Blind date with a book – is book marketing doing too much?

By Cameron Beech

For as long as I have consumed literature, book labels have always existed; from shelves consisting of ‘New York Times bestsellers’ to displays brimming with ‘Book to Film adaptations’, even actress Reese Witherspoon founded Reese’s Book Club, back in 2017. The next big label: As Seen On BookTok.

Social media platform TikTok has taken the literary world by storm, and with what has now been coined as ‘BookTok’ the platform has utterly transformed the way the next generation consumes literature; currently, the hashtag #BookTok alone has amassed over 106.5 billion views from creating content such as ‘Books I wish I could read again for the first time’, one that always appears in my algorithm, ‘Books that made me ugly cry for hours’, and one of my favourite ever ways I have heard a book be classified, ‘The kind of book that leaves you staring at a wall for hours after reading it.’ Naturally, as a result, bookstores have taken to creating ‘BookTok’ displays, to showcase some of the most popular books on the app, including the works of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. The UK’s largest book chain, Waterstones have taken this a step further, introducing a section on their website, specifically reserved for what Everyone’s Tik-Talking About, and creating their own TikTok account, hopping on trends including book recs based on your zodiac sign, ‘Books to read after watching Wednesday’ and Taylor Swift’s most recent album Midnights if every song was a book. 

The hashtag #BookTok alone has amassed over 106.5 billion views

In a similar vein, there has been an influx of ‘blind date’ book displays, Tinder for book nerds one might say. All books on display are wrapped, typically in a brown bag, and have attached a little love note to their date outlining reasons to date them i.e. genre, themes, characters etc. There is something comical, yet beautiful in treating books in such a humane manner. Treating them as a love interest breathes life into the art of writing, where we can fall in love with the writing as we fall in love with a romantic partner. Blind dating a book brings excitement, riskiness, and adventure; it propels the reader to cross the boundaries of comfort and familiarisation and has the potential to lead the reader to learn something new about themselves. The ‘date a book’ concept perfectly encapsulates the intimate relationship built between the reader and the written word. If this is how a reader falls in love with an author, a book series, or a new genre, then I couldn’t think of a more romantic meet cute. That, and the fact the book cannot ghost you and leave you on read is a bonus. 

Blind dating a book brings excitement, riskiness and adventure

Where love is characterised as universal and timeless, so too is the ‘Blind date a book’ concept. There are no prerequisites or prior knowledge needed to choose a book from this display, thus the extent of its appeal is limitless. Plus, it is a concept independent of cultural influences, and what is classed as popular or trendy, thus it does not limit itself to readers immersed in popular culture.   Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for BookTok, where what is trendy remains the crux of its success. BookTok is sure to have an expiration date due to the ever-changing nature of social media, its reliance on generational appeal and loyalty to the app. BookTok is notably influential in the way it has shaped our view of why society should read, in the sense that there doesn’t always need to be a purpose to what we read. There need not always be a deeper meaning or profound message at the end, and the endorsement of such books within bookshops such as Waterstones slowly does away with past elitist perceptions of literature. However, what happens when TikTok becomes culturally irrelevant? Thus, the way we define the success of a book display depends on whether we prioritise longevity or immediate mass reaction. ‘BookTok Recommends’ and ‘Blind Date’ displays are both triumphant marketing tactics in their own right despite taking drastically opposite approaches to demographics, sustainment, and what they intend to market. 

Image Credits: college.library via Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Blind date with a book – is book marketing doing too much?

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