I should have known when I went to a book festival for teens that there would be technology. What I didn’t expect was a room full of young people watching a panel of other young people (and afterward mobbing them for autographs and selfies) who actually love to watch people talking about reading books. Welcome to BookTube – less of a YouTube title than a community of people of all ages passionate about reading and discussing the books of their choice.
In fact, the room at this year’s North Texas Teen Book Festival in Irving, Texas, was so packed with young book lovers I was lucky to find room to hear Alberto Villarreal (aka AbriendoLibros), Emily Ables (BlueEyedBiblio), Naya Perkins (NayaReadsandSmiles), and Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels) talk about their experiences as BookTubers.
Somehow, setting up your own video channel seemed so, well, complicated. Internet videos about opening a BookTube channel are rife with clips of special effects. So how much equipment do you actually need?
The panel of young pros, however, scoffed at the idea of complications. Many of them had started with nothing but a window for lighting and a smart phone. Oh, and maybe a stack of books to use as set decoration. (Naya also suggests making a banner, found using YouTube’s help site.)
“I recorded with my iPhone,” Alberto says. “I stole a lamp from my friend’s bedroom to put in front of me. One year later I bought my first camera. I still don’t have any lights.”
(For those who want a little more technical help, I found Little Book Owl’s video "How To BookTube” helpful. One of Little Book Owl's fun lighting suggestions: a TV set to a cartoon channel – because of the vivid colors – and paused.)
Of course, you’ll also need a YouTube channel, but that can hardly be easier I found, bravely plunging in. Go to YouTube, click on “my channel,” and you’ll be guided through the set up. One caution for very young bibliophiles – you must be at least 13 years old (although the age can vary by country) or have your parents’ permission.
And then you’re sitting next to a pile of books, an open window at one side, and talking into your iPhone. And maybe feeling a little silly about “the weirdness of talking to a camera,” as Naya says.
Talking about what, exactly?
“Neat things I’ve written in the past,” Alberto says. “I like to share what I’m feeling in the moment I wrote that.” (And yes, he is writing a book!)
“I like doing collaborations with book people and authors,” Whitney says. “It’s lots more fun to do (things) with other people.”
On the other hand, “If you just want to talk about yourself, talk about why you read,” Emily says. “Don’t be afraid. Do it because you want to express yourself.”
So what’s the time commitment for making BookTube videos?
“Filming is really quick,” Naya says, warning that it’s the editing that takes hours. She estimates spending five hours total on each video. Alberto spends a full day on filming, editing and uploading (which can be the longest part).
Are there things to watch out for? Spoilers, Naya notes. And then there are copyright issues, including those regarding the use of music (although YouTube has a library of copyright-free audio material). Still, “to be on the safe side, I wouldn’t recommend putting out any content that you haven’t created.”
One thing not to worry about – what your friends will think. “When you told people you were starting a YouTube channel, did (they) think you were crazy?” an audience member asks.
“Your friends will think it’s cool,” Emily assures her. “If they don’t, they’re lame!”