Tiktok! Love it, hate it, distrust it, or addicted to it, as of 2023 Tiktok now has over 113.2 million users in the U.S. alone, opens a new window. You could say it’s popular! If I’m honest, I started this blog thinking it would be a simple piece about #Booktok, but the more I researched, the more I learned how controversial this app is. For anyone else who has been living under a rock, Tiktok is a social media application that allows users to post short videos, or content, for entertainment or informational purposes. It started out as an app where people could lip-sync to popular songs, but it has become a force for spreading information as well as misinformation, opens a new window. (Just do this librarian a favor and fact check, okay you guys??)
Tiktok’s addictive algorithm and easy method of sharing information has allowed users to affect many aspects of society, from politics to influencer and celebrity culture. Libraries, home of book pushers and book lovers alike, are no exception!
So how is Tiktok affecting libraries and readers? Do you want the good news or bad news first? Oops, you don’t have a choice and I’m a glass half empty kinda gal so we’re gonna start with...
As mentioned before, social media has had a big impact on how information is shared and spread, which in turn has had a big impact on very important issues, like elections. Tiktok has been criticized for having too much influence.
Because some believe that TikTok is a national security risk, questionable data collection practices, and other technology-related concerns, Tiktok has been banned from some state and local government devices, which means the app is effectively banned from many public universities., opens a new window
The state of Montana is trying to ban the app altogether, opens a new window, a law that seems basically unenforceable, opens a new window. Depending on how you look at it, these laws are either “limiting a security risk” from a foreign-owned company, opens a new window, and protecting individuals from propaganda, or it is an example of U.S. government overreach, and an attempt to control how people consume media.
Similarly, many states are suing social media companies like Meta (formerly Facebook), fearing for children’s safety, and seeking to both protect kids from potential online predators and to safeguard their mental health, opens a new window. Some places are trying to impose limits on the time minors can actively use social media apps each day.
It is perhaps an understatement to say that Tiktok has a lot of sway over public opinion. Tiktok has had a very large impact on the way that people find books to read. One way that Tiktok users have found to promote books is by creating #booktok, opens a new window and other book-related hashtags that specifically promote books. These types of hashtags have been in use across all social platforms (#bookstagram anyone?) but Tiktok has an especially strong impact on what’s become popular in the last couple of years. Videos with the #booktok have been viewed over 91 billion times. Tiktok is known for popularizing books by authors like Colleen Hoover,, opens a new window the romance writing phenomenon that has rocketed to the tops of bestseller lists.
According to the New York Times, Bytedance, the company that owns Tiktok, has seen the influence that it has on creating bestsellers and is trying to open it’s own publishing company, opens a new window. This is a very savvy but definitely controversial move, as Bytedance has a marketing tool that would wield a lot of power over the popularity of the books that it publishes. Bytedance could use the power that Tiktok has to promote its own books over other publishers' products. Tiktok could become a self-contained place for people to discover, purchase, talk about, and share books.
The publishing industry, opens a new window has never been known to be particularly diverse or inclusive and could probably use a shake up. Part of Bytedance’s plan for its publishing company is a bookselling app, like Kindle, which means Bytedance would have to compete with Amazon, opens a new window. A little friendly competition couldn’t hurt!
Don’t forget that the library has its very own *free* app for downloading books called Libby!, opens a new window
Okay, okay, but where is the good news??
Tiktok is really great at promoting books, and you know that all of us at the library love that! We really, really love it when people are excited about reading. In turn, libraries use Tiktok to promote reading and library services as well, expanding library outreach to younger readers, and hopefully helping libraries to stay relevant. And y’all may not have guessed it, but librarians are funny!
The most watched video, opens a new window on Harris County Public Library’s, opens a new window Tiktok features large type books.
Even former U.S. president Barack Obama was in one of our videos, opens a new window!
What are your feelings about Tiktok? Tell us in the comments!
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