Friday, 14 August 2020

Book Blogging vs. Booktoking Aka "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?"

If you're a regular on book twitter, you may have seen a bit of a fight between book bloggers and booktokers. Now for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the latter, booktok is a new branch of the popular video app Tik Tok. Users share short videos about anything book related. Since booktokers use the video format, there is often a great level of creativity that can be used, such as playing with different sounds and songs to put over the videos, different aesthetics, outfits, anything!

I've had to limit my use of Tik Tok lately because I was becoming a little too obsessed with it, but pretty much the only Tik Toks I watch are book-related ones. I mean, it makes sense, since reading is probably my biggest passion! So when I saw that book twitter and book bloggers were coming after booktokers, I was a little confused. After doing some digging and consulting a booktoker I know, I figured it was about time to discuss all the drama and see if we can find a happy medium.

The drama basically started with booktokers saying that book bloggers were old and that the medium of blogging is a dying art. Book bloggers retaliated by saying that booktokers do not work hard enough, and that their reading is unoriginal and not diverse. Now that last point, I have admittedly noticed on booktok. My cynical self really did look at someone recommending The Fault in Our Stars on booktok and I said: "what is this, 2012?" I do think that sometimes booktokers can be a bit behind on books that book bloggers have been talking about for years. But, if someone is enjoying a book for the very first time, no matter how old it is, is it really worth it to fault them for that?

I have personally been struggling to find some more diverse booktokers. A lot of white booktokers do recommend diverse books, but I do think there is a lack of POC on the site. Now this could be because booktok is still a very new and growing medium. They're not going to solve everything in a day. I can only hope that white booktokers create a greater platform for diversity.

In a way, I could get book bloggers' frustrations. Book bloggers work so hard to create attractive sites for people to follow. We work in a format that requires a lot of writing, and because we do not get that video aspect, we have to work twice as hard to make our work as visually appealing as possible. With all of these new social platforms that have been coming out such as bookstagram, booktube, and now booktok, book bloggers have been feeling a little underappreciated lately. It sucks that we don't get as much as the recognition as we used to. So, when a new platform such as book tok comes along, it makes sense that we would get a little territorial. It's almost like we want to say: "I've been in the book community for so long I deserve a senior's discount. Back of the line, sis!"

But, I wonder if there's any use in tearing a new platform down in order to make ourselves feel better. I feel like booktokers could learn a lot from us veterans, and similarly we could learn new innovative ways to grow our platform from them. Now the internet isn't perfect. With any online platform, there will be drama. But I don't think there's any point in automatically hating a new platform just because they're new. We could all learn something from each other. I hope we will.

And now to the interview portion of this post. My cousin Molly started book toking this year. I really wanted to get a booktoker's experience on the drama, and on the whole idea of booktok. So here are my questions, and her responses:

          1. What drew you to tik tok as opposed to another platform to talk about books? 

Honestly, I came across booktok by accident! I never had the intention to try and become a creator in the book community on any platform, tik tok was just something I was on for fun haha. One day I thought it might be fun to make a tik tok about my favourite books because I saw someone else do something similar. What attracted me to start filming tik toks in general and why I love book tik toks now is the format is so versatile and there is such a large community on the app, which is so fun. The visual aspect of having the book recommendations be in videos and posing yourself and the books in aesthetic little 30 second clips is also really new and different, and as an artsy person as well a great creative outlet! I also find booktoks more interesting for people to watch who maybe aren't as interested in reading, its a very accessible way to draw in new people.  

2. How would you describe the community on booktok? Speaking on behalf someone who is a part of the book blogging and book twitter community, things can sometimes get toxic. Do you see any of that kind of drama on booktok? 

To be completely transparent, not that I’ve seen! I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the demographic on tik tok is much younger than say twitter, and people really just want to have a good time. Booktok is also fairly new, as is the app, so that’s not to say the community is perfect and will never have problems grow in the future. But the overall atmosphere is very warm and inclusive. 

