A look into the Booktube universe
Literature on Youtube
Text is a thing of the past, moving images are the in-thing these days – the trend has also taken hold in the world of book bloggers. In Germany, too, they are increasingly using Youtube as a platform for their book tips and reviews.
By Fabian Thomas
When it comes to “stacks of unread books” (subs) and “tags”, when “hauls” and “bookshelf tours” are organised – then you have landed right in the middle of the world of Youtubers with a focus on books, or Booktubers for short. In Germany, an active community has developed in recent years that uses the format innovatively and intensively. The short videos are usually between 15 to 20 minutes long and are mostly posted on a weekly basis. Booktubers often also maintain their own blogs and Instagram channels and exchange ideas with colleagues using the comment function or subscription lists. This is a short tour through a universe all of its own.
One of the clichés about Youtubers is that they are mostly solitary couch potatoes whose only window to the world is the laptop camera. Nothing could be further from the truth if you look at the contributions of the channel “Zeilenverliebt” (In Love With Lines). The booktuber records videos with friends and sometimes does “live shopping” at Hugendubel bookshop or broadcasts from the Frankfurt Book Fair. The channel is colourfully designed and invites readers to explore and discover – the focus, as is often the case with Booktube, is on young adult and fantasy titles.
The second cliché – Booktube is all about cosy, feel-good books that do not cause a stir. Also wrong! “Liberiarium” addresses questions about mental health and also reads and comments on 1-star reviews of new adult books. The channel, which focuses on fantasy, comic and horror titles, also keeps an eye on queer points of view, takes the first steps for new authors on the topic and presents the latest purchases in “book hauls”.
This booktuber has developed a very unique format with “KossisWelt” (Kossi’s World). Inspired by the novel Der schönste Grund, Briefe zu schreiben (The Most Beautiful Reason to Write Letters) by Ángeles Doñate, she invites her viewers to send her letters with their own book tips – which she then presents in her videos. The Booktuber is a pioneer – when she uploaded her first video to Youtube in 2009, there was still no scene worth mentioning. Today she enjoys a fan base of over 13,000 subscribers.
In addition to young adult publications, the second big Booktube genre is probably a classic – long-term favourites and literary evergreens can be found on the “BuchGeschichten” (Book Stories) site. Ilke Sayan presents her favorites, sometimes sorted by topic (“Bücher über die Wildnis” – Books about the wilderness), sometimes by format (“Drei Schmale Klassiker” – Three not-so-thick classics). There are also country focal points – such as Canada, the book fair guest country in autumn 2021 – or themed specials, in which she also conducts interviews.
“Literaturlärm” (Literature Noise) is also dedicated to topics such as poetry and nature – somewhat atypical for Youtube. The focus is on smaller independent publishers and even English-language books are discussed. The videos are kept in subtle black and white and contain, among other things, reflections on the format, collaborations and paid content.
“VersTand.Booktube” focuses more on areas that are not discussed so often, such as Eastern Europe, and smaller publishers such as Guggolz Verlag in Berlin. The booktuber introduces readers to Norwegian classics as well as to discoveries from Belarus and Russia. Where other channels rely on overstimulation through colour explosions and fast music, the mood here is more settled and concentrated; regular “read and life updates” make the account approachable and personal.
“Caros Bücher” (Caro’s Books) does not shy away from major challenges, either: For example, the booktuber had the idea of a “Proust reading vlog”. In other contributions, she takes a “bookshelf tour” through her library of the Diogenes publishing house or organises a virtual chat about Japanese literature.
Male Booktubers are very rare in the Booktube universe, even after a thorough search. An exception is “KainUndAbel” (Cain and Abel), where the main emphasis is on classics, but the site also embraces some playful content, such as a “Bücher-Tag” (Books Day) – a kind of question-and-answer game with other befriended Booktubers. In addition, self-irony has not been neglected either, for example, in the article “Ein Dude liest eine Seite” (A dude reads a page).
Male Booktubers are very rare in the Booktube universe. An exception is “KainUndAbel” (Cain and Abel), which is sometimes self-mocking. | Photo (detail): © KainUndAbel