Updated Friday,9June2023-09:41

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Send by email


  • Music This is how musicians line themselves with TikTok: "We all take advantage"
  • Goodreads Literature: the social network that killed the literary critic
  • Feature Roald Dahl's censorship and the 'helicopter society' that watches what your children read

When we were children, our parents used to read us a story before we went to bed. This kind of nocturnal ritual, that of the Eraseunaveznian story, served with greater or lesser wisdom to introduce the passive reader into an inhospitable and unapproachable world: that of stories written by other human beings. In their own way – and probably without being too aware of it – our parents exercised a prescription work formally attributed to writers, literary critics, journalists, bloggers, youtubers and, recently, to booktokers.

Repeating that "any past time was better" as a litany does not make it universal truth. There is a latent concern about the future of literary criticism, but the truth is that the paradigm of recommendation has changed for years. Although it sounds cliché, the future is already present. While the fear that booktokers will wield the scythe that will end criticism seems quite childish, it is still logical: in the digital age, the power of the thumbs up or that of the five stars far exceeds that of the firms entrenched in cultural supplements. Prescription success is measured in terms of reputation, but also reach. The interested parties themselves acknowledge this. "The only support of critics is their readers. And if you have to change your medium so as not to lose them, you have to do it," argues Gonzalo Torné, writer and literary critic.

What we have to learn from the 'booktokers' is to sing with the same music so that they continue to listen to us.

Gonzalo Torné, writer and literary critic

The argument is comparable: if the purpose of canonical publications is to encourage reading this or that book, breaking down a story to facilitate its digestion, that is what the opinion leaders of Generation Z try on TikTok. "What we have to learn from them is to sing with the same music so that they continue to listen to us. Some of us are Mozart's symphony and others the dance song of the summer," says Torné, for whom the confrontation responds to an elitist vision. "With social media there have been explosions of unimaginable knowledge. But just because there are tutorials on YouTube on how to open doors when we leave the keys inside doesn't mean locksmiths will disappear," adds writer and critic Aloma Rodríguez.

Find out more


From the Internet to the Bookshelf: How Wattpad Revolutionized Young Adult Literature

  • Writing: RAQUEL R. INCERTIS Madrid

From the Internet to the Bookshelf: How Wattpad Revolutionized Young Adult Literature


Patreon, the gold mine for freelance artists: "It allowed me to create a community in just two clicks"

  • Writing: RAQUEL R. INCERTIS Madrid

Patreon, the gold mine for freelance artists: "It allowed me to create a community in just two clicks"

The TikTok platform reveals that the #Booktok tag totals 131 billion views, connecting a large community of creators, authors and users. #BooktokEspañol gathers videos from country profiles with more than 3.200 billion views. And, if we enter more specific categories, such as #Bookhaul (newly purchased books), the results exceed 792 million views. Luisa Ramos, head of Communication at TikTok Spain, says that they are proud "to see how Spanish culture, through literature, reaches so many places in the world and in such a special way".

"During the pandemic, people read, shared, and recommended a lot of books. In confinement, the first literary phenomena of TikTok emerged, which surprised us all because, in addition, they promoted books that had been published a long time ago and that seemed to have another opportunity, "explains Irene Lucas, editor of Crossbooks, one of the imprints of Planeta.

There is nothing disruptive about this phenomenon, really. The booktoker furor is a direct descendant of the creative currents started by young people on other platforms, when the algorithm was not yet so trained. Booktubers grew like mushrooms from 2012 and, ignoring the fallow, the proliferation of bookstagrammers dotted the ground. An evolution as natural as that of a Pokémon. The writer Andrea Izquierdo, known on social networks as Andreo Rowling, executed the triple somersault with a good note. "I started creating content on YouTube, then on Instagram and now I'm mostly on TikTok. It's where I generate more content and where it's easier to be aware of what's going on in the world," he says. Izquierdo has 100,000 followers on TikTok and 86,000 on Instagram, mostly women between 16 and 30 years old from all over Spain and Latin America.

Some of the videos with which the literary 'influencer' Andrea Izquierdo sweeps.TikTok

"If everyone is talking about a book, you want to get in on the conversation and see what that story can offer. Social networks generate the feeling that you are 'among friends'," explains Raquel Brune, another young writer and literary influencer. They allow you to found a virtual book club, in a nutshell. Brune believes that teenagers, when they look for book reviews, "connect better with those who use the same communication codes as them, instead of looking for that recommendation in a traditional medium that addresses another kind of audience." An audience accustomed "to common places, aphorisms and corseted academic classifications," according to Torné. "I don't know if the criticism reaches anyone other than the publishing world itself, journalists or other writers," agrees Rodríguez, who, however, considers the informative work of cultural supplements essential.

Empathy with the reader and the inspiring tone are key in the production of this type of content. "I am excited when parents write to me who have bought books for their children because of what I tell in my videos and then they have seen how hooked they are," says Izquierdo. Miriam Malagrida, Head of Marketing at Crossbooks, supports this idea: "The rise of booktok is mainly responsible for the fact that, since 2021, sales of young adult literature have increased by 40%". Investing in a powerful advertising campaign in the media and bookstores is no longer the panacea for a book to succeed, but now what makes the difference is that it "falls into the right hands and goes viral". Chains such as the American Barnes & Noble include in their stores a section to highlight the titles recommended on TikTok. "Without TikTok, literature wouldn't be what it is today. Young people are 100% connected to the mobile, but, at the same time, they read more and more. It's crazy," Malagrida continues.

