Reading Is Cool Again. The Reason? Social Media

Posted on Jan 12, 2023 by Kristin Hassel
Books and e-readers

Books are irrelevant in the digital age where on-demand content and social media dominate our time – at least some experts want you to think so. Many blame our poor attention spans, but it’s more likely how we manage every minute of our day. Before the Covid-19 lockdown, we just didn’t take the time to read or participate in other hobbies, at least not as much.

But books are making a strong comeback, and one of the primary reasons is social media. Book influencers are paving the way for an entirely new generation of reading enthusiasts – eBook sales alone were over S1 billion in 2020. Even celebrities like Emma Watson and Jimmy Fallon use social media to showcase their love of reading and encourage others to take part. 

The Rise of Reading During Covid

In the second half of 2020, Americans read 25% more than the previous year. People began joining virtual book clubs, and audiobooks provided a break from the constant news updates on TV. Social media book influencers, celebrities like Emma Watson and Reese Witherspoon, and even daytime talk shows began to promote reading. Books prompted conversations and brought us together during a time we felt total isolation. 

Infographic detailing how the pandemic and social media boosted reading.
One of the best things about this timeline is that social media boosted reading.

Digital formats made sharing titles with your friends and other book club members easy. Most eBook apps even offer free books, often classics or the first book in a series, to draw a reader in.

As more people worked from home and used their devices to stay connected, the lockdown also saw an increase in cybercrime. Use the most secure USA VPN to protect your personal information when you go online.

How Social Media Boosts Reading Interest

The pandemic provided the downtime needed to pick up a book and enjoy other hobbies. Soon, reading was blowing up on social media with digital book clubs and book influencers renewing our interest in the hobby. As such, the number of readers doubled during the Covid-19 lockdown. Pretty wild!

It seems that reading is the new ‘it’ thing… and shouldn’t it be? Thanks to digital formats and home delivery services, books are easier than ever to access. You can immerse yourself in an entirely different culture, learn a new language via audiobook, or even learn a new skill. Since readers couldn’t gather for their traditional book clubs, social media and video book clubs became a way to keep them going.

Short-form social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok became platforms for book clubs and book recommendations by celebrities. After all, who wants to read a dry review when you can hear about the book from someone just like you (or better yet a celebrity) via a TikTok video? 

Infographic detailing the benefits of using audiobooks and ebooks.
I’m attached to real-life books, but ebooks and audiobooks have a lot going on for them.

What Is a Book Influencer?

Book influencers use various platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter, to promote books. Typically, book influencers read the book, offer a personalized review, and encourage others to read it. It’s not uncommon for publishers and authors to make them part of advertising campaigns – especially book launches and other PR events. Check out a few of the most popular book influencers who use short-form social media.

Popular Book Influencers by App
Instagram
    James Trevino (@james_trevino) – 288K followers
    Sue (@Suethebookie) – 23.3K followers
    Michelle (@bookbriefs) – 10.4K followers
    Danielle Rollins (@daniellevalentinebook) – 9,331K followers
Twitter
    Marsha Collier (@MarshaCollier) – 233.3K followers
    Girl Who Reads (@Girl_Who_Reads) – 5,051K followers
    Leslie Lindsay (@LeslieLindsay1) – 1,231K followers
    DS Book Promotions (@DS_Promotions1) – 554 followers
TikTok
    Ayman (@aymansbooks) – 889.2K followers
    Jaysen Headley (@ezeekat) – 548.9K followers
    Abby Parker (@abbysbooks) – 461.3K followers
    Pauline Juan (@thebooksiveloved) – 101K followers
TikTok
    Ayman (@aymansbooks) – 889.2K followers

Inspired by #BookTok, which has quickly become one of the highest trending reading topics, TikTok created #bookclub. The app’s book club offers recommendations and you can find BookTok reads there as well. 

TikTok wasn’t the only short-form social media to trend. Instagram has success with #bookstagram, and some bookstagrammer accounts are reaching over 200K followers.

Promoting reading isn’t only for book influencers – many celebrities, services, and even talk shows have book clubs trending on social media. Oprah’s Book Club is still going strong after three decades, and the space is now seeing a new generation of celebrities that encourages young people to read. 

You can find celebrities of all ages promoting reading and popular radio programs, streaming platforms, and talk shows starting book clubs of their own. Many of these cover content across a variety of social media platforms, so let’s see who’s trending on each app.

