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BookTok driving young people's reading

Forbidding or loving Chinese phenomenon TikTok

There are mixed opinions about Chinese-owned social media TikTok with EU Commission and others forbidding the app on staffers’ phones while book publisher’s are paying more and more attention to TikTok Books as it drives sales. Its short read recommendations by TikTok users have proved to be especially important for selling books to Generation Z.

BookTok is a subcommunity on social media focused on books and literature. The creators make short videos reviewing and discussing books. It is a subcommunity on TikTok but the BookTok hashtag is also used on other platforms such as Instagram. 

EU Commission and other forbid TikTok on staffers phones referring to concern expressed by security people that the Chinese-owned TikTok could collect sensitive data that could be passed on to the Chinese authorities.

59% of 16-25 year olds say that BookTok or book influencers have helped them discover a passion for reading. 55% turn to BookTok for recommendations. Two thirds say that BookTok has inspired them to read a book that they would have never considered otherwise, according to a survey by UK’s Publishers Association.

Nearly one in five (19%) in the survey say that following the BookTok hashtag helped them find a community and another 16% reported that they made new friends through BookTok.  

Read Also:  No TikTok on EU Commission phones

“The good news is that BookTok can also have a positive impact on physical bookshops, with nearly half (49%) of respondents visiting a physical bookshop to buy a book they have seen on BookTok”, Publishers Association says. 

Many bookshops are responding quickly to the growing trend, the association says. Book Bar, an independent bookshop and wine bar in London, now stocks more contemporary books which cater to a broader demographic. 

Chrissy Ryan, the owner of Book Bar, said: “Launching in the pandemic was challenging but BookTok has been really helpful in driving customers into our store. More and more we are seeing young people come to the shop asking for books they discovered on TikTok.” 

“We are increasingly looking to BookTok to help determine our stock and predict demand. It’s exciting to see that BookTok has helped made reading cool again.” 

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Book sales in Europe have stagnated over the last decade, usually around €22 billion. However, 2021 (with lock-downs because of the pandemic) was a big year for publishing in Europe, according to non-profit international publishing research organisation WordsRated.

  • Over 575,000 new titles are published in Europe annually as of 2021, 3.4% less than in 2020.
  • This presents the lowest publishing record in the European book market since 2014.
  • The fastest growing category is childrens books.
  • Book sales in Europe for 2021 were still below the 2007 and 2008 levels, peak years for European book publishing in the 21st century.
  • European book publishing revenue accounts for 20.1% of the global revenue as of 2021.
  • Over €10.29 billion was generated from bookstore sales in Europe in 2021, accounting for 43.6% of total book sales.
  • In 2019, bookstore sales accounted for 50.3% of all book sales, and this was the last year in which bookstore sales made up the majority of book sales in Europe.
  • On the other hand, online book sales revenue increased by 33.3% in 2021 compared to 2019 and now accounts for over 29.1% of total book sales.

A funny observation from WordsRated US statistics is that bestsellers are getting shorter – the average length of the NYT bestseller decreased by 51.5 pages from 2011 to 2021, from 437.5 to 386 (11.8%).

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