Booktok – influencing the book market

You might have heard of Booktok, even not being a regular (or at all) on Tiktok. Booktok is influencing the book market and the contributors are the modern book bloggers who reach millions of users with their short videos. The Booktok hashtag is now closing in on 200 billion views. Of course, it is unclear what portion of views ended up in real sales. The general consensus is that Booktok contributed to an uptick in book sales since 2021. Nielsen in the UK did some consumer research and found that the share of Booktok among all sales accounted for 3% of all book revenues in 2022.

Who and how Booktok is used is a bit better researched. According to one study in the UK, 38% of young people rely on Booktok for recommendations ahead of family and friends. At the same time, 68% said Booktok inspired them to read books they wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

Importantly, the success on Tiktok is opening up a new type readership for books, which publishers already expected to have lost. It is a young, primarily female readership that even likes to buy printed books in bookshops. The attention is reshaping the demand for books. Romance, fantasy and young adult titles are benefitting. This is starting to attract dedicated lines of titles from publishers. The success even swayed Tiktok to have its own booth at the 2023 book fair, also introducing a “Tiktok book award”.

It certainly influences book shops and book production already. There are Booktok book tables in many bookshops, where the currently popular books are presented and “as seen on Booktok” stickers are added to promote titles.

Advertising books on booktok
As featured on Booktok

Booktok is also reshaping the look of the books. It is not only pushing pastel-coloured titles, also extravagant covers, relief print and illustrations in the book help getting books featured. Anything to make a title stand out visually is welcome, as the titles are presented in videos. This underscores the general interest in the tactile nature of print and the appreciation for the beauty of print. It might be that Booktok is not only influencing the book market but also the perception of print in general.

Where are paper prices heading

Paper used to be a major consideration in print all along. The importance increased considerably in recent years, however. Not only did the printing industry experience supply shortages, also the prices increased drastically. This has a major impact on what media executives are ordering – specifically print or an electronic alternative. These shifts are usually not done on short notice, rather they need to filter through a marketing or corporate strategy. Accordingly, it is important to see where are paper prices heading in the mid term to gauge the impact.

At the end of the road for heatset offset?

My career in print started almost 30 years ago at MAN Roland, the largest web offset manufacturer at that time. In 2001 I left the company to focus on digital print, also expecting that the market for ever-faster conventional presses would eventually dry up. MAN Roland eventually had to declare bankruptcy and was split into two companies. The web press portion later merged with Goss, one of its largest competitors. Still, sales declined and it seems that we are now at the end of the road for heatset offset.

At the recent Intergraf “Print Matters for the Future“ conference, I listened to a remarkable presentation on high volume flyer/door drop printing. On the background of major advertisers pulling out of printed door-drops and impeding governmental regulations that could essentially stop door drops the presentation was already quite interesting. The good news is that proposed regulations are still being reviewed and most retailers still stick with door drops (more on the preference of consumers for door drops here).