In a world abundant with over-consumption, the likes of TikTok and other social medias are exacerbating this issue daily.
From fast fashion to books, the platform of TikTok and the influencers who populate it garner views by keeping up with an ever-changing curve of trends. In regards to books, the so-called booktokers spend much of their time showing off different ‘hauls’ of books throughout the different genres. It appears on some level that the influencers spend more time buying books than reading them purely so that they can show them off to their followers.
Popular video formats on TikTok include showing different 5-star books in a certain category, listing books that they would ‘sell their soul to read again for the first time’ and ultimately showing at least 3 or 4 books from different authors, genres and more within an incredibly short time frame. It is rare to see videos in a traditional review format as, like everything else on TikTok, the videos are built to hold short attention spans and do not necessitate any degree of critical thinking on the viewer’s part. The result of this however is that books are over purchased and never read and consequently charity shops are already full to the brim with novels that were at the height of popularity a mere year ago and have already been quickly discarded. I visited my local Oxfam Books a while ago and was able to pick up every single one of Sally Rooney’s novels whilst leaving duplicate copies on the shelf. Rooney’s books are still incredibly popular but had their peak on booktok in 2020 and 2021 and the fact that they are already appearing in this volume in charity shops nation-wide reinforces the idea that booktok focuses on the possession of books more than valuing the literary value of each novel. Instead of praising the enjoyment of single books, the most popular booktokers are known for having ludicrous amounts of books, that often they haven’t read, purely for the status of owning them. I know that I myself have been influenced to buy books in this way and now own at least 70 books that I have yet to read, many of which I purchased after seeing the covers across my TikTok.
Whilst the over-consumption and performativity of booktok can be perceived as a negative thing, on the other hand it has bolstered a dying publishing industry to new heights with businesses like Simon and Schuster, who publish authors such as Colleen Hoover and Taylor Jenkins Reid, reaching an all-time high in terms of revenue in 2022. For the first time in the history of the company they reached the billion-dollar mark in their revenue. Similarly, in the popular UK publisher Hachette activity grew by 3.4%, an incredible feat in an industry which up until a few years ago was considered to be dying. TikTok has in a sense, revived the publishing industry even if it may mean that books are being bought far more frequently than they are being read. The social media platform has the apparent power to skyrocket the careers of authors overnight through the over-consumption model presented by its influencers. None of this is more apparent than when looking at the sales of the ever-popular Colleen Hoover who last year sold 8.6 million print copies of her books. Unbelievably, that’s more copies than were sold of the bible in the last year according to the New York Times. Booktok has somehow exerted more power across the world than a 2000-year-old religion, if that doesn’t show the power of the platform, I don’t know what does.