By Cora Bennage
A book display instead of a greeter, another display dedicated to banned books, and many of romance author Colleen Hoover’s works are arranged beside the register at Lift Bridge Bookstore. While the layout of the store has stayed consistent, the content on the shelves reflects a larger change.
Since opening in 1972, the biggest influence on Lift Bridge Bookstore’s selection has been the New York Times Bestsellers and the Indie Bestsellers list. Now, Lift Bridge and many other book sellers have a new literature influencer to pay attention to; user generated content on TikTok.
Tagged by #BookTok, thousands of users upload short videos talking about their favorite books and many other reading related topics. According to NPD BookScan, #BookTok was the force behind the increase in print book sales. While big publishers have noticed the effect, small bookstores like Lift Bridge have not had much change.
“If not more sales, we’re definitely seeing a change in demographic and the kind of books that we’re selling,” said Lift Bridge employee Chloe McAllister. “For a long time, our main customer base was getting older, but now there are more people in their twenties and thirties who are coming in to pick up books that they have seen on #BookTok,” said McAllister.
The biggest changes for Lift Bridge have been in how they display their books. Popular #BookTok books are now in the window display, drawing in potential customers. Other #BookTok favorites are displayed throughout the store in various fitting locations with Colleen Hoover having her own end-cap display.
“Romance is getting popular again because of #BookTok. That and more adults buying YA (young adult),” said McAllister.
Like many others, she has not been immune to the effects of #BookTok. One of her new favorite things, however, is hearing why people are coming into the small-town shop.
“It seems like more people who dropped off reading or have never really been strong readers are reading YA and enjoying it because it’s not like really heavy adult reads,” said McAllister. “A lot of people are saying I’m 32 and I haven’t read since I was in middle school and now I’m picking up YA and I love reading again,” said McAllister.
While McAllister seems optimistic about the effect #BookTok has had on Lift Bridge, Seymour Library Librarian Nancy Logghe seems skeptical the TikTok community has done anything for them.
“I think this summer was busier than last summer, so I think there’s been a gradual upsurge across the board. I think it’s due to the outreach that the library does,” said Logghe.
For Logghe, the only true changes in the book selection offered have been because of the recent and drastic staffing changes. In the 18 months she has been there the library has seen several new head librarians.
“I cannot attribute to changes in the collection due to anything other than the librarians’ choices and them recognizing the needs that they see with the patrons that they have got to know,” said Logghe.
Regardless, the Seymour Library offers many popular #BookTok titles, featuring Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Chloe Gong’s Our Violent Ends on display. Several more can be found on display throughout the library, displaying how the casual effects of #BookTok have made their way into library influence.
#BookTok has caught the attention of publishing companies and authors who have benefited from the short videos. Local libraries and bookstores, however, are left hoping they will see more long-term effects.