Though the online discussion of books has shifted to many different digital spaces, BookTube was the platform that started it all. But with other social media platforms taking over conversations regarding fast, book-related content, what place do long-form videos hold in the book community? And what do romance BookTube live chats offer to an already flourishing — and what some would call oversaturated — community? Maybe there’s more to these chats than we think.
Jessica, from the channel PeaceLoveBooksxo, hosted a live chat titled “Chatting All Things Romance” alongside 15 romance BookTubers who read under the major romance genres of contemporary, historical and indie. These BookTubers — including Jessica as host, moderator and participant — discussed tropes, favorite authors, book recommendations and anything else of interest and relevance to each genre. The livestream lasted up to two and a half hours and the comment section was involved throughout. With the platform Jessica used to host, she was able to highlight specific comments; it was an excellent way to see how the community engages with their favorite BookTubers and with each other. Mutual audiences and interests converged on the platform to hear book recommendations from their favorite creators and perhaps discover new creators along the way.
Jessica congregated a diverse group of people for each category, ranging in popularity as well as interests within the romance subgenre. It is uncommon to see your favorite creators as their most authentic selves because YouTube is a space for pre-recorded and edited videos, but the live chats allowed for the audience to truly see who they are, what they like and how they talk when there’s no filter. When Desiree from Genki Reader and Charles from BooksonStereo, for example, joked about his fancy headset in the livestream, it offered an entertaining glimpse into their personalities. It also makes you feel less alone to know that some of your favorite creators perhaps have the same thoughts about books that you do.
On the livestream platform, viewers truly get to participate in the BookTube community. People’s contributions to the conversation are active and not just a dated comment on a video. The audience can ask questions to their favorite creators, who may then respond directly. In Jessica’s live chat specifically, she asked general questions regarding the genre being discussed, but as the panelists and topics switched, viewers could see the commonalities between the subgenres.
Other topics up for discussion transcended the BookTube community. For example, Izzy from Happy For Now, a contemporary romance panelist, brought up conflicts regarding reading certain authors who made problematic references. She mentioned her video “Anti TBR Tag,” where she updates her audience on the behind-the-scenes of authors’ lives that people may not typically be aware of. This sparked a conversation about whether it is important to know these details about our favorite authors.
Because BookTube is a digital space, it can seem isolated from the overall book community. Social media sites often overlap — especially Instagram, TikTok and Twitter — but each platforms’ conversations vary due to the different ways of communicating. In general, Twitter seems to be where most of the author updates happen. It is not always something that people care about when reading, but when trying to be conscientious of who we’re reading, what we’re reading and why, it is important to know as much as we can about the creators we indulge in.
Changes to reading platforms and sites where the book community gets their reading material are important as well — and it is something that can’t be avoided when talking about romance BookTube live chats. The indie BookTuber panelists mentioned Amazon’s new regulations regarding e-books and their censorship rules. Dark romances appeal to readers within the indie community because they push boundaries and explore taboo topics without editing them down. However, not all books depict happily-ever-afters, and characters often go through serious events that can be triggering for readers. It was mentioned in the chat, however, that some authors do not put trigger warnings in their novels because Amazon refuses to sell them. This led to a conversation regarding an author who equated trigger warnings to book spoilers. The romance BookTube live chat had some problems with that.
Trigger warnings are necessary because readers have the right to know if the content within the book they’re reading will dredge up an intense feeling or reaction. The panelists argued that if trigger warnings are spoilers for what’s within the book, that means the book wasn’t written well enough. This is a topic so nuanced that it is not a conversation romance BookTubers can always have when creating their regularly scheduled content. Other times, topics aren’t big enough to discuss in a video. Live chats create spaces where people can share information, have these important discussions and talk about how they feel about them in a way we don’t usually get to see.
People have also considered how the rise of BookTok overshadows the hard work BookTube creators put into their content. On one hand, people argue that the times are simply evolving to fit a new medium that’s more easily accessible; at the same time, there’s valid reason for frustration from the BookTube community, who put in more work only to receive less recognition from publishers and booksellers. It’s a problem that pertains to the inner workings of social media culture; especially when looking at BookTok, these new platforms’ promotion of recycled, overhyped and outdated content annoys BookTubers and avid romance readers. It asks the question of whether this new book-related content truly benefits the book community in the same way that BookTube does.
Given the way this livestream connects romance readers with creators, information and each other, it feels like a more interactive community. Because of this accessibility, BookTube is the biggest book-related platform that links the rest of the community. Throughout each video, there is always room to reference those other social media sites where you can curate more specific content. BookTube, however, is where all the conversations happen that allow the community to talk about everything in the book-related world and bring it into a mutual space.
All in all, romance BookTube live chats are still so important. They keep the book community relevant by spreading information and connecting community members on a widespread platform in an accessible video format. Romance BookTube will still be around long after the other popular social media platforms move on to other things. There’s a reason why it’s lasted this long.