Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Thoughts: On the Current State of Booktube

I used to be a voracious fan of Booktube, watching every single video any of my favorites brought out. Unfortunately, I have been hit with such fatigue lately that I skim through videos when I even bother to watch them at all.

I have given this a lot of thought and I am going to break down this topic fully because I have a lot to get off my chest. Please do understand that I still feel Booktubes adds a lot of value to readers. Individual content creators work damn hard doing what they do and this is in no way to throw shade in their direction. I simply feel that the current state of Booktube needs some shaking up and I am having a little rant about it.

I have addressed some of this before, but I am going to expand on that with some updated views with the help of Will Ferrell's face.

What is Booktube?

If you are not sure what I am on about, here is a definition of what Booktube is for you:

Booktube is basically a community of content creators who focus on books. This is particularly big in the YA space, with channels like PolandBananasBooks, JessetheReader, and Abookutopia dominating the space for the past few years.

Most videos follow a specific theme or concept such as reviews, book hauls, TBR (To Be Read) videos, bookshelf tours, and monthly wrap-ups.

Booktubers often attend big events, sometimes even as guests on panel discussions. They are seen as minor celebrities in the community.

The Problem With Sponsored Content

Because many of the bigger names in the Booktube space have over 100,000 subscribers, they get approached by publishers, book subscription boxes and more to do sponsored content. What this is means is that the Booktuber will do a video that is either wholly or partly sponsored where they will mention/promote a specific title or item. These videos them get reviewed by the sponsor before publication to ensure they are shown in a good light.

The content creator also has to state directly at the beginning of the video and in the description box that it is sponsored so there is full disclosure to their audience.

Most videos by the big names these days are sponsored. This is a problem as they are basically selling their right to an honest opinion on that specific item. They are paid ambassadors who might be too scared to say anything honest about anything their sponsors publish for fear of them not wanting to work together in future.

What this has created is a bunch of super positive and happy videos raving about the latest hyped title. The kicker is that most of the Booktubers don't even bother to read the book, but I will talk more about that a bit later.

Because of this, I just don't trust many Booktubers anymore. And that's sad because a lot of them were not afraid of honesty in the past. This does not mean that they don't genuinely love the books they are promoting, but how do I really know that?

Same New, Same Old

Leading on from the sponsored content issue is the problem that most big Booktubers are all essentially producing the same videos.

If a publisher wants to hype an upcoming release, they will contact all the big names, send them copies and do a sponsored post for that title. This means that at the same time, this book will be hyped by these Booktubers. It's pretty obvious when everyone is talking about the same book at the start of their videos.

This is ok in theory, but it gets boring when you hit video number five of the same sort of thing.

Also, most bookhauls contain the same new releases. I get that everyone wants the same new books, but there are plenty of backlist titles that never get spoken about. I know the odd Booktuber who does have some older books in their TBR and it's awesome. A good example is Emily Fox, who is always looking to diversify what she reads.

Writing Books and Reading Books are not the Same Thing

There is this trend currently where every Booktuber is writing a book. And vlogging about it. And using their channel to promote something that isn't even signed yet.

This is not why I started following Booktubers and some of these videos strike me as taking advantage of their audience. They are also pretty boring and add no value to my Booktube experience.

I started getting addicted to Booktube because I loved hearing other readers rave about books I love or want to read and I really feel like this aspect of it has been diluted. I don't care about the novels they are writing. Especially when there is this element of secrecy around it. "Oh, I can't say anything. I don't want to give anything away."

Here is a newsflash. I don't care. I have seen the "quality" of writing Booktubers have produced thus far and am not exactly blown away. Being a popular book reviewer and being a good writer are not the same thing. There is one person in particular who self-published his stuff and acts like he is the gift to the YA world. He used to give great reviews, but now his channel is simply gushing about his writing. Self-reviews, if you will.

I really feel that, if a Booktuber wants to write, they should create a new channel for this purpose.

Following Trends Hating on Popular Books

There was a time, shortly after the publication of the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, where Booktubers started unhauling their copies of the series, saying how bad they are.

I have no idea who started this, but it seemed a bit fishy to me that suddenly it was trendy to hate on SJM and her books because she made Bad Choices.

I don't see many Booktubers supporting books deemed as generally unpopular anymore and there is always a series du jour that seems the be in the spotlight. I wonder if this is because people are afraid to admit they liked that unpopular title because it makes them an outlier.

Do Booktubers Even Read Anymore?

Every month, Booktubers do big bookhauls where they get 20-30 odd books and show them off. But, at the end of the month, viewers are lucky if they have read even one or two of these.

To me, this is madness. I also see so many unhauls where Booktubers give away a ton of books they have not read because they got them as ARCs but didn't really want them or never felt like reading them.

I feel that a lot of Booktubers these days are promoting having massive collections rather than actually reading and enjoying them. I mean, this is ok but there should be more emphasis on the reading and enjoyment of the books they own rather than how pretty and color-coordinated their shelves are.

So, there it is. The basic reasons why I don't really care about Booktube outside of a few favorites anymore.

I also know it can be hard to come up with original content and I am sure a lot of Booktubers feel the demands of posting regular videos. It's a proper job with an interactive audience who are ready to judge and pick up the pitchforks on the drop of a hat.

Maybe I will do a post featuring those channels that I still watch and love.

I don't mind if you disagree with this post, as it's just my views based on my experience the past two years. Share your thoughts in a comment below!

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