The young writer and 'booktoker' Raquel Brune records her video-reviews in her room. TikTok

According to statistics, four out of 10 centennials prefer to search social networks rather than Google. It is a strange alternative, since the nature of the social network has nothing to do with the functions offered by the search engine. Prabhakar Raghavan, who heads Google's Knowledge and Information organization, said in the presentation of 2022 results that users between 18 and 24 years old "do not type keywords" – as had been usual – to perform searches, but "want to discover content in new and more immersive ways".

But the trend is not exclusive to Generation Z. "The profile of my followers is much more varied than people may think at first," says Brune. At 28 years old, he has about 155,000 followers on TikTok, 165,000 on Instagram and 500,000 on YouTube. His videos also triumph among people in their 30s and 40s, "because the generation that started generating literary content on the internet as children has grown up."

Teens connect better with those who use the same communication codes as them, rather than looking for that recommendation in a traditional medium.

Raquel Brune, writer and booktoker

Almost as much as the hybrid profile of prescribers – who, like Brune and Izquierdo, usually combine writing with recommendation – highlight the ties they maintain with the book sector. Publishers and prescribers work "organically", that is, without money intervening in the deal. "There is no financial compensation or obligation to collaborate, we only send them titles that we believe fit their interests," explains Malagrida.

Not everything is going to be viral challenges or choreographies with impossible hip movements. TikTok embraces a wide audience. "The age of the prescribers is not a problem, and the medium does not detract from depth either. Intelligence and taste matter," says Torné. According to the study The Power of TikTok, recently prepared by Kantar, more than 67% of the application's users are over 25 years old. The contents on literature are very diverse, but they stand out for sharing a format that exploits the dynamism and aesthetic quality to the maximum: from compilations of novelties to rankings of iconic characters of universal literature, through tips to order books by colors, recreations or parodies and quotes from classic authors with which to customize your agenda or the wall of your room.

Many tiktokers also take the opportunity to publicize their works or share pills of their creative process in short videos. With them they ring the bell of the publishers, sometimes with the fingertip and sometimes with the whole palm. Lucas confesses that in Crossbooks they take into account different parameters -followers, views, likes, shares- when assessing the publication of a book. But "so much goes the pitcher to the source that it ends up breaking," he acknowledges. As soon as the industry became familiar with the booktok phenomenon, authors and publishers began to exploit it for purely promotional purposes. "A movement that occurred spontaneously and disinterestedly ended up being a victim of monopoly." In the middle of the ocean of supply and demand, publishers are still aware of the expectation generated by a certain story on TikTok, "but the interest of users is no longer an essential requirement to bet on a title."

A movement that occurred spontaneously and disinterestedly ended up being a victim of monopoly

Irene Lucas, editor of Crossbooks

On the other hand, augmented reality has shaken up the cultural landscape. Kitten filters are no longer enough to attract centennials. On TikTok they know it and, on the occasion of Book Day, they created a virtual Booktok booth in anticipation of the numerous literary fairs that take place during April and May in our country. "I see it as essential that giants like TikTok listen to us content creators and writers to see what we care about and how they can help us reach more people, because in the end all this contributes to spreading culture among young people," says Izquierdo. According to Malagrida, young people talk about books "because they are part of their own reality and without social networks this boom would not be what it is."

The virtual space, where Spanish authors and booktokers make reading recommendations to users according to their tastes, accurately replicates the aesthetics of a booth at the Madrid Book Fair. A booth without queues in the sun or scheduled signatures... for the time being. TikTok debuts in this edition as one of the main collaborators of the Madrid fair and, during these weeks, has organized numerous talks and literary walks through the Retiro.

For Ramos, TikTok is changing the paradigm of literature, "driving new talent through dynamics of discovery, entertainment, knowledge, and learning." The initiative has been very well received by authors such as Brune and Izquierdo, who are presenting their latest novels -Oscura es la noche and La chica del zodiaco, respectively- both through the application and in the different book fairs spread throughout the Spanish geography.

I don't think one form of recommendation is going to be crushed by the other. Or, at least, it shouldn't.

Andrea Izquierdo, booktoker and writer

In case the flies -and in case the doubts- the message launched by the booktokers is clear: social networks will not end with literary critics because "perhaps artificial intelligences do it before at this rate". "Most literary creators give subjective opinions of our readings; we don't pretend to be critical of use, just to share what we're passionate about," says Brune. A difference that Rodríguez also highlights: "The critic is not only an inveterate reader; He has a specialized training and intellectual honesty and does not limit himself to giving his opinion, but makes an analysis of the work". Reviews on social networks, on the other hand, "tend to be rather immediate and superficial."

In the face of prejudice, Izquierdo insists that "adopting a negative stance towards everything that is new is a mistake." "The booktok phenomenon is perfectly compatible with other forms of recommendation, because each one is aimed at a type of audience. I don't think one will be crushed to death by the other. Or, at least, it shouldn't." What there is evidence of is that the figure of the critic as a universal prescriber has been losing steam and, in the meantime, multiple voices have appeared whose legitimacy depends solely on the readers. It is in your hands to judge the book by its cover or by its content.

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

Learn more

  • literature
  • Social Media
  • Tik Tok