3. A lot of people argue that booktokers only read mainstream books and/or do not read diversely. Do you think this is a misconception? How do you challenge yourself to read diversely, and overall what are some of your favourite diverse books? 

I think that this again can be traced back to the age disparity between the demographic of tik tok and twitter, because to be fair yes, you do see a lot of the same recommendations pop up again and again on tik tok. But you have to start somewhere you know? I don’t think you can fault young readers for starting off with what is presented to them by the mainstream. Millennials got to have Harry Potter, give Gen Z their moment with Cassandra Clare haha! These people haven’t had the time to grow and branch out of their comfort zone yet. But I do also think booktok could do better in terms of diversity, I see mainly white authors presented in reviews and recs, and that is a fault of the community that needs to be changed, and that comes with growth and maturity from the community learning and being educated by others as well. We welcome constructive criticism, and need it to learn! Personally, to try and read more diversely I watch creators who are POC themselves or have wider, more diverse recs, I also just ask my followers for their favourites! That’s where I get most of my new reads from. I love love love Six of Crows personally because I see myself represented in Inej, I also loved The Hate U Give, and cause I love classics, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, all recommendations from my followers :)

4. What improvements would you like to see on booktok in terms of the general community or in terms of gaining a following? 

I’m not able to accurately pinpoint all the faults in the community as I am still fairly new to it, so my experiences are fairly fresh. From what I have seen, while sometimes naive and young, the community is very accepting and encourages help from whoever is willing to give advice on how to be better in terms of recommendations, inclusivity and videos. I think that as a community that no doubts has its faults, for example, not offering diverse selections, I have seen active attempts from the people I follow to rectify that and learn from their actions, so I am very hopeful that the community continues to accept and learn this way. In terms of breaking in and gaining a following, I will say that I would like to see booktok grow in terms of numbers because as it is fairly small in my opinion there are a few giant booktok accounts and everyone else kind of just struggles to get followers. Which is no fault to the big accounts, but it is my hope that as more people join, they will branch out and there will be room for smaller creators to join. As I think that’s also where progress and growth come from, by expanding your population.
5. How do you think bookworms of different platforms can move forward to work in harmony together instead of against each other? 

I think it’s most important for us to realize that books are such an amazing gift and as the art of reading and literature is being lost in the age of technology, we need to stick together as opposed to ganging up on each other. I think by recognizing no matter how we express our love through books, whether that be twitter, a blog or tik tok, we all have the same goal: to find a community where we can enjoy talking about and learning about books, have good discussion, and find broader horizons. 

6. What have you overall gained from being a part of the booktok community? 

Alot! I’ve been exposed to so many new reads that have really expanded my personal library, and my ‘to be read’ pile has never been bigger. I really think that having a community to discuss different books and issues with has helped me become a more critical reader, in terms of not just taking a book at face value. How inclusive is the book, is there good representation, or is this a book that has a good message? Not to say that we should rip apart every book we read, but being more aware of how marginalized POC authors and LGBTQ+ authors are in the literary community, as well as the importance of readers (young readers especially) to see themselves represented is something that I have been more exposed to and informs my choices when I’m buying and recommending books now.

7. What directions do you see booktok going from here? Do you think it has the potential to become one of the leading platforms to talk about books?

I am very optimistic about the future of booktok! I think that while it’s small now, the creators are consistent about trying to grow their community and are here to stick around, I know I am haha. The creativity and plethora of things you can do with the video format and the fact that tik tok is one of the biggest apps of this generation and is really shaping gen z, I think that booktok has really nowhere to go but up from here. I am very excited to see what the future of booktok is and what it will look like in the years from now!

Thank you very much to Molly for answering my questions. For any of you guys that use tik tok, Molly has a great account that incorporates both booktok and her love of Criminal Minds. You can follow her: here

My Thoughts on the Interview: 

I could really understand Molly's point of view here. I'm actually technically a member of Gen Z, and I have seen how tik tok has inspired my generation to be more creative with their passions. Yes Gen Z can sometimes be immature, but we are also the generation that can help to reverse the mistakes of the people who came before us. We have seen a lot in our short lives, so any platform that we can use to spread some positivity and be ourselves, I can appreciate. 

