Interviews

Over the course of the project, we were lucky enough to interview eight people. Most of them were native speakers of Russian, but a few were native speakers of German or English. We asked them questions about the culture of reading during their childhood, its material aspects, and what their thoughts were on everything from ebooks to BookTube. A big thank you to all of the wonderful people who were kind enough to participate!

The eight participants we interviewed: six native Russian speakers and two non-native Russian speakers.

Themes and sub-themes we found when analysing interview transcripts on NVivo. See Resources section to access NVivo file.

Translations: Books for Children and Young Adults

Reading books written in a different language to one’s own, set in faraway places and featuring outlandish characters, is an incredibly enriching experience as a child. Mrs Svetlana Booth commented that, for her, the English and French books that she read as a teenager ‘weren’t an escape, you don’t really think about escape at that age – it’s more like visiting another place, getting to know somewhere new’. Growing up in the Soviet Union meant that travel was limited; though Russia is an enormous country with plenty to see, it was difficult to go abroad. So children travelled the world from their bedroom, broadening their horizons and letting their imagination run wild with translated works.

Jules Verne’s novel ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, first published in French in 1872

Alexandre Dumas’s ‘The Three Musketeer’s’, written in French in 1844

The non-Russian author that perhaps stood out the most in our interviews was Jules Verne. His world-famous novels Around the World in 80 Days and The Children of Captain Grant were hugely popular. Mrs Booth remarked that she ‘read them constantly’. A second French author that was brought up quite a few times was Alexandre Dumas. Writing in the mid-19th century, his historical adventure novels such as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers still capture audiences today. Several of the people interviewed mentioned reading The Three Musketeers over and over again, and Dr Irina Leonhardt reminisced how it would seem to ‘take you away somewhere’.

Several of the people interviewed mentioned how the Russian fairy tales read to them were supplemented with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and those by Hans Christian Anderson. Fairy tales are one of our main sources of moral instruction as children, and it is interesting to note that German and Dutch fairy tales are both present in most households, be they British or Russian. Dr Mikhail Vodopyanov also described how during his childhood in Russia, one could buy wonderful little volumes of fairy tales from other countries, such as Persia, Uzbekistan or Scandinavia.

Finally, Alexander Volkov’s The Wizard of the Emerald City has been brought up again and again as a childhood favourite. Based on L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Volkov’s version changes the names of the characters, and adds new elements to the story, so much so that Volkov extended the story into several books, entitled the Magic Land series! Dr Vodopyanov described it as ‘lots of fun’ and used to love the Soviet cartoon version!

Grimm’s Fairy Tales, first published in German in 1812

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales have been translated into over 125 languages!

 

Volkov’s ‘The Wizard of the Emerald City’ was first published in 1939

 

 

Societal & Regional Influence on Book Culture in the Soviet Union/Russia:

Due to the nature of the Soviet Union and the glasnost years after its collapse, societal dynamics both nationally and regionally played a significant role in the production of literary culture. Dr Mikhail Vodopyanov described 1990s Russia as a “logocentric culture.” Despite all being from different regions of the former-USSR or Russia, some notable similarities existed between the experiences of the people we interviewed. One was the prevalence of inter-generational households; for both housing and cultural reasons, families living under the same roof would consist of children, parents, and grandparents. As a result, as children they were encouraged to read by numerous family members, many had access to extensive libraries in their own homes, and almost all had a specific family member in mind who inspired their interest in reading, whether a parent or a grandparent. Additionally, the exchanging and sharing of books among families, friends and within communities was a common occurrence; it was a way of banding together and supporting each other in what was a difficult socio-political climate for many.

The first publication of «Мастер и Маргарита,» in the Москва literary journal in 1966.

