This past week I’ve finally had the time to catch up on all my favorite YouTubers. I’ve binge watched their videos for days only to find continuous book promotions on all of them. For the past couple of years, YouTubers like Miranda Sings, Zoella, Joe Sugg, Marcus Butler, Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, Hannah Hart, Caspar Lee (among many others) have taken their content to the literary world. It seems like an unstoppable wave of book after book, and many of these successful YouTubers have written not one, but two or three books already: and all of them have been best sellers. As normal as it is to have these internet sensations transfer their material from YouTube to Twitter, from Twitter to Instagram, and from Instagram to Snapchat and Vine; it makes me uneasy to see how their content is now not only pervading, but strangely dominating the world of literature.
This past April, Colombia held their annual “Book Fair” in Bogotá; to the surprise of many renowned authors, literary critics, and avid readers, YouTube sensation German Garmendia sold out tickets to the fair. He not only sold out the tickets but caused a collapse in the actual fair, which eventually left thousands of people who were waiting to go in and meet authors like Fernando Vallejo, Alfredo Molano and Cees Nooteboom, outside the venue. The entire country was in shock as teenagers pushed past the endless array of books, only to get a selfie with the YouTube sensation, who just published his first book titled “Chupa el perro” (Suck The Dog). Now, it is to no one’s surprise that this man is hilarious; he uploads four videos a month and has over 40 million views, and 22 million subscribers. I have personally seen many of his videos and yes, his content is funny, and he is a dedicated comedian just like all the other YouTubers who are now publishing books. The problem, in my opinion, lies in the idea that these people might be at the peak of their content over in YouTube, but they’re not in the same position in the literary world; yet, they are overshadowing dedicated authors who have spent their entire lives dedicated to the creation and mastering of this form of art.
As an avid reader and an avid YouTube fan, I understand the abysmal differences between both platforms. And because I understand, and highly appreciate both, I know neither deserves to be overshadowed by those who do not fully comprehend the dedication it takes to master the platform. Watching YouTube videos is honestly amazing –but so is reading. I could spend an entire day in bed watching videos from my favorite channels but I could also open a book and finish it by the end of the day. I know that it takes time to edit videos, to generate content, to prep for a video no matter how short or simple it is. Beauty gurus spend hours trying new eye shadows and contouring techniques and have to film over 40 min of footage before finishing with a 10 minute video, and comedians spend hours planning sketches, creating multiple personas, and thinking of puns and jokes for their videos. Their content is art; they understand the platform and that is why they deserve to excel in it. But how would YouTubers, who edit for hours, plan videos for days, and develop their online personas for years feel, if an inexperienced person, who lacks the dedication and the understanding of the platform, sold out tickets for VidCon and won all the Streamy awards?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez spent 18 months locked in his bedroom while writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, and he sold his car, his house heater, and even his wife’s jewelry to have enough money to send the manuscript to his publisher. In a recent interview, Lin-Manuel Miranda reveals he read over ten books on Hamilton, and took a total of seven years to finish writing the script and soundtrack for his Broadway show Hamilton. Writers and YouTubers have dedicated years to the art of developing content specific to their platforms, and for that reason they deserve to be seen, respected, and valued in their field of expertise. Writers understand the pain of editing 600 page manuscripts just like a YouTuber understands the pain of editing 40 minute footage; they are both artists and for that reason, their medium needs to be respected.
The idealization and fanaticism that comes with any internet sensation has begun to pervade in the world of the written word; and to our surprise, visits to bookstores and tickets to book fairs are more about taking selfies with your favorite YouTuber (oh, they also wrote a book?), and less about discovering the infinite plethora of worlds that literature has to offer. Writing is one of the most beautiful forms of art and it takes dedication and expertise to master; thus, the literary sphere must be kept intact and accessible only to those who understand the value of literature in all its grandeur. Publishing companies should not endorse deals that situate literature as a means to reach more social fame, bookstores should not encourage the sales of books that were written by content makers who are not familiar with the work it takes to be a writer, and people everywhere should read to increase their cultural sensitivity, and not to be “trendy” or take a selfie with a YouTuber at an annual book fair.
Proposing a solution to the problem is difficult mostly because it’s hard to understand the problem in the first place. As any other marketing tactic, the books being sold are still being made as a result of high demand. YouTubers have invaded and taken over the “mainstream” side of the literary world but, who’s at fault? Are we to blame YouTubers; for transferring their content to yet another platform, like they’ve done in the past ten years? Or are we to blame the authors; who refuse to insert themselves in other platforms and mediums to promote their content? Could we perhaps blame the publishing companies; for endorsing and promoting the sales, the book tours, and the publishing of novels written by people who lack the preparation, the calibre, and the understanding of the process to be part of the written world? YouTubers won’t stop writing books and publishing companies won’t stop publishing them. Why? Because the people; the masses that have access to Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube will continue to believe their favorite YouTubers are the masters of literature. No matter who is at fault, the problem won’t be solved until everyone decides to give the world of literature a chance. When everyone decides to pick up a book that is written by someone whose only passion is the written word, the books written by those who lack true dedication will stop being showcased as the paragons of literature.