What's Next? 

So, where do we go from here? I think that as book bloggers we need to accept that booktok is not going anywhere. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but I think the best we can do is encourage the new generation of book community members to be their authentic selves, and to try to forge as peaceful of a community as possible. Unfortunately, book bloggers are still under appreciated. So it is important for us bloggers to support each other, highlight new bloggers, and to never give up on our platform. We are, in a lot of ways, the original members of the book community. It is important for us to never forget our worth, and to not compare ourselves to others. So I say, if you are a booktweeter, bookstagrammer, booktuber, booktoker, or book blogger, you are valid. 

How do you feel about booktok? How can the book community work together to champion diversity and mutuality? Let's talk! 

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. Emily! I love your post and how you’re really moving the conversation forward by spotlighting book tokers’ POV. I don’t follow book tok since I feel a little bit too old for it (most of them are, just as you’ve said in your post, very young after all) but I love how they’re bringing new dynamics into the book community. And definitely agree, as they grow older, I’m confident they will also feel more open towards branching out of their ‘comfort zone reads’!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Tessi! And I loved your last point. I do think that since these people are young and still growing, it’s only a matter of time before they branch out.

  2. I personally have stayed far, far away from TikTok just because I don't want to support their business model of sucking people in with the endless bubble scroll. Because of that, I haven't heard anything about this controversy so I found this interview really interesting! I think the point Molly made about the age group difference between traditional blogging and TikTok was really insightful. I can really only speak from personal experience but when I was just starting out, I was not at all focused on diversity in my reading or looking to find and showcase hidden gems. I definitely agree with you that we can both learn from each other and all these digs toward each other have to stop. Great post, Emily!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. Thanks for commenting, Laura! The endless bubble aspect of Tik Tok is what drew me to setting a limit for myself. It became an addiction. But anyways, I totally agree that I myself was not as diverse in my reading when I was just starting out in blogging. We all learn and grow as we get older! It’s part of the process.

  3. Great post, and I agree. there's room for everyone and while it's natural for bloggers to feel some resentment toward the newer, younger trends I think we just need to be accepting of it- after all we were all new once, and blogging was once the hot new trend haha! I think it's neat you included the interview as well, it's cool to get the Tiktok perspective! Lots to think about and hopefully both mediums can support each other!

    1. Thanks Greg! Yeah, I think we do have to remember that we were all new once. I think it’s better to welcome newbies rather than shun them.

  4. I really loved reading this discussion, and I loved that you interviewed your cousin! It's so valuable to get the POV of a book toker. I'm not a fan of tik tok - there's no deep reason behind that, I'm just not very interested, though I tend to watch the tik toks that occasionally go viral on twitter. (Especially if they contain cute animals, I'm all for those, haha.)

    So I haven't been following book tok - that said, I understand both sides. I thought the criticism on book tokkers not reading diversely was valid, though I suppose it could have been interpreted as an attack. Honestly, I'm not a fan of drama between different platforms - we all love reading, we should stick together and accept constructive criticism as such.

    1. Thank you, Veronika! I agree that the diverse book argument was valid. I think we all need to hold each other accountable in the book community. But at e same time, we also need to give booktokers a welcoming space to learn and grow, instead of just tearing them down.

  5. I honestly don't care what platform people use - I see it all as one big Bookish Interwebs!

    Although, I'm not into Bookstagram, for example, because honestly? It bores me - it's a picture of a book. I know what they look like. (Although some people, like Liv from Olivia's Catastrophe, are able to do much more creative things with their images - amd I love that!) But if someone else somehow finds it interesting? Awesome - enjoy. I'll be over here blogging.

    I know next to nothing about Booktok. I did see some person saying they couldn't relate to diverse characters - which... *sighs* it's just kind of disheartening that we've been working so hard for years and the message still doesn't seem to be sticking outside of blogging or Twitter, or occasionally BookTube. I don't *want* BookTokers to have to fight the same battles we have - I want them to start from the position we've fought our way to, which isn't ideal but is *so* much better than it was. That said, that was one BookTok from one BookToker, and Lord knows a lot of bloggers etc. still haven't got the message. So much work left to be done, I guess!

