8: The Circulation and Spreadability of Booktube

I chose “Booktube,” or YouTubers who make videos and channels about books and the publishing industry, for this blog post because I think it is an interesting case of spreadability and participatory culture. Most Booktubers are regular people, usually in their late teens or early twenties, who love books and want to be part of a community centered around talking about them. They use content created by authors and publishing companies for their own purposes in order to do so, which can be seen as a kind of “bottom up” circulation as Henry Jenkins, Joshua Green, and Sam Ford discuss in their book Spreadable Media.

Jenkins et al. discuss in their book how, in participatory culture, the public are “shaping, sharing, reframing, and remixing media content […] And they are doing so not as isolated individuals but within larger communities and networks” (Jenkins et al. 2). The Booktube community allows people to share their favorite books, their thoughts on new releases, and to critique individual books and wider trends in the publishing industry. Many videos made by individuals in the community build off of videos made by other individuals, and many people read or review certain books because others in the community have brought them to their attention.

However, in recent years publishing companies and individual authors have made use of the Booktube community in order to, in some ways, “[centralize] the audience’s presence in a particular online location to generate advertising revenue or sales” (Jenkins et al. 4). In Spreadable Media, the authors call this idea “stickiness,” an example of “top down” circulation because it is controlled by the content creators. In this way, Booktube has examples of both kinds of distribution working together.

I think Booktube is an interesting example of spreadability because many members of the community interact with publishing companies and authors in ways that could not have been possible in previous years. Many of the popular Booktubers receive free, not-yet-published books to read and review; publishing companies hope they will give the book a favorable review so their followers will want to buy it when it is released. In addition, some Booktubers get opportunities to meet and interview authors.

However, many members of the community are also open about the influence of publishing companies on their videos and make it clear when a book was sent to them by one. Many of them assure viewers that their reviews are always their true feelings whether they were paid to review or sent a book. In addition, there are many Booktubers who make videos about issues in the community and in the publishing industry, such as diversity in literature. A lot of books that are discussed in the community are young adult literature, as Molly discusses in her post.

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Works Cited:

Jenkins, Henry et al. “Why Media Spreads.”  Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York University Press, 2018.