Creating A New Space in Booktube: A Case study on Jack Edwards

 

Edited By Zenya Siyad

 

Booktube is a subset of YouTube that focuses on book reviews, book hauls and new releases. It is a section of Youtube that encourages reading and has made a substantial impact on the publishing industry. This article focuses on one booktube channel Jack Edwards and looks at how he is creating a new approach to booktube content. While the theme-specific style of video-making has gained traction over the last two years, Edwards’ channel is a case study in how this particular approach is refreshing to see on BookTube. 

 

Jack Edwards is a British YouTuber whose content ranges from the university experience to pop-culture to everything related to books. He started his channel to help students navigate higher education and to make accessible content related to college life. He has authored a book on the same topic named The Uni-verse (the pun game is strong on this channel). Originally, most of his content focused on study-related topics since he was an undergraduate student. Having recently graduated, Edwards has made over a dozen videos that focus on specific themes related to books, ranging from Every Book that Predicted the Coronavirus to Every Book Namjoon from BTS has Recommended. 

Edwards’ channel enjoys over 350k subscribers and occupies a very specific place in the broader geography of BookTube. His distinct type of video-making shapes literature in a more accessible manner and creates a space for an interdisciplinary approach to art. Here’s how:

 

A Focus on World Literature

 

Edwards has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Durham University. Ever since he finished his degree - which focused mainly on canonical works - he has maintained that he wants to focus on expanding his reading beyond that. In the 50 fiction books everyone should read video for The StudyTube Project last year, he recommends a number of canonical works but also prefaces the video with the need to read more postcolonial and decolonial literature “that doesn’t make it to academic reading lists” rather than just focusing on the texts that are assigned as a standard.  

His recommendations now focus on world literature, something that has been missing from the biggest channels that have dominated booktube for over 5 years. The people interacting with Edwards’ channel including BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) and younger audiences are met with books that represent a variety of people from all over the world, not just books written by white people for white people. 

Edwards’ channel and recommendations are set against an academic background. On multiple occasions, he has recommended texts that he’s had the opportunity to encounter due to his degree in literature. On entering academia, a big issue that students face is gatekeeping arising from intellectual snobbery. This can be a hindrance for non-english majors or someone just looking for a casual book recommendation. Edwards’ channel has actively discussed this phenomenon and resolutely kept away from it. If his reviews use a word like ‘motif’ or ‘allegory’ to talk about some aspect of a book, he ensures that he includes an easy-to-understand definition and explains the terms as he goes. This brings down the small terminology barrier that can keep many people from engaging with literary spaces.

 

Pop Culture and Literature 

 

Edwards has done videos analysing various TV Shows, movies and music albums. These include, without being limited to, every literary reference in Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore, every book mentioned in the TV Show and novel Normal People, analysis of the book that inspired Bridgerton and so on. He has also done a series of videos in which he reads books written by YouTubers spanning the genres of poetry, young-adult and self-help. By delving into the literature that inspires and props up other forms of art, Edwards showcases how influential books are in the creation of visual metaphors, setting and plot in music and cinematography. 

Not only does looking at the literary side of pop-culture provide greater depth and breadth to both fandoms, it makes literature more interesting to people who might be more invested in other art forms. Edwards excels at creating a space for an interdisciplinary approach that is usually confined to certain industries or academia. It helps the average reader or viewer on YouTube make the connections between literature, visual art, politics and the larger philosophical question of inspiration.

 

Thematic videos that focus on books influencing other art forms as well as a commitment to literature from all over the world are important milestones in the journey of BookTube. A new space has been created to help BookTube move in a different direction. Instead of limiting the options of the rising global community of readers by talking about the same popular titles over and over again, Edwards’ channel is clearly a step forward for us as a community to be more open-minded readers.