Communities and Social Media

The literary vlogger and diminishing community practices.


This paper considers how belonging in the BookTubers community can be viewed as a way for humanity to maintain connections through shared interests. It is argued that the culture within this discourse has negative impacts on community as a whole as barriers and opportunities for exclusion are created for its members. Reflection of the personal conduct of members is considered in line with other technological platforms that influence behaviour. This topic will be explored through participatory pressures and mediated practices, platform affordances and the attention economy in this essay.

Keywords: BookTube, YouTube, belonging, content creators

Technological advancement has allowed individuals to connect in ways that, once, could never have been imagined. Social media has further pushed those limits to give individuals ways to communicate and interact with the online world and provide them with a sense of community, as they are able to search and connect with people to discuss similar interests via these platforms. Community is an abstract idea that gives people opportunities to connect through deep-held beliefs and to create bonds without ever having met in the real world, giving members a sense of belonging to something that is greater than themselves (Delanty, 2018). The social reading community has been developed by literary vloggers, or more colloquially known as “BookTubers” (an acronym of book + YouTubers), who have gained notoriety in promoting reading (Tomasena, 2019). BookTubers post videos discussing and reviewing books of many genres (which could be considered sub-communities), and interact and collaborate with others. BookTubers within this context differ from traditional reviewers and results in the emotional experience with reading books being diminished as they promote content sharing, subscriptions, likes and commenting, and user-created tags (Tomasena, 2019) in order to gain popularity. Technology has aided in access to these online communities, however, not all online communities’ relationships are considered equal (Hampton & Wellman, 2018). This is evident for the social reading community, where the audience shapes the community expectations/rules, not the content creators. In this paper, I will argue that the community essence is diminished due to the rise of negative BookTube culture through participatory pressures and mediated practices, platform affordances and the attention economy.

Participatory pressures and mediated practices in the BookTube community has placed a high value on aesthetics and popularised trends via tags (hashtags and video title tags), which has shaped what is valued most and considered a successful channel. These expectations are harmful to the individual BookTuber and to the online community. Hampton and Wellman (2018) state that the people in a community shape the expectations of said community (p. 646). These “networked affordances” are seen in the BookTube community as they shape what success looks like. These participatory pressures take form in the consensus of successful aesthetics of a BookTuber (Ehret et al. 2018; Tomasena, 2019). Ehret at al. (2018) found that despite a “sense of BookTube’s collaborative and inclusive culture” these expectations are embedded in the “cultural expectation” of the community to produce aesthetically pleasing content even at the cost of individual values (p. 155). The large book collection organised by size and colour, and the bookshelf decorated with book fandom items has become the benchmark in this community (Ehret et al. 2018; Tomasena, 2019). This only leaves community members feeling intimidated and can cause barriers for entry into the community if one simply cannot afford or one does not value these aesthetics (Ehret et al. 2018). Van Nuenen’s (2016) notion of presenting a romanticised lifestyle and version of oneself can be compared to this expectation in the vlogger thus BookTube community. These mediated practices have pressured many BookTubers to buy books they may not need or afford, upholding consumerist and affluent values as they aspire to be what is pictured as a true/typical BookTuber (Ehret et al. 2018). Albrecht (2017, as cited in Tomasena, 2019) also supports this idea that it is not just about reading collaboratively, but buying collaboratively; forcing the pleasurable activity of reading into becoming a commodity (p. 33).

The mediated practices have carried these values and expectations to BookTuber-specific trends. The BookTube community has grown with the platform and is now about more than just discussion; they were using tags (or hashtags) before YouTube afforded them so, from this, trends and mediated content followed (Teixeira & Costa, 2016). Anderson’s (2020) research found that specific terminology is used within BookTube – like “tag” and “challenge” (p. 49). However, Anderson’s research does not go in depth about the implications surrounding the specific tags and challenges. While most of these trends (book review, (TBR) to be read, monthly wrap-up, discussion/response, and collaboration) for video content in this community are the accepted product of BookTube, the problem lies with the popular tag Book Haul / Bookshelf tour. Even the concept of going through a ‘monthly wrap up’ (what they read in a month) is problematic as it sets a ‘pace’ at which successful booktubers read at and can create feelings of incompetence and exclusion for those who cannot keep up (Ehret et al., 2018). Another example is the book haul tag that encourages many to purchase X amount of books to then reveal them in a video. This reflects the community’s notion of what a successful BookTuber should be doing and spending their money on (Ehret et al., 2018). This unhealthy view of labelling and expectations is a reflection of what they consider as “the passionate common readers” (Scolari et al., 2021, as cited in Tomasena, 2019, para. 2). This de-values others in the community who do not have the means to follow certain trends, such as book hauls, and it pressures many to follow or be forgotten (Tomasena, 2019). Here success is placed on the amount of books in one’s collection. This can be viewed as evaluating a channel’s success through a superficial lens. In contrast, some BookTubers are considered successful in reaching numerous followers such as @readwithcindy who owns four physical books and had actively opened a dialogue with her audience using the tag “#Booktubeissues” (withcindy, 2020). Ehret et al. (2018) study found that despite community awareness surrounding problematic tags and challenges (via discussing #Booktubissues #aesthetic #consumer), the majority of BookTubers still feel the pressure to participate in what they criticise about the community (p. 155). Though many are now breaking from this picture, there is still that pressure of wanting to feel a sense of belonging and therefore, community members will prioritise following a trend, whilst ignoring their issues, in order to be viewed as a successful BookTuber.