Trending Book Clubs by App
Facebook
    📚 The Book Hangout Spot – One of the largest book clubs on Facebook, it includes a book of the month to read and discuss. It has daily topics/happenings like Meme Monday and Share Your Links Sunday, as well as quarterly events like Cover Wars.
    📚 Gals Who Read – Selects a new book each month and the discussion takes place over Zoom, so it has an interactive feel.
    📚 Facebook Book Club – A place to recommend books for other members to read and start your own discussion on them. No real book of the month, you just choose a recommendation and read with no pressure to create a discussion on the topic.
Instagram
    📚 Emma Watson (@oursharedshelf) – Promotes feminist pieces. Watson also hides books in various cities for others to read in hopes they’ll rehide them for someone else when they finish.
    📚 Reese Witherspoon (@reesewitherspoon) – Mostly reads modern romances and thrillers promoting women’s stories.
    📚 Emma Roberts (@belletrist) – New books are chosen each month along with Roberts promoting an independently owned bookstore.
    📚 Good Morning America (@gmabookclub) – Human-interest pieces, government-related, and true stories meant to open up discussions on a range of topics.
Twitter
    📚 Jenna Bush Hagar (#ReadWithJenna) – Reads a diverse selection of books from the Book of the Month Club.
    📚 Bethanne Patrick (@TheBookMaven) – Patrick is a book critic who reads and reviews books on her Twitter account, and she sparks discussion on topics such as banned books. She encourages people to read books of all genres.
    📚 Book Riot (@BookRiot) – A fun, engaging place to find a variety of genres to read and discuss. Book Riot also has a podcast.
    📚 GalleyCat (@GalleyCat) – Your one-stop shop for all things book related including reviews, book signings, new releases, and movie adaptations.
TikTok
    📚 Oprah Winfrey (Oprah’s Book Club) – Showcases literary works by people of color, human interest pieces, and classic selections.
    📚 TikTok Book Club (#bookclub) – Selects a book and hosts a five-influencer panel live discussion on the book at the end of the month. You can also find BookTok choices on TikTok Book Club.
    📚 Bookington Book Club (@caitsbooks) – Does live discussions on books via TikTok. Books are chosen by member voting across Discord, Facebook, TikTok, and Fable Club.
    📚 BookTok (#BookTok) – Less of a book club and more of a way to prompt discussion on a huge variety of books. Anyone can participate. Simply add #BookTok to your TikTok book post and others can see your recommendation.
Apple Podcast
    📚 Borrowed (Brooklyn Public Library) – This major library showcases local community stories and offers a book list to give you plenty of options for new reads. It also discusses fun topics like what exactly librarians do all day, and other must-know questions.
    📚 NPR (NPR’s Book of the Day) – Find a variety of book options anywhere, including children’s books, novels, new releases, and poetry.
Netflix
    📚 Netflix Book Club (netflixbookclub.com) – Pairs popular books with their Netflix film adaptations.

Something for Everyone – Reading Apps Diversify

The beginning of the eBook brought us Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle, but the ability to put the reading apps on mobile devices without buying a separate eReader changed the game. You can download reading apps from Nook, Kindle, Google Play, and Wattpad (just to name a few). 

Want to listen to a story? Use Audible or LibriVox. Just go to your iOS or Android app store and download a reading app. To get you started, check out some of the following apps, like Comixology, which caters to fans of comics and manga, or Chilling: Scary Horror Stories, which offers spine tingling tales. Some apps focus on one author, like Plato, or a single hobby, like DIY home improvements. 

Regardless of your reading tastes or operating system, you can find a mobile app with the right book for you. 

The multitude of reading apps shows that people are still very much in love with reading.

Are Print Books Dead? Far From It

You might be surprised to find out the print format is still incredibly popular. In 2020, 750 million print books were sold versus 191 million eBooks the year before. 

Maybe it’s something about a physical book. The crisp pages, the new binding, the smell. Whatever it is, print certainly isn’t dead. Print books still outperform digital books 4 to 1 in sales. 

Pie chart showing percentage of US residents who bought books in 2021.
Digital is great, but most people still love print books.

But this doesn’t mean digital formats aren’t just as good. Audiobooks and eBooks are catching up in the sales and popularity department. American audiobook sales rose by 15% during the 2019 Covid lockdown, and eBooks saw a 20% rise in sales in 2020. 

The table below provides some of the pros and cons of each format, in case you’re still on the fence or you just want to know more.

The Pros & Cons of Digital Vs Print Books
Format Pros Cons
Digital

    ✅ Portability

    ✅ Reduces deforestation

    ✅ Ability to increase font
    ✅ Adjustable lighting
    ✅ Easy to share with others
    ✅ Immediate availability
    ⛔ Sleep disruption
    ⛔ Creates electronic waste in landfills
    ⛔ Relies on batteries
    ⛔ Ads and trackers
    ⛔ Require updates
    ⛔ Current titles are expensive
Print

    ✅ The battery won’t die

    ✅ Less eye strain/no blue light

    ✅ You don’t need to update it

    ✅ Uninterrupted reading/no ads

    ✅ No electronic waste

    ✅ Affordability

    ⛔ Unchangeable font size

    ⛔ Adds to deforestation

    ⛔ Not as portable in bulk

    ⛔ Delays due to shipping/out of stock

    ⛔ Physical libraries require more space

    ⛔ Damaged/bent pages

Read On and Relax

Love it or hate it, social media has brought about a new reading Renaissance. We often tout the dangers and mindlessness of it, but the rise of reading proves it also has a good side. 

Whether you like the smell of a print book or the convenience of a digital version, the reading trend isn’t going out of style anytime soon. I prefer digital for travel and print for relaxing on the couch. Let us know what format you prefer in the comments. 

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