A phenomenon of the late 80s and early 90s, was the sharing of subscriptions to literary magazines and journals among colleagues, for instance, “key novels that were not published during the Soviet times would be published in those journals first rather than as books themselves, for example, Master and Margarita… by Bulgakov was first published in this «Новый Мир», the New World journal” (Dr Polina Kliuchnikova). Furthermore, there was the whole «самиздат» culture during the Soviet period that involved the circulation of typed copies of banned books before many of them were made available after the iron curtain’s collapse. While this culture was very common, there were also many people who weren’t part of any particularly dissident or literati circles, but read extensively, nonetheless. Whether banned or not, the shared experience of reading books was incredibly valuable and valued. A very noticeable attribute of book culture in Russia and the Soviet Union was how books were treated as treasured, almost sacrosanct objects. Dr Polina Kliuchnikova remarked, “the book, especially in the Soviet, post-Soviet times in Russia was a treasured object. You were supposed to respect the book.”

Map created with Palladio data visualization software. Points represent the locations where each of the people interviewed spent their childhoods tied to their common denominator, St Andrews.

Something that was mentioned both by Dr Kliuchnikova and Dr Vaysman — who are from Samara and Perm, respectively — were paper recycling centres, which existed across the Soviet Union, where “you bring your material for recycling and then there is a limited number of book titles that you can exchange [for]” (Dr Kliuchnikova). Dr Vaysman recalled, “you would have to trade in either books that you have or… collect wastepaper and you would bring it in. Let’s say, four kilograms of paper, entitled you to get one or two books.”

As succinctly put by Dr Vodopyanov, when discussing literary culture in one city, “we’re talking about… one particular school, one particular region, one particular snapshot of time”. Dr Irina Leonhardt, for example, as a child in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), remembers purchasing books for delivery selected from little booklets, “like Amazon now.” Also, because of the devastation of war, there were much fewer physical copies of books, particularly Germany literature, in circulation, so these were often only available in libraries.

The existence of physical bookshops also varied from city-to-city. Dr Margarita Vaysman is from Perm and, while she doesn’t remember there being many bookshops, “because the book distribution was so problematic, they had a network of kiosks that would sell newspapers. They would be called «русская печать, » so ‘Russian print’, and in the 1990s… they started stocking these Mills & Boon translations, which were published as an addendum to a journal.” On the other hand, Dr Leonhardt and Dr Kliuchnikova have no recollection of bookstores during their childhoods in East Germany and Samara, respectively. Dr Vodopyanov, unsure whether it was the same across the whole country, described the distinctive style of bookshops he went to as a child in Vladivostok: “You wouldn’t be like browsing through books by yourself. They were in glass cases and behind the glass cases, the salesperson would circulate [customers]… it was a very different kind of book-browsing experience.”

An example of a «союзпечать, » a kiosk that would sell newspapers and literary journals in the Soviet Union. A network of these arose in response to the irregularity of book distribution.

The Soviet Union was such a vast territory encompassing fifteen different republics all of which had further regional subdivisions into oblasts, krais, and autonomous republics. Perm, for example, where Dr Vaysman grew up was a regional centre for publishing houses, both state-funded and private, so a great deal of government funding and emphasis was placed on the development of culture, including book production. Further, it was the centre of a “huge gulag conglomerate and lots of political prisoners were sent there… so it also has a democratic tradition, a lot of dissent and things like that.”

All in all, despite the shared features of book culture across the Soviet Union, individual regions and cities also had their own customs and nuances, especially when it came to how books were made available whether through publishing houses, samizdat, libraries, bookstores, and recycling centres.

Libraries and Loaning

The role of libraries in Russia has changed over time. In 1965, the USSR had over 380,000 libraries with 4,600 of them being children’s libraries. There was an abundance of libraries with even the most rural of towns having their own reading room and library. But whilst these libraries were common and plentiful, the books they stocked were restricted to ‘appropriate’ materials. One interviewee said that the libraries were well stocked with the classic Russian books but had very little modern Russian fiction: “it was almost impossible to get because people would just check it out immediately.” In response to this, many families borrowed and exchanged books with neighbours and friends. Especially with children’s literature, books were passed down through generations and many Russians spoke of books that had been given to them by their parents or grandparents. This meant that many Russians were reading the same children’s literature that their parents had read, and that the introduction of modern Russian children’s literature was slow. One book that was repeatedly mentioned was Русский народны сказки. This was a very ornate set of fairy tales that would be treasured and read to children by their parents. Some editions were lavishly illustrated with gold leaf and embellishments, while others were simpler.