    1. Very well said, Cee! I don't want booktokers to have to start from scratch. I feel like they should take our criticisms seriously and work to create a more diverse environment. That being said, there will always be toxic people in every platform.

      I also agree that bookstagram is not my thing. I tried to do it back in 2016, but it got old really quick. I enjoy looking at the pretty pictures from others from time to time, but it's too much work for me.

    2. I think we need to somehow show BookTokers that we're frustrated because we've been there, and we don't want to see the same patterns over and over (not least because it makes us feel like our push for diversity over the years hasn't done much - it *has,* but sometimes it doesn't feel like it.)

      We don't want another alt-right chick ranting about 'diversity mobs' in YA, and conspiracy theories that White people are being replaced. We don't want another situation where critiques of racism in a book turn into doxxing and/or trolling the critic, or defensive publisher's statements, or Us vs Them on socials, or mainstream sites talking about the problem like we're out here burning cr*p. We don't want them to have to fight battles we've already fought.

      ...I get the feeling that sometimes we come across as snooty. Like we're looking down on younger creators - and probably some people are, I don't know, I haven't asked every single blogger. But it's because the BookTokers aren't aware of the complex social situation they've jumped into, head first. We're not snooty - we're tired <3

    3. Yeah, I agree with everything you've said here. I think we should want to protect these younger creators from the assholes that we have already had to deal with. I also definitely think that we may come across as snooty. I think with younger creators, they may see us as older people who are telling them what to do. But that's not the case. I think especially in internet communities, the ones who have been there longer should be able to give advice to the newer generation. Kinda like an internet parent! It just ensures that everyone is enjoying their online community from a safe space.

  6. I am not on Twitter so I am frequently unaware of all the bookish drama that occurs there. From what I can tell, there appears to be a lot. In fact, I do not have a Tik Tok either, haha. Can you even consider me a Gen-Z-er? I just do not understand why the book tokers had to insult bloggers to begin with? Especially considering Tik Tok may be banned in the USA at some point, I would view that medium as more short-lived than blogging. But all in all, it is just a preference of medium. One can enjoy both or just one. Why should it matter? I thought this interview was very enlightening and I agree with so many of your points here. We are all bookworms and should stand together in the end. What a wonderful discussion, Emily!

    1. I sometimes find it hard to believe that I am a Gen Z-er too because I don't share that many interests with Gen Z. But, Tik Tok has been something that I really enjoyed scrolling through. That is, until it got a little bit obsessive. I don't personally think Tik Tok will ever be banned in the US just because of the sheer number of people who use it, but it is an interesting development in this whole phenomenon. I guess technology in general is just interesting to look at critically. I wonder what the book community will look like in 10 years, lol.

  7. This was such an interesting and different think-piece/discussion, and I'm going to share it in my next Tooting Your Trumpet installment!

    "The drama basically started with booktokers saying that book bloggers were old and that the medium of blogging is a dying art. Book bloggers retaliated by saying that booktokers do not work hard enough, and that their reading is unoriginal and not diverse."
    Ugh. If they started it, and those were their's a low blow, and a totally uncalled for one. (And now I wonder what they would have to say about senior bloggers like me who specialise in YA LOL). The worst thing is their calling the medium of blogging "a dying art". I understand that all is so visual and fast these days, but the written word will never get old and irrelevant. It was there at the beginning and it will be there at the end. Plus, you can always go back and savour it again and again, while usually, video consumption is much more short-lived. That been said, I'm not discounting YouTubers or BookTokers. There are so many ways to create, and it's a good thing that everyone can find their niche. We just need to remember that it's not a competition.

    Again, lovely post!

    1. I totally agree with you, Roberta! I'd hate to sound old myself, but I feel like in this age of technology, we need to appreciate the written word even more! Just think of the time and energy that goes into writing a book review. That cannot go underappreciated.

      Thanks for sharing! :)