Has TikTok Put a Strain on Some of Our Favourite Bookshops?
By Bianca Scasserra, Brittany Holness, Gemma Mathers, Holly Butterfield, and Maisie Clarke
Whilst TikTok has been instrumental in the way that authors and bookshops sell their books to audiences of late, it is becoming clearer that certain trends have made it difficult for small businesses to keep up with demand. Through the influence of social media, and people sharing their hauls online for others, certain businesses are receiving more customers than can be reasonably handled with their current set-ups. Including bookshops seeing regular queues for hours out the doors. This week, we take a deep dive into the effect of TikTok and its various bookish trends, and look at whether or not this has put an excessive strain on some of our favourite bookshops.
The BookTok phenomenon is having a material impact on the highstreet whilst rekindling a widespread love for reading somewhat lost to some in the age of technology. We are once again witnessing hoards of book lovers flocking to their local stores to grab the latest bestseller, cultivated from Tiktok itself. This resurgence is largely down to the social media platform for its short, snappy reels acting as the book's trailer. The lure of an idealised influencer is enough to convince many consumers to purchase a good read, sending sales into the atmosphere. Word-of-mouth has been superseded by video recommended titles. After all, nothing beats the comforts of an ardent hardback cover, particularly as we approach the autumn months! There are also initiatives in place whereby Tiktok encourages people to purchase their books from old-fashioned booksellers, allowing people to buy online and support independent bookstores concurrently.
However, all this media attention, which can have a number of benefits for book lovers, has posed some challenges for certain bookshops. There are specific trends of people on BookTok doing hauls of tens, if not hundreds, of books, often those that have been hauled at largely discounted prices. For example, one small book wholesaler, which opens its doors to the public every month to provide clearance books, remainders and reprints, has seen a large influx of customers as a result of the site. It’s well known for its clearance deals where visitors will be treated to 70% off all books, or 80% if you’re buying for schools. TikTok portrays it as the perfect excursion for you and your fellow book enthusiasts to enjoy the wonders of a great read. It is no wonder that book lovers have flocked to this paradise: it is quite literally a dream for bibliophiles. This popularity has resulted in queues with a wait time of as many as six hours, leading to eager book lovers waiting at the door from 8 a.m. despite the fact that their doors open at 9 a.m. Oftentimes the line extending outside the building is enough to deter some readers until next month, while others wait impatiently for the queue to move forward. People from all around the world plan trips to come and enjoy this mass book distributor.
As a result, the owners have actively started to discourage visitors from posting content on social media about their visit as they are struggling to meet the demands of thousands of visitors each month. Location can often be an issue, with extremely limited parking for customers. Another arising issue is size versus demand. The warehouse itself is not massive which puts increasing pressure on staff who have to work to the bone to control the large crowds, regulate the queue and try to maintain a positive experience for all visitors. The owners are very grateful for the popularity that they have gained but do urge visitors to keep this treasure to themselves, and for any book lovers visiting, to be patient and kind as always!
So, whilst TikTok has been essential in seeing certain books rocket to the top of bestseller lists, we can also start to see several infrastructural challenges arising as a result of the platform. What could seem like a harmless trip to a discounted bookshop may be causing more damage than it seems, putting a strain onto these shops that they simply cannot manage. If the crowds continue to increase at the same rate, then it is possible that certain of these stores will have to turn away customers or even close their doors to the public altogether.