The loaning of books was more than just out of necessity, there was a deeper meaning to it. One interviewee said that “it was not just reading the book but also kind of looking at the child who read it before me.” Many interviewees talked about the insight they gained into their friends and families lives by reading their personal books – “It felt like I was getting into their world somehow.”

After the collapse of the USSR, libraries were no longer restricted by the party and began buying books regardless of the author’s ideology. This coincided with the increase of translated literature into Russian literature. However, despite all of this, libraries were on the decline. In 1996, former USSR countries had 115,000 libraries which was a significant decrease from the 380,000 in 1965. One interviewee remarked that in the late 90’s and early 2000s many rural libraries closed down due to lack of funding. This is an issue that has been exacerbated by the rise of the internet and e-books. In 2018, there was an estimated 40,000 libraries left in Russia with the Ministry of Culture going ahead with a library ‘consolidation programme.’ Vladimir Medinsky said that “a library has little chance of surviving as [mere] book storage in the 21st century unless it has some exclusive, great library. Libraries will have to be reconstructed.” This is similar to the decline in libraries in the US, where library usage has fallen 31% in the last eight years.

Overall, libraries and loaning have had a significant impact on children’s literature in Russia. And although this impact is dwindling it is still an area worthy of analysis due to its historical impact.

Materiality

Our team not only set out to research the transmediality of children’s literature and BookTube, but also to look at books as objects of material culture.

Mindmap summarising the main ideas connecting to the materiality of books.

Physicality and the Treatment of Books

The connection between Soviet societal attitudes and a more careful treatment of books was mentioned and alluded to by some of those we interviewed, as mentioned above. Dr Kliuchnikova discussed this, “I think I used to be very, very neat about my readings, so no pencil marks, no folded pages,” and went on to note “the book, especially in the Soviet, post-Soviet times in Russia, it was a treasured object, yes. You were supposed to respect the book.” Alina Kichigina, who grew up in the late 90s and early 00s, described how her father, who grew up in the Soviet Union, was taken aback by the way she was encouraged to treat books when she moved to England; “when I moved to the UK and I was asked by my English teacher to highlight and write in my book, my dad was shocked! He was like ‘ah! How do you do that? You write in books, that’s crazy!’” To look after them was to keep them in as clean and well-kept of a condition as possible.

Dr Leonhardt, who grew up in the GDR, also described how she looks after books, “you want them to be perfect, not perfect, but read, but not manky, you know… you would take care of them.” Expanding on the idea of caring for books, Dr Leonhardt went on:

“I always think that books are like friends. They wait for you… and they don’t get cross if you don’t open them for 30 years… They are still there, so it’s really like friends. They’re waiting for you. They have their story to tell you and it’s just it’s a matter of trust. So, if I’m trusting them, they trust me to take care of them, you know? So, this is like friends, like having lots of friends in your bookcase you know, like little voices, you take out a book and this is a different voice from a different time, and it speaks to you and then you put it back, say thank you and that’s it. You know until the next time, so to say.” Owning books is a privilege, but also a responsibility, to some.

Dr Leonhardt’s childhood copy of Красная Шапочка, the illustrations from which she remembers well, and reread several times in childhood. She looked after her books very well, in childhood and today.

Mr Mikhail Vodopyanov, who grew up in Vladivostok in the 90s and 00s, said “I feel like I treat mine gently, but that will depend on what type of book it is. I mean, if it’s a non-fiction book, I would maybe use a pencil, and I would sort of highlight things, and maybe write things up… I haven’t really done this kind of dog-earing at all, not that I’m averse to it, but it’s just sort of never occurred to me as a habit.”

Mr Vodopyanov’s copy of Почему у белого пуделя черный нос? which looks to be in excellent condition, having been passed down from 1976.