YouTube has played a major role in BookTube’s culture of success and what it looks like. The features YouTube offers affords its content creators the ability to monetise their videos as this actively serves “YouTube’s business interests” (Postigo, 2016, p. 332). The most predominant way for YouTubers to commodify their content is through the “YouTube’s partnership program” which places advertisement videos at the start of a video (Anderson, 2020, p. 122). This has developed a high importance on views, as these views create revenue for YouTube and in turn a margin for the content creator (Anderson, 2020, p.123). This inevitably became part of the fabric that is YouTube culture, thus BookTube, which has translated into an unhealthy fixation on the numbers amongst the BookTube community (Tomasena, 2019). Gaining a “following” has become less about interacting with the community, and more about focusing on the amount of followers and the quantity of video views. Furthermore, YouTube’s constraints on the type of content that can be monetised has caused more issues in the YouTube community and subcommunities like BookTube (Postigo, 2016). Numbers are not YouTubers’ only goals or concerns; following the rules and guidelines in order to monetise videos and content, is also important and allows the content creators to ensure their content is ‘safe’ and fits within those guidelines or content that is considered popular despite their personal tastes (Ehret et al., 2018). BookTubers follow trends to stay relevant in the community and will even adapt what they normally read (Anderson, 2020; Ehret et al., 2018). Additionally, YouTube encourages content creators to keep aiming for a larger following by offering them rewards, such as a physical plaque (Play Button) rewarded at number milestones; gaining 100k followers, for example, would earn a silver Play Button (Postigo, 2016). There is a direct correlation between having a high following and the level of success celebrated amongst BookTubers. This is not only valued by content creators, but also by the audience as they consider their perspectives of what success looks like and allows this to directly influence their online conduct and assess who is worthy of their views. 

It is through the structure of the attention economy that causes many YouTubers to compete for views which correlates to their earnings. Information is what consumes our attention, therefore it is a valuable resource (Ciampaglia et al., 2015). To compete in the attention economy, as BookTubers consider views/following to be currency, it is vital to create content that is “share-able” (Schreiber, 2017, p. 46). The type of content BookTubers choose to create is shaped by what is share-able, it is the reason why many choose to follow trends to ensure they stay relevant (Anderson, 2020, p. 123). The particularly popular trends are tags #CommuniTEA and #Booktubeissues, where many create content on these topics in a malicious way (calling out other creators) instead of the reason they were originally created; to promote healthy discourse surrounding community issues (Anderson, 2020). This notion highlights the importance placed on channel branding. BookTubers find more “success” when they curate their content to fit a mould and to appeal to an imagined audience (Anderson, 2020; Goffman, 1959). Furthermore, content creators carefully curate their identity to “establish clear authority and balance authenticity” to create engagement by appealing to an imagined audience (Fischer 2018, p. 60). Whereas Viviene (2016) stresses that curating oneself in a genuine perspective can actually have the opposite effect (p.177). This focus on branding has encouraged BookTube culture to value the popular trends and tags, such as book hauls and reading particular books. Attention economy holds a large influence over the type of content BookTubers create in the community. 

The BookTube community has grown and with the complexities of growth, on social media platforms, comes a complex set of cultural practices diminishing the community’s essence. Participatory pressures and mediated practices negatively affect the community by creating barriers for entry into the community and creating feelings of incompetence and exclusion, members will prioritise following trends over following their values, upholding consumerist and affluent values, and turning reading into a commodity for popularity. YouTube also shapes the communities perception on self-commodisation as it affords them with the Youtube’s partnership program. This fixation on what is considered a successful channel does not line up with the individual values many hold. In turn, BookTubers have greatly considered the attention economy when creating content, to align their brand to the BookTube standard. A more constructive dialogue is needed for the BookTube community to be more welcoming and inclusive; they need to re-evaluate what success looks like and question the BookTube cultural norms.


