Booktube/Stage Fright/Reading as a Hobby/A Further Introduction

Also, I mention a book I have not read, which will likely be a running feature.

I like the idea of booktube. I’m a fan of “the video essay”, and long form YouTube videos in general. But ‘booktube’ is frequently awful. Generally speaking, when I find someone talking about something I am interested in, booktube videos follow the same format: Someone sits in front of a large collection of books, presumably theirs (one dude sits on top of a literal throne of books) and talks to the camera about it. Sometimes they show off the book they read. If it’s a big book, they will show off its size and weight. The few videos I have been able to find about Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream” for example, all compare it to some other tome, just to show how gigantic it is. Some people stick tabs into their books and show those off. 

Then, with few exceptions, everything goes wrong. Most of the booktubers I’ve seen don’t appear to work off of a script. This results in a lot of strange recountings of plot with a lot of sub-clauses and “oh, waits” and a LOT of ums, ers, and hmms. It’s difficult to follow. 

“Hey guys, I just finished ‘Stage Fright’ by Garret Boatman and this book, um, was weird. It’s about this guy who, um stages these dream concerts that are kinda, um, like horror films but they’re also real dreams, oh I forgot to mention that he’s super popular, like the number one entertainer in the world of the book which is weird, right, and um he has a girlfriend. Anyway a guy who he knows comes to interview him, oh wait, there’s a part here about a guy who’s extracting a drug from the blood of schizophrenics, and he gives some to the dream concert guy who’s named Izzy…”

You get the idea. Some of them are better able to do this than others, but a the majority of them are not. There’s a lot of apologizing about video and audio quality as well. People record with the camera’s onboard audio in an echo-filled room and at low volumes (or, in the case of some, shout in an echo filled room). I’m old and blew out my hearing listening to shitty punk rock in VFW halls, and I can’t understand them. 

Originally, I had sort of thought of doing a booktube channel myself; I was going to do a set of video essays on actually reading Bottom’s Dream (has any booktuber/youtuber read this yet?), and didn’t for a couple of reasons: 1) I haven’t actually read it, 2) it seems like actual work, and while I might be able to carve out time for it, it would probably be at the exclusion of other things I enjoy. Also, I am a heathen who does the majority of his reading on a kindle, so I don’t have a big wall of books to sit in front of. 

There are exceptions. Lots of them; there are even a few people who make a living at it (though it’s hard to determine how many of them do it full time, and the largest one has somewhere around a half million subscribers, which is tiny in comparison to other you tubers), and these people know how to use a camera, have a working microphone, and write scripts; but very few of them talk about the books I like. And, I would imagine that talking about the kind of books I like isn’t really lucrative. The biggest one is probably “Leaf by Leaf” who has about 20k subscribers, which in YouTube terms is tiny. A quick google tells me that around that level you’d make around $3 per 1000 views. An informal survey of his page tells me he gets around 2-4k views per video, with the occasional outlier at 15k. And to be fair to Leaf (we’re on a first name basis), his videos are plenty watchable (or listenable, as he mostly just speaks in front of a bookcase); there’s a reason he has the subs he does. But he’s doing it for roughly $10 a video. 

It’s the same whenever I have considered joining a book club. I’m always afraid I’m gonna end up having to read “Where the Crawdads Sing” or worse and having to refrain from being thrown out for cursing.

That’s the funny issue with reading as a hobby; lots of people do it, no one does it the way you want it done. This blog is my attempt to do things the way I want them done. Nothing more than that. 

By the way, the fake YouTuber “plot summary” of Stage Fright is very real. The book really does posit a world in which giving people horrible, gory nightmares is the number one form of entertainment in the world, and its antagonist, Izzy Stark, is incredibly wealthy as a result of doing this. A drug made from the blood of schizophrenics figures very heavily into the plot. You should consider it if you enjoy schlocky, gory 80s horror. It’s glorious, and even though it doesn’t quite stick the landing (how could it, really?), it’s a hell of a ride. 

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