Beyond the physical book

The way a book is treated and looked after becomes a window of insight into a book’s individual history and journey. A book takes on much more than the words and illustrations given to it by the author. It becomes a vessel, carrying memories and associations, unique to each owner and each book, evoking memories, feelings, images…

Discussing Tolstoy’s Золотой Ключик, Dr Kliuchnikova recalled reading her mother’s copy; “I remember it was very shabby and some of the illustrations were kind of tampered with, had tried to be coloured or something. So yeah, it was not just reading the book but also kind of looking at a child who read it before me.” The book goes beyond its capacity to contain and pass on the knowledge printed in it, but also tells stories of those who read it before. Dr Gardiner commented on annotations from previous owners; “I buy so many books online second hand, and the frustration when a copy has pencil in, has really made me realize that… you’re kind of just a gatekeeper for these things, and then they’re going to be passed on hopefully to someone else.” His sense of responsibility towards the books has deterred him from writing in them as “these books have these kinds of afterlives, and long after the first owner…” Books that are written or drawn in take on new ideas to share with the next reader.

It is not only physical marks or annotations that give books their own life, but their history. Not explicitly defined or described in the book, books can have a history attached to them by those who hold and read it, unique for every person. Dr Finer described a copy of Anna Karenina she was given by the family of a friend who had passed as having “a really interesting… aura. Like nothing else… So, there are various books I have that I feel have stories that are not necessarily to do with the actual book.” If other people were to hold that book, they would not associate that history with it. Books can become important artefacts to us, like they contain some part of a person or of a relationship with them. A book can become a memorial to a person, in a context such as the one described by Dr Finer here, by evoking strong memories and associations. Linking back to Dr Kliuchnikova’s experience reading her mother’s copy of Золотой Ключик, the history of a particular copy of a book can influence our own experience of reading that copy, as she experienced with the coloured in illustrations her mother drew.

This extends to rereading our own books, as Dr Finer noted: “at the same time are you also rereading yourself reading it… it is almost like reading about the childhood that you identified with or were fascinated by, so that’s a strange thing as well. It almost becomes your memory.” As we reread, we remember and relive certain stories in a book, we experience emotional passages again. Certain books, perhaps specifically books important to us in childhood, become a comfort for many.

Books go beyond their original content as they take on a history of their own, but they also create whole worlds for readers, not physically tangible, but vivid and real in reader’s minds, which is a psychological response to the book and unique to each reader. In some cases, this inspires reader’s imaginations to create something new, beyond that which was originally created by the author. Dr Finer described playing imaginative games with a friend based on books they had both read, and Mr Vodopyanov described writing his own Муми stories. All of this is an expansion of a physical book; worlds, ideas and feelings that aren’t tangible, but that all come about as a result of the physical book, and seeing or holding those books again brings back some of those emotions and creations in our minds.

Mr Vodopyanov’s Муми, from childhood. This inspired him as a child to write his own stories which expanded upon the books he read.

All interviewees drew distinct differences between their experiences of reading eBooks and physical books. Generally, there seems to be value in the process of receiving or buying physical books, and keeping and sharing them. I noticed a sort of nervousness surrounding the decline of book reading, particularly the reading of the physical copies of books. If eBooks are cheaper and more transportable, I am left asking why we seem to continue to prefer physical copies, or at least value them more? Maybe it is because we trust the older medium, or because we are afraid of change. Or perhaps it is because we like to try and give knowledge and writing a material form. It feels good to have our fictional worlds in our hands, written down and tangible to some degree. To store it on the shelf for another time, and to pass it between hands and generations. There is no on or off button on a book, it is solely our responsibility to keep it alive.

 

 

Transmediality of Children’s books

Transmedia, a narrative way of telling one story or one series of stories across multiple platforms and formats with different digital techniques. Children’s books might be one of the most frequent users of transmedia storytelling. Children’s books and literature, especially in modern times when there are more and more digital means, are not only limited to the textual narrative. They apply multiple visualizations means to enrich methods for children to receive the message in the story. They can be made into illustrations, animated TV series, films and audiobooks. Narrative with multiple media confers an efficient way of dissemination of a story, children could memorize it with the media formats they are most impressed with.

In Russian children’s magazine Весёлые картинки, mentioned by interviewees, transmedia storytelling is the most common way used by the magazine to depict short stories and poems. As a magazine, the most frequent medium form in it is the combination of illustrations and texts. Besides its application of illustrations, the magazine also designs interactive sections for children to interact with the story told in texts to achieve the purpose of creative education.

