At first glance, e-books are the most violent technological change in the world of books. However, it seems that this is only the beginning and the fourth industrial revolution will bring new serious transformations for literature.
Social media is already a huge factor in the book market, audiobooks are an essential part of the future, and artificial intelligence is yet to play its part.
Perhaps one of the most interesting phenomena in the field of reading recently is the hashtag BookTok . You’ve probably noticed the “Recommended by BookTok” stickers on some books, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if your local bookstore has entire shelves dedicated to such books. This is far from accidental and is the result of one of the biggest market forces in literature of the last year or two.
BookTok is a kind of community on the social network TikTok.
With the hashtag, users mark short videos dedicated to books. In them, people from all over the world recommend books, review or comment on the works they have read, or simply joke or react to specific passages or characters. There are over 19 million BookTok videos on TikTok that have been viewed over 126 billion times, but their influence is felt beyond the social network.
In 2022, one in four book buyers used BookTok, with these users making nearly 90 million book purchases in total, according to Nielsen UK figures cited by The Bookseller.
Although only 3% of books were found on any of the video platforms, titles that featured TikTok on their cover generated sales worth a total of £46m in 2022.
The culprit behind this trend, quite expectedly given TikTok’s audience, is young readers. According to a UK Publisher Association survey, 59% of Gen Z (16-25 year olds) say BookTok helps them discover a passion for reading. More than half say they use the hashtag for recommendations, and nearly 70% have read a book they never thought they would thanks to BookTok.
This data overlaps with another trend in reading that is also happening mainly among younger people – the growing popularity of audiobooks.
According to a study by Edison Research for the Audio Publishers Association, 53% of American adults have listened to an audiobook, but this service is most popular among young people, with 57% of listeners between the ages of 18 and 44. 68% of Gen Z in Europe prefer audiobooks to e-books, index dates on the Global Web Index.
According to the UK-based audience research company for publishers worldwide, TikTok is an important tool for recommendations and discovery, as people need to be recommended what to read.
It is the combination of discovering, consuming and sharing content about books that is proving to be key to some of the trends in the book market.
On the one hand, this is the growing preference for streaming platforms, where users can access multiple books in one place. On the other hand, there is a demand for more diverse literature provided in different formats, which in turn justifies the serialization of books, including in audio format.
Right on trend is audiobook and e-book streaming service Storytel. It has recently been part of Yettel’s catalog of digital services, and currently customers of the mobile operator can take advantage of special conditions for a subscription for a period of up to 6 months.
Storytel has over 500,000 audiobooks in five languages, including 5,000 titles in Bulgarian. The platform also offers audio series, among the interesting titles are “Mamnik” by Vasil Popov and “The cases of Victor, the vampire detective” by Maria Nikolova. They perfectly complement the Storytel catalog, which also includes authors such as Georgi Gospodinov, Haruki Murakami, Brandon Sanderson, Maria Kasimova-Moase, John Steinbeck, Mark Manson.
Yettel customers who have a new mobile service contract can activate Storytel for six months at no extra cost, with the offer valid until the end of the year.
Current carrier customers using a Total Unlimited plan have 3 months to try Storytel at no extra cost. All other Yettel customers can benefit from a 14-day trial period.
Most exciting for the future, however, are the changes brought about by artificial intelligence. They can be seen almost everywhere. For writers, for example, there is the Sudowrite software, which this year provided a new module based on artificial intelligence.
It can be used to generate new ideas or to further develop specific passages of the text. Digital book production is not far behind, and the Bookwire OS software used for every step of audio and e-book publishing, including marketing and sales analytics, now has an integrated Chat GPT.
Another example is the Swedish company Reeds. She published a children’s book written by an artificial intelligence that also generated the illustrations and translated the book into 80 languages.
Naturally, not everything about artificial intelligence sounds good. Some of the world’s biggest e-bookstores are showing up with AI-generated books that are problematic. Among them, for example, there are travel guides that turn out to be not just poorly written, but include information about places that do not exist.
Tech enthusiasts and forward-thinking authors have been experimenting with copywriting software for years, but so far the results in book publishing have been rather mixed.
Certainly AI offers opportunities for . better and efficient processes in the technical implementation of book publishing and facilitating proofreading work.
A little more challenging, but exciting, is the possibility of more affordable and easy publishing of audiobooks “read” by voices generated with artificial intelligence.
This would open up opportunities for publishing more audiobooks in less common languages, such as Bulgarian. Apart from the pleasure of readers, it would also benefit people with special needs for whom classical reading is impossible.
Despite the challenges and changes, the expectation is that not everything about books and reading will transform. One such constant is people’s hunger for original, authentic and quality stories that resonate deeply with human experiences.
Satisfying this hunger remains, for the time being, within the realm of possibilities of literary talent alone. After all, the human element remains at the forefront, both in creating quality literature and in reading it. Or listening.