Anderson Gold, T. (2020). A Book Club for the 21st Century: an Ethnographic Exploration of BookTube. Available from ProQuest One Academic. (2420169099).

Ciampaglia, G. L., Flammini, A., & Menczer, F. (2015). The production of information in the attention economy. Scientific Reports, 5(1), 9452.

Delanty, G. (2018). Community (Third Edition). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Fischer, I. (2018). Exploring the aspects of blogging as a professional activity and their influence on authenticity of the author and credibility of the blog [Master thesis, TH Köln University of Applied Sciences]. Opus4.

Ehret, C., Boegel, J., & Manuel-Nekouei, R. (2018). The Role of Affect in Adolescents’ Online Literacies: Participatory Pressures in BookTube Culture. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 62(2), 151–161.

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Hampton, K. N., & Wellman, B. (2018). Lost and Saved . . . Again: The Moral Panic about the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 47(6), 643–651.

Postigo, H. (2016). The socio-technical architecture of digital labor: Converting play into YouTube money. New Media & Society, 18(2), 332–349.

Schreiber, M. (2017). Showing/Sharing: Analysing Visual Communication from a Praxeological Perspective. Media and Communication, 5(4), 37–50.

Teixeira, C. S., & Costa, A. A. (2016). Movimento Booktubers: Práticas emergentes de mediação de leitura / Booktubers movement: emerging practices of reading mediation. Texto Livre: Linguagem e Tecnologia, 9(2), 13–31.

Tomasena, J. M. (2019). Negotiating Collaborations: BookTubers, The Publishing Industry, and YouTube’s Ecosystem. Social Media + Society, 5(4), 205630511989400.

van Nuenen, T. (2016). Here I am: Authenticity and self-branding on travel blogs. Tourist Studies, 16(2), 192–212.

Vivienne, S. (2016). Provocations: Digital Storytelling ≠ Social Change. In S. Vivienne, Digital Identity and Everyday Activism (pp. 174–200). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

WithCindy. (2020, January). Analyzing how many books I read & drama I got thrown in (my 2019 year in review & reflections) [Video]. YouTube.

6 thoughts on “The literary vlogger and diminishing community practices.

  1. Hi Cody,
    Nice paper indeed!
    it is great that you argued that social media does not necessarily have to be positive.
    Best regards,

    1. Hi Jensee,

      Thank you for reading my paper.

      There are both utopian and dystopian narratives when it comes to technology, particularly, social media. These more negative aspects of the BookTube community have always been there/slowly developing over the years, and it is through my research/experience that I found the community is more aware of the pitfalls now than before. Social media is intertwined with our everyday life; as a society, it is beneficial to be aware of both the positive and negative, for we are in more control than we think.

      The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” certainly touches on these concepts, the article from Guthrie (2020), discusses it in more depth. Although, I believe the documentary certainly highlights the negative aspects of social media greatly.


      Guthrie, T. (2020). The Social Dilemma: “simultaneously utopia and dystopia”. The Skier Scribbler.

  2. Hi Cody,

    Really great paper about the BookTube community. I found it interesting that your paper explored how the platform and it’s affordances are actually creating barriers for participation of new users in this community. I feel that most of the papers I have read in the conference are exploring how social media platforms are good for community building, so it was fascinating to read a paper that argued the opposite.

    My research for this assignment has mostly been around the TikTok platform and the way it’s unique affordances help communities to build online. I was interested to find, after reading your article, that a book community (named BookTok) also exists on the TikTok platform. There are some researchers who are doing academic work about the benefits of the BookTok community to help libraries to engage with younger readers, such as this article ( from Margaret Merga.

    Merga (2021) suggests that “Booktok offers an intriguing window into the evolving trends and interests in young people’s reading that can be harnessed in libraries” (p. 8) and is quite positive about the benefits for young people in the BookTok community. Do you feel that because this is a newer platform some of the community inclusion issues you mention in your paper are less relevant here? Or do you believe that the same issues exist?

    As a person who grew up with a love of books and reading in a small, sports-loving hometown, I would have loved to be able to find an online community who had a passion for books like I did. Is there still a benefit for the Booktube community, even if it just a place for other individuals to find people who share their passions?




    Merga, M. K. (2021). How can Booktok on TikTok inform readers’ advisory services for young people? Library and Information Science Research, 1-10.

    1. Hi Mads,

      Thank you for your thoughts. I believe some topics can certainly be argued both ways; focusing on either the positive and/or negative aspects of community. I felt it was important to discuss some of the BookTube community issues rather than focus on the positive community building. It is becoming more of a discussion within the community, however, I do not see trends like “book hauls” becoming less popular, but maybe the awareness surrounding these issues can help create a more positive discussion.