The important status of this magazine is proved by the transcript in the above sections and also Russian booktubers who introduce it as the important reading material for children. In this video, the booktuber talks about the content of the magazine and how this magazine was shared in the community.

 

The power of transmediality can be found in Belgium comic strips The Adventure of Tintin. It was made into various forms of medium, including animated TV series, films and audio dramas, even video games. The transmediality of The Adventure of Tintin helps it spread to many countries and prolongs the activeness of the work. It is now still very popular, there is even a subject called Tintinology and the online forum for tintinologists to share their findings and researches. One of the key points for Tintin to become a world-known story was when it was produced as animated TV series in the 1990s, the rate of dissemination of it accelerated. Many translated versions were made and aired by local television stations.

Different medium of The Adventure of Tintin

When The Adventure of Tintin first entered Russia and began to be known by Russian readers, it did not first appear in the format of albums, but as a film screened in 1993. Sometimes, it is easier for the new digital medium to enter into a foreign country because there are no strict censorship restrictions yet made to stop its entrance.

YearMedia forms of The Adventure of TintinThe setting (changes) of the storyCountry/Language
19291929 January, Comic strip serialized at Le Vingtieme Siecle (The Twentieth Century), a staunchly Roman Catholic conservative Belgian newspaper Herge first wanted to send set the story in the United States, but his editor Wallez ordered him to set the adventure in the Soviet Union, acting as anti socialist propaganda for children > Tintin in the Land of the SovietsBelgium 
1930Tintin was syndicated to a Catholic magazine named Brave Hearts then receiving syndication requests from Swiss and Portuguese newspaperBelgium, Swiss and Portugese 
1931-1932Herge finally could use his own settingsuse the element of anti-capitalist and anti-consumerists agenda in the story in Tintin In America
1940-1945Under the invasion and occupation of Nazi, Herge could no longer produce new series of Tintin and himself was arrested.The role of Tintin was changed from a reporter to an explorer
1946Herge continued the serialization of The Adventure of Tintin under the invitation of Raymond Leblanc and in Le journal de Tintin. It became the coloured comic 
1950sThe works were adapted for the American English market by Golden Books.Some artwork panels were left blanked because some content was considered to be inappropriate for children and was removed (eg drunkness and free mixing of races)

The edited albums later had their blanked areas redrawn by Herge to be more acceptable 
US, translated from French into American English 
1951first appeared in English in the weekly British children’s comic EagleThe British translations were Anglicised to appeal to British customs and values. Milou was renamed Snowy for example

The Black Island which is set in Great Britain was entirely redrawn, this 1966 album became the most commonly available version today
UK, translated into English
1957Animated series named Herge’s Adventures of Tintin produced by Belvision Studios was first aired 5-minute episode based stories in the series varied from the original booksUnited States, UK
1966-1979Children’s Digest published monthly instalments of TintinUS
1970sAtlantic Monthly Press in cooperation with Little, Brown and Company republish the alums based on the British translation 
1990sThe film Tintin and the Lake of Sharks (1972) was aired on Russian television
1991/1992Animated TV show written and animated in France by Ellipse Animation and in Canada by Nelvana InternationalCertain parts of the stories need to be changed to adapt to the taste of the more modern young audience 

The high amount of violence, death and the use of firearms were toned down or removed

“Tintin in the land of the Soviets”, “Tintin in the Congo” and “Tintin and Alph-Art” were not included in the series 
UK, France, US, Canada, Brazil (1992), Sri Lanka, Israel, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Arabic speaking regions, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Japan (1994/ 2001-2002), Philippines (mid-1990s), southeast Asia, Poland, Portugal (until late 2003 in the French version with Portuguese subtitles), Denmark (1990s), Saudi Arabia (1990s in English), German (1990s), Sweden, Colombia (1992 by HBO Ole), Republic of Ireland
1993-1994Tintin in Russian was first released, but it remains unknown to the public 
1992-1993 The radio series was produced by BBC Radio 4

Radio dramas on LP and compact cassette recordings 
French, German, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian
1993-2001French publishing house Casterman with Russian publisher МК-Книги published Tintin in Russian. All eight albums the name of the hero was translated into ТантанRussian 
2013More albums were continuing to be published Russian

Both of these two works are specially made for children, Весёлые картинки are designed for the purpose of educating children in an interesting way and The Adventure of Tintin acted as the anti-socialist propaganda for children. So, transmedia storytelling is a very essential element which the author or the editor would consider when they are designing books or magazines for children. It is a part of the narrative of the literature.

