In an age of technology, the difference between success and failure can be a social media presence. Going viral and creating a strong following can make a novel and author immensely popular very quickly and can reach many who would not have known of it otherwise.

BookTok, a section of TikTok where people share videos about their passion for reading, has resulted in a community where the act of reading is not so important as being a reader. The aesthetic of owning bookshelves full of unread, pristine books, filling novels with unnecessary tabs and annotations, setting reading goals, and romanticising reading with things such as cute outfits, has replaced what it means to be a reader with a culture of obsessive behaviour, performance, and competition. The same texts are celebrated over and over, companies send books to those with large followings for promotion, and ideas spread without question to their validity.

As such, critics have compared BookTok and modern publishing to fast fashion, asserting that there has been a decline in the quality of novels in favour of those that will become swiftly popular. Tropes have taken the place of well thought out plots, and are often the selling point, popular ones being ‘grumpy x sunshine’ and ‘enemies to lovers,’ and now readers often base their decisions of what to read on the tropes present. Because these books are so easily marketable and utilise the frenzy around these tropes, they are shared, recommended, and easily sold out, even if the writing is lacking. Bookshops even include BookTok stands where they advertise these books, and so good quality is not addressed since they are trending.

Similarly, BookTok is criticised for its analysis and opinions of certain elements of literature. Sexually explicit novels and ‘dark romances’ are often included in Young Adult sections despite their dark themes, and are hugely celebrated on BookTok. This has led to much debate on how to categorise books and the romanticising of violence to young and naïve people. Considering how influential books can be, particularly when combined with the online influence, the discussion and normalising of such content is concerning.