created by their glowing recommendations. Others had one bad experience with a “BookTok book” and decided to stop reading any of them. Still, others believed themselves to be too good for such books, especially since many are romances or romance-based fantasy books.

On the other end of the spectrum, readers who “discovered” these books—those creators who started recommending them first—began to harshly defend these books. Even fans who were late to reading these books and loved them began to attack people who criticized them.

Books are not objectively good or bad though. Everyone has different opinions of books, just as they do food, movies, and almost everything else. One person may despise a book that another loved, and that is completely fine. It does not invalidate someone’s opinion if someone else thinks the opposite.

What is wrong is dismissing an entire group of books without researching them. What is wrong is defending media, such as these books, in a way that causes harm.

Although these issues are slowly being addressed and changed, they are still problems. The book community should be a welcoming and open place to recommend, inform, and share—not hate.

Despite its drawbacks, though, I am still an avid member of this community. The positive impacts far outweigh the negative, and until that is no longer true, my TBR will continue to grow as I continue to scroll.