Transmediality enlarges the range of dissemination of a book or a story and is an essential element in children’s books. Prior to the appearance of Internet online videos, digital mediums like illustrations, animations and films also has this function. Booktubes in recent years rise as a new form of presenting a book and it has a further future as a new way for readers to get to know about physical books.

The Russian Publishing Industry

The tumultuous landscape of Russian history and politics has leant itself to an ever-changing publishing industry. Soviet attitudes to commodification alongside censorship restricted the publishing industry’s output in both the printing and selling of their titles. Post-Soviet publishers stretched their legs with the new freedoms and utilised the government’s shift in philosophy towards commodifying culture and created new and exciting editions of classic stories. More recently, increased access to literature and freely available content online has presented the book trade with the new challenge of captivating readers’ attention and social media appears to be the solution. As a figure whose work was approved for publishing, due to the belief that his Realism supported the proletarian struggle, editions of Charles Dickens work will be presented.

Restrictions on Soviet Publishing

The work of independent publishers was not envied by many. Government censorship took an unpredictable form which saw many titles restricted to the спецхран (restricted access library) before their publication date. The threat and implications of censorship had publishers choosing the safest outcome and choosing not to sell particular titles before they even had the opportunity to be restricted.

Aside from whether the content of the book was approved from publishing, deciding upon the economic value of a book was challenging. Communist theory criticises the commodification of culture so it became challenging for publishers to determine the value of a text by its content. Instead, publishers looked to the production costs of a book in order to determine its monetary value.

1954 edition of Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son (cover image)

This 1954 translated edition of Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son  is representative of the Soviet-style of publishing. The first inside page reveals that this edition was published by Государственное Издательство (State Publisher) in Petrozavodsk of the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic. Commonalities between Soviet editions usually show in their physical attributes. The main being the use of hardback, cheap paper, and minimal decorative design. By the 1970s and 1980s, 80% of all published books were produced by Государственное Издательство (Valeria Stelmakh) so this style was reproduced for various authors and titles.

Title page with publisher information in this 1954 edition of Dombey and Son

 

Post-Soviet Trends and Editions

After the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s, the more drastic restrictions on media were lifted. Publishers began to move away from the communist philosophy against commodifying culture and started to publish beautiful, decorative editions. In line with publishers, the Post-Soviet consumer began to display decorative books in their homes as a luxury item. This interplay between publishers and consumers encouraged the sustained publication of expensive editions of classics which is still prevalent today.

Exterior of Pan Press’ Oliver Twist

This 2009 Pan Press edition of Oliver Twist in hardback is far more influenced by aesthetics than the State Publisher Dombey and Son. This edition features expensive, gilt-edged paper and font stamping. Another interesting feature is the inclusion of illustrations by Anatoly Itkin, who was well-known and well employed for his ability to capture the essence of the writer (Tatiana Boborkina). Boborkina’s Dickens in Post-Soviet Russia values this illustrated edition at $100 to $150.

Illustration by Anatoly Itkin in the Pan Press edition of Oliver Twist

 

BookTube as the Modern Solution to a Modern Dilemma

The global publishing industry is reaching a crisis point. The industry has shifted from a model based on selling a select number of established authors to a business strategy that lies in wait for the next big hit. To give an idea of the global situation, a look at José M. Tomasena’s Collaborations: BookTubers, the Publishing Industry, and YouTube’s Ecosystem clearly showcases the problem. More titles are being published than ever, creating an oversaturated market. To accommodate the costs of this, the average print-run in the Spanish markets has dropped by 45.5% since 2008. Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, described the industry as a business of failure. Publishers release so many new titles in hope that one will become the next major obsession of society but with the knowledge that most will fail.

