The book business is booming, with a helping hand from TikTok

·2-min read
In the UK, the sales in the book world reached £6.7 billion (about $8.5 million) in 2021.

Publishing professionals may fear that screen-based entertainment could prove detrimental to reading. But this is not necessarily the case. In the UK, the book industry saw sales soar last year thanks to the #BookTok phenomenon.

In recent months, short videos devoted to book reviews and recommendations have appeared all over TikTok. These clips, grouped under the hashtag #BookTok, have scored more than 49.7 billion views on the app, which is a firm favorite among young people.

In the UK, these videos have even boosted book sales. The sector's sales reached £6.7 billion (about $8.5 million) in 2021, according to the latest annual report from the Publishers Association . This represents a 5% increase over the previous year. This increase is all the more surprising since the restrictions linked to Covid-19 forced bookshops to close for many months. Threats of paper shortages have also led to significant price increases and lead-time problems in the publishing industry.

Despite these difficulties, Covid-19 succeeded in showing anyone who was still in any doubt that " reading is cool ." Celebrities swapped photos of their luxurious escapades for more intimate shots of their bookshelves, while reading enthusiasts took refuge on TikTok, sharing their passion with the social network's millions of users.

This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by the book trade, according to Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association. "2021 was another tremendous year for UK publishing. Our outstanding authors provided readers with the entertainment and comfort they so badly needed as the pandemic continued. It's been particularly interesting to see TikTok communities driving new interest in books -- particularly of fiction and Young Adult titles," he said in a statement.

Creating new classics

Both segments grew healthily in 2021, according to figures from the Publishers Association. Sales of fiction books rose 7% to £733 million (about $934 million), while sales of children's fiction were at £425 million (about $542 million).

BookTok has a lot to do with this, even though the social network's budding book reviewers mostly recommend books that were released a few years ago, rather than the latest releases. Novelist Sarah J. Maas, for example, recently saw sales of "A Court of Thorns and Roses" skyrocket, despite the book being released in 2015. Authors Madeline Miller and Leigh Bardugo have seen similar success with "The Song of Achilles" and the "Grisha Trilogy" series.

Publishing houses and other book-industry professionals are now trying to ride the #BookTok wave by getting themselves out there on the social network. Penguin Random House 's account has more than 27,000 followers, for example. But that's nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of people who follow the recommendations and reviews of BookTokers like Ayman Chaudhary ( @aymancbooks ), Jaysen Headley ( @ezeekat ) and Abby Parker ( @abbysbooks ). Proof, as if any were needed, that reading is still a popular activity.

Caroline Drzewinski

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