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Booktok and Consumerism: When is There Too Much?

Everyone loves a pretty book cover and bookshelf, but where is the line drawn when valuing aesthetics over content?

A armchair and ottoman sitting in front of a bookshelf.
Shutterstock/ Carla Nichiata

Everyone loves a pretty book cover and bookshelf, but where is the line drawn when valuing aesthetics over content?

BookTok, for all of the positives that many say it has for the future of books and reading, also has many negatives. One of the more glaring ones is the reliance on consumerism, or the inherent need to value how pretty a book looks over the actual content.

What is the Relation Between Booktok and Consumerism?

BookTok and Consumerism
Credit: Shutterstock/beeboys
Books and Money

BookTok and more generally, social media as a whole gives you a platform to share stuff about yourself and relate to others who you may share similar interests with. Because of this many people want to be like the people they follow and watch. This then leads to a large boost in purchasing stuff that the influencers they like also purchase.

For BookTok in particular this means that there is a lot of purchasing of different editions of books with various fanatical covers, small knickknacks for books that are never really needed, and poorly made monthly book subscriptions.

Of course, BookTok is not the first time people have valued collecting different editions of books. Or even wanting pretty bookshelves without ever having read a book on it. However, it did amplify the trend of purchasing a lot. So much so that publishing companies and people trying to make a quick buck take note of it.

Book Subscription Services

A great example of this phenomenon is monthly book subscription services. These are subscriptions that you, as a consumer, pay monthly for various items related to books such as shirts, bags, and candles. The main draw however is the specially designed hardcover book of a random title related to that month’s theme.

Recently though, the value of being subscribed to these services has been put into question.

BookTok and Consumerism
Credit: TikTok/@fictional.deanna, @mikayla_korinn
Two BookTokers talking about their Bookish Box monthly subscription.

The creators in these two videos express their dismay and anger with their monthly subscription to Bookish Box. They express that they have recently been unhappy with the service’s slowness in delivering the boxes on time each month. Along with the inclusion of basic items such as annotation tabs and page markers that could be bought at a dollar store. Even the primary draw of the subscription, the specially designed hardcover book they also find issues with.

Boxish Box’s prices range from $38 to $63 depending on if the customer wants just the book or the goodies along with it.

The goods in these boxes are also all dependent on whether you actually like the book it is based on. It is a game of guessing, if you lose then you now have a surplus of merch for a book you don’t like.

These issues are not exclusive to only one of these services either, it’s a common theme located throughout them all. They all rely on the customer’s willingness to pay large amounts of money for stuff that they don’t really need or want.

The Overreliance on Aesthetics

BookTok and Consumerism
Credit: Shutterstock/Floral Deco

The common factor when discussing consumerism on social media and specifically BookTok, is the highlighting of just how much looks matter.

Readers now have to buy books with sprayed or painted edges rather than just blank ones. They must purchase special collector editions to really feel like a fan of the book they like. And they must show off their bookshelf by either color coding it or showcasing it in a new way. This reliance on aesthetics over content has made reading become more of a new way to show off to others rather than for yourself.

A recent TikTok trend showcases just how far overconsumption could eventually go.

BookTok’s consumerism focusing on these aspects of style and aesthetics causes publishers to take note of it. Leading to the release of more covers and deals of special editions that are higher in price and very rarely worth it.

The Future of Booktok and Consumerism

Books and consumerism will always be connected it is something that has not lessened over the years but has grown. What’s important is the recognition that there is a problem with the constant purchasing of books. As well as items related to books that are not needed.

BookTok and Consumerism
Credit: Shutterstock/travelarium.ph

Because of social media, we as a culture value the opinions and thoughts of others over ourselves. Reading and books have become a performative act meant to show off to others. Which has led to the boom of Booktok and other subcultures like it.

There should be a lessening of purchasing rather than a growth. It shows publishers that the quality of the work matters over the style. That readers won’t buy just anything that comes out.

This is easier said than done; there would need to be revisions in thinking for many people. Although, in the end, it should help change the reading sphere for the better.

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Hi, my name is Sierra. I am a graduate of Montclair State University who loves reading and writing.

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