BookTok

Once Upon a Time Books, a family-owned bookstore in Springdale, offers a variety of used books to the Northwest Arkansas community. Allison Harrison, the general manager, said she uses TikTok to promote the business to a younger demographic.

TikTok has been the go-to app for young adults to track the ebb and flow of trends since it became popular in 2019, and the literary community has seized upon its power. The book-related side of the app — dubbed “#BookTok” — functions as a forum for readers to share book recommendations, reviews and other literary content.

Since the app’s rise to popularity, bookstores such as Barnes and Noble have begun dedicating  displays to books trending on the app. There are sections in the store labeled with signs that read “As seen on BookTok” and “BookTok made me read it,” which allow readers easy access to books recommended by TikTok users, such as “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller, “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart and “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” by V. E. Schwab.

Augusta Zuerker, a UA junior and avid reader, has been using the app since 2019. She usually reaches for fantasy, romance and young adult fiction, she said. Zuerker finds many of her book recommendations from TikTok, including her most recent read, “The Love Hypothesis” by Ali Hazelwood.

“I saw a TikTok describing what happened in this one scene of ‘The Love Hypothesis,’” Zuerker said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I have to read this right now,’ and I went and read that book that day.”

Alyssa Hobbs, a UA senior, has been a TikTok user since April 2020, she said. She reads mostly fantasy, sci-fi and general fiction, and she has discovered many new books through the app, including her most recent read, “The Darkest Minds” series by Alexandra Bracken. Hobbs likes using TikTok to discover new books because she can hear other people’s opinions beforehand.

Hobbs discovered Sarah J. Maas’ books through TikTok, she said. The “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series, which dominates the BookTok tag, has become one of her favorites.

Zuerker goes to Barnes and Noble every week and frequently checks the BookTok display, she said. Some trending books she has read include “The Cruel Prince” series by Holly Black and “The Mirror Visitor” series by Christelle Dabos.

Zuerker considers “The Mirror Visitor,” a quartet of fantasy novels, to be one of her favorite series, she said. She enjoyed the books so much that she plans on getting a tattoo inspired by them.

The avid reader has also made friends through the network of readers on BookTok, she said. She has joined online forums for discussing books because of the app.

“I started getting more and more into BookTok, and then it became like a community,” Zuerker said. “I have people that I’ve never met in person, but we’re in Discords and Snapchat groups together.”

Allison Harrison, the general manager at family-owned bookstore Once Upon a Time Books in Springdale, uses TikTok to promote the bookstore to a different demographic than on other social platforms, she said. She and her father saw how popular the app was becoming and wanted to reach more readers through it, so the management of the bookstore started running a TikTok account in March 2021. The account features videos promoting the store’s selections of books and staff book recommendations.

The account has reached over 69,600 viewers since its formation, including TikTok users worldwide. Harrison has not noticed a growth in the store’s customer base since starting the account, but she considers the account a success for reaching such a wide audience, she said.

“We’re fairly steady on Instagram and Facebook, but we saw this as an opportunity to reach a different client base,” Harrison said. “I’d say it was quite successful.”

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