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#BookTok helping to fuel sales of books locally, as a younger generation picks up novels

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Posted at 5:24 AM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 07:52:09-05

MILWAUKEE — Across the country, print book sales have been increasing. Local book-sellers confirm that the numbers in Milwaukee back that up.

The owner of Boswell Book Company, Daniel Goldin, said some people had predicted that physical books would disappear by 2013. Fast-forward to 2022, and the Milwaukee bookshop is not only still open, but it's also coming off of two years of increased sales.

Nationwide, sales of printed books went up in 2020 by 8% and grew again in 2021 by another 9%.

Blaine Wesselowski, the co-owner of Voyageur Book Shop asserted that the increase was due, in part, to the pandemic. "I suppose if you couldn't go to your music concerts, or some of the other things you normally did, buying books is another thing you can do."

The digital world is a central character in this redemption story. Voyager Book Shop in Bay View features as many as 14,000 books in-store and has an online catalog of similar size. "I just mailed a book to Sweden the other day," said Wesselowski, providing an example of the store's vast customer base.

Over on Downer Avenue inside Boswell Book Shop, they've noticed a younger crowd and these younger readers seem to have one thing in common. "We're definitely seeing the effects of social media, especially TikTok and BookTok," revealed Daniel Goldin, the shop's proprietor.

Samawia Akhter is a freshman at UW-Milwaukee, but if you've spent time browsing #booktok — you might already know her.

In a year, she's gained more than 230,000 followers on her TikTok account, reviewing books and giving recommendations. That has pushed her to a level where book publishers are taking notice. "Most of the companies that I work with are young adult," said Akhter, who has earned some compensation because of her status as an influencer.

But partnerships were never her goal, and Akhter wants to provide readers with something she missed out on. "Growing up most of the books that I would read would feature either mostly white characters or there wouldn't be that much diversity," she recalled.

Akhter highlights inclusive and diverse stories whenever she has the chance.

"Now because of BookTok people are discovering these books where there is so much representation, whether that's people of color or LGBTQ characters."

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