      I enjoyed the article you shared. It has also made me wonder if time is something that should be considered here; is BookTube more established, therefore likely to be more exclusive than that of BookTok? There are definitely a lot of similarities with these too communities/platforms, I think BookTube shares many of these positive aspects. Particularly via challenges, I recently saw a BookTuber (@withcindy- I referenced) start a challenge “2021 Asian Readathon” (read a with Asian main character, read a book by Asian author etc.), this highlights how these influencers can contribute positively to the community (

      I am also a lover of books, as a teenager, I lived in the middle of no where, I was lucky to have a step-mum who read the same books. Although, I also would have loved to have an online reading community.

      Perhaps it was my own experience with BookTube in the last year that prompted my argument. As a nomad, I try to live minimally, and so I related to the research I found surrounding the book collecting issues. Regardless, I agree that having a space to discuss shared interests could have been a great way to find that sense of belonging in a book-lover community that I was looking for as a teenager. I am happy to have found the BookTube community, and I am glad to be more aware of the issues and problematic creators. I think it is still a beneficial and enjoyable community to be part of.

      Thanks again,

      WithCindy. (2021, April). 2021 Asian Readathon [Video]. YouTube.

  3. Hi Cody,

    I want to start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed your paper, and highlight that it complements my own, which explores the use of Instagram (which, in the reading context, is colloquially referred to as Bookstagram) and Goodreads as a third space for readers to connect with one another.

    In my own research, I found that many academics argue that blogging and vlogging creates an almost one-sided community due to the emphasis placed on one user, while others may only comment on content. However, further research suggested that when a BookTuber expands their platform to other social media sites such as Instagram, where community is created through mutual association with tags, or Goodreads, where formalised book clubs are established, the BookTuber is able to connect and engage with other users on a deeper level. I was wondering what your thoughts were? On the one hand, I think Instagram falls into the same trap (due to the rise of social “influencers”), but I think platforms such as Goodreads create a space that presents users on equal footing.

    In your example of @readwithcindy, you highlight that the BookTuber only has four physical books, but still has a number of followers. Arguably, it could be her engagement with tags such as #booktubeissues that prompted her large following, but I’d like to focus on the four books element. The visual nature of YouTube often comes with aesthetic demands; how does she reach these demands? Does her lack of conformity to popular aesthetic demands in the BookTube community suggest the existence of other visual cues that users find alluring?

    Finally, I’d like to better understand how a BookTube community functions. Its static counterpart, Bookstagram, is defined by the posts that fill tags such as #bookstagram, as well as engagement with polls, live Instagram stories, and other posts. In short, whether you’re a content creator or consumer on Instagram, you can still be a part of the Bookstagram community and engage with it. Is this the same with BookTube, or are community members only limited to the content creators, due to the lack of visibility when it comes to subscribers and commenters?

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Sierra,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I certainly believe it could be argued that community could be shaped around particular users and their content. Thank you for sharing your research here, I will also read your paper as it sounds related and discusses another direction. I often wonder about how to evaluate ones sense of belonging in a virtual community. I find your thoughts about Goodreads interesting. Perhaps the way that I use Goodreads has informed my own opinion, however, I think it can also fall into the trap of users being more interested in influencers rather than other book lovers or book lovers who do not have an impressive reads list. It could be considered another space for people to see what these influencers are reading and to comment on.

      I value your thoughts about the creator @withcindy possibly gaining a bigger following for the “#booktubeissues” tag, luckily I have been a long time follower, and I can roughly pinpoint that her popularity was due to some YA (young adult) books that she was creating content about (her style is very honest and raw, giving that sense of ‘un-edited’ opinion about the books), although this is only a guess too. Instead, perhaps it could be argued that because of her successful channel she felt she could discuss the #booktubeissues without losing her following or maybe because of her larger following she felt she had a strong platform where people in the community might listen. I think she is a great example of a BookTuber who actually does not conform to the visual aesthetic demands as you stated, as I believe people follow her for her more ‘honest’ approach to book discussions.

      It could also be argued that other book communities, such as Bookstagram, enables the same exclusionary participatory culture. I often see Bookstagrammers (am I using that right?) on my Instagram explore page promoting the same visual aesthetic values and upholding consumerist values, I’ve seen this through book hauls and also a trend of showing which books you are reading, favourite book etc… Which people are showing the physical books. However, I do agree that perhaps Instagram affords this community with the possibility of better participating through remixing and being able to easily create content that fits the short Reels, rather than YouTubes longer video format.

      Thank you again for your comment, I am certainly intrigued by your research and look forward to reading your paper.


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