Interview
Successful in Egypt as well: Booktubing

Booktuber Nada and Shady
© Goethe-Institut

Booktubing, which refers to self-produced videos that present literature online, has turned into a major trend that resonates powerfully with audiences across the Internet. Nada Elshabrawy was the first Egyptian to create her own professional Booktubing channel in 2017. In her videos, which she produces on a regular basis, she talks about books that are near to her heart. Shady also produces shows online that offer tips on literature. In an interview, the two discuss this new trend, their passion for literature and the response of the public in the Arabic world.

How popular is book tubing in in the Arab World?

Shady: Book tubing is a relatively recent trend in the Arab world, especially in Egypt—some other Arab countries have introduced it a few years before us. Nada Elshabrawy was the first Egyptian to deal with book-tubing in a committed and professional way. Soon there were more channels and shows, including mine. I have followers from all Arab countries as well as Arabic speakers living in other countries.

Nada: When I first started book tubing it wasn’t a thing in Egypt. People weren’t familiar with it. However they started to cope with it from the beginning. It’s not that they loved or hated it before, but that they didn’t know about it. I have followers form allover the Arab world. Other than Egypt I have many followers in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.
 
When and why did you start book tubing?

Nada: In March 2017, I’ve started reviewing books online through videos on Facebook but I switched to Youtube in July. It’s important to me because – I believe – this way, I’m paying back for all the knowledge I received through books to all the potential readers. I like to think that I’m doing something useful that will remain after me.

Shady: I started my show “Beta’ al-kutub” (“بتاع الكتب”) exactly one year ago. At first it was only on Facebook, but then I switched to YouTube in September 2017. I’m interested in book-tubing because that’s my passion: talking about the things I love and communicating with people in a different way; a more contemporary and appealing way.
 
How often do you upload videos ? How many followers do you have?

Nada: I post 4 videos monthly, but sometimes I post more, in the form of Mid-Week videos, in which I try to be more interactive with the followers, as I specifically make the whole video upon the questions I receive from them. On Youtube I have approximately 19,000 subscribers and on Facebook 27,000 followers.

Shady: It’s a weekly show, 4 episodes per month. The videos are uploaded on my YouTube channel every Friday. Sometimes it’s more than 4 episodes, because I also stream live videos on my Facebook page on weekdays. These videos are usually improvised and include book recommendations and reading tips. But in the main videos I talk about certain books I select based on a script I write. I have around 3,500 followers on my YouTube channel, 10,000 followers on my Facebook page and 47.000 followers on my personal account.
 
How do you pick the books that you review? Do publishers or authors reach out to you?

Shady: In my videos, I talk about all sorts of books. I focus on fiction, but I also talk about important non-fiction books like psychology and history books and biographies. I don’t talk about books on my YouTube channel only, one video a week isn’t that much after all. I also post book reviews and recommendations on my Facebook page. I choose the books myself, based on my own readings and some recommendations from trusted friends. Some publishers have reached out to me to review their books, of course, but I usually prefer my personal choice.

Nada: The books I review must have certain criteria, whether personal or professional ones. So firstly I don’t review any book unless I like it. But at the same time I try to pick from the books I like, the ones that would have audience. Or the ones which are likely to have audience. So I don’t just post the books I like because obviously not all what I read would be suitable for everyone to hear about. No, I don’t get any recommendations from anyone regarding the books I should review.
 
Which feedback do you get from your followers?

Nada: I’m amazed the success and the popularity the show has gained in such short time. And I’m glad I could do something that influenced so many people whether they started reading what I recommend or recommend other books to other people themselves.

Shady: I actually get a lot of support from my followers and even my friends. I try to present new material each time, whether in terms of the content, the presentation or the production. Many followers have noticed this and they like it.
 
How would you describe the role of book tubing in Egypt, today?

Nada: I would say that booktubing is gaining more and more popularity every day. People are starting new channels that are involved in the books industry, which is a good sign.

Shady: Book-tubing is important because it’s a revolutionary way to communicate and connect among readers. Not many people read nowadays, so written reviews have lost their importance and aren’t as useful as videos, which some find easier to watch and more useful. I hope to see more creativity in this field and more support and development of this phenomena.


Nada Elshabrawi, 23 years old, is a law graduate. She works as a Publishing Director at Tanmia Publishing House in Cairo.