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Books en Vogue: The Influence of Social Media on Reading and The Book Industry

Social media has long been used as a platform to discuss aspects of popular culture. Communities dedicated to films, celebrities, music, and television shows have sprung up all over the internet since its creation. This is also true for books and literature. 


For years, and particularly since the beginning of the Covid pandemic worldwide lockdowns, there have been online reading communities on YouTube, Instagram, and more recently TikTok. They are known as Booktube, Bookstagram, and Booktok respectively. 


Those in the book subcommunities across the internet post a variety of content. From aesthetic bookish photos, reviews of favourite or trending books, bookcase tours, videos fantasising about fictional love interests, spectacular pieces of fanart, users who express themselves through cosplaying as characters, and there is a plethora of book recommendations. 


The #BookTok hashtag on TikTok alone has 51.5 billion views and the #Bookstagram tag on Instagram has 75.8 million posts. These figures demonstrate the rise in the popularity of reading and discussing the experiences connected with it. Especially with, but not limited to, young women and girls who represent the main demographic of users in bookish communities. 


The social media statistics are shown to translate into sales and growth in the book industry. The BBC reported that total print sales rose by 5% in 2021 and audiobook downloads increased by 14% in the same period. Stephen Lotinga, the chief executive of the Publishers Association, explained social media is having a huge impact on the number and types of books being sold. A book going viral, whether it is a new release or one that has been out for years and is re-entering the spotlight, can result in phenomenal success. 


Author Sarah J. Maas is a perfect example. She has dominated the online book space for years and found incredible popularity across all her new adult fantasy series. Her series A Court of Thorns and Roses is a cult favourite. The abbreviated version of the title has 3.2 billion views attached to its hashtag on TikTok and 823,000 posts on Instagram. Maas is an international bestseller, more than 12 million copies of her books have been sold, and she is published in 37 languages. 


Considering this influence, it is no wonder retailers and publishers are starting to catch on. It is becoming increasingly common to find sections and tables dedicated to Booktok in bookshops of all shapes and sizes. Whether that is online, independent locations, or in retail giants like Waterstones. 


The power of social media is not to be knocked. Online Bookish communities have inspired many people to reconnect with their love of reading and they have helped to maintain an industry that many people worried would die in the digital era.

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