Publishing Perspectives report of the pandemic’s impact on Russian publishing

Alex Clark writes for the Guardian on the oversaturated publishing industry

BookTube and BookTubers provide a marketing opportunity that is impossible to ignore. Social media platforms are globally inhabited constantly by the hard-to-engage youth. BookTubers build their online presence through their engaging reviews of books. Certain trends, such as Bookhauls (Книжные покупки), are particularly useful for publishers in promoting physical book sales.

Compared to other BookTube cultures, Russian-speaking BookTube is still in the earlier phases of its development. It is too early to fully understand the interactions between publishers and Russian BookTubers, however a glance to Tomasena’s article could provide a prediction. His article suggests that publishers can subtly pressure BookTubers to include gifted, press release titles  in their videos. If successful, the publisher creates online buzz and anticipation for the release of the new title and boost sales.

An established BookTuber, bookspace, demonstrating the BookTube trend of shopping hauls

Russian Booktube 

As the Russian online book community has developed, the most modern examples are represented by Russian BookTube and Russian BookTok. Over the last several years, Russian BookTube has been expanding, mirroring the spread of other international BookTube communities. However, some features unique to Russian-speaking content creators (or книжные блогери) fit into trends seen in the interviews shown above.

After analyzing timelines of BookTube channels in several languages (primarily English, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic), Russian BookTube seems to follow the overarching trends of the predominantly English-speaking BookTube community. This includes book reviews, tutorials on how to begin reading more, series recommendations, and more. However, over time, the content typically shifts to a higher production standard, and reviews often focus on the most popular books at the time, especially best-selling series. Content is often focused on young adult novels, directed at their target audience and brand deals.

Screenshot from popular Russian BookTuber Calvadoze- this channel is featured for the emphasis on aesthetics in his videos, along with a more international audience.

Russian BookTube has seemed to follow this pattern, as a number of Russian BookTubers began their channels by reviewing Russian classics, or stories from their childhood. However, as their following develops, often times more international books or series are reviewed, and more English works appear in their videos. Foreign novels are frequently shown in the translated Russian version and are reviewed, or feature on a prominent place in the background bookshelf of the videos. Although Russian BookTube seems to cater to a specific Russian-speaking audience, the emergence of more foreign novels could possibly be attributed to the auto-generated subtitles that make videos accessible in several languages.

Screenshot from the channel Alua Reads- sorted from most popular to show the most watched videos from a Russian audience.

Overall, Russian BookTube focuses on the aesthetics of the books as material objects more heavily than the other languages. In larger, more popular channels, this includes lighting, sound production, the quality of the books presented, and more. Hardback books are shown more often, and the focus is typically on the books themselves as valuable objects.

Screenshot of Russian BookTuber bookspace- an excerpt from Harry Potter is shown in a bookshelf tour of favourite books, including Russian and English classics

Another feature unique to Russian BookTube is place reading aloud occupies in content production. When typing in youtube книги…. the next several options suggested include some form of reading aloud, the first option being книги онлайн слушатъ, followed by за слушане, бг аудио, and аудио. This indicates a tendency of Russian YouTubers to both prefer and produce BookTube content which features reading aloud from sections of literature, something which mirrors the cultural importance of reading aloud to children, as well as guests and family within gatherings and celebrations.

Russian BookTok 

The most modern example of transmediality concerning Russian book content is shown in the viral app TikTok, mostly representing an adapted version of Russian BookTube. In Russian BookTok, the focus is shifted more from the person to the actual book as a material object, as the time frame is shortened to 1 minute and there is more material to cover. Books here are often aestheticized even more than on BookTube, to try and sell their story to viewers more quickly. BookToks are condensed, brief overviews that are created to be seen in succession to other tiktoks, whereas booktube involves more of a dialogue with the blogger. Certain elements of Russian booktube such as the reading aloud or cultural backstories are often absent from the TikToks, and they more closely resemble those of other languages and cultures. Due to the recent popularity of TikTok, the age range of creators is also slightly lower, which is reflected in the preferences for books reviewed, mostly focusing on fantasy/ young adult novels and books from their childhood.

Screenshot from the search results of #книгикоторыестоитпрочитатъ, showing thousands of interactions with Russian BookTok in views, likes, and uploads

Over the last several years, Russian BookTube and BookTok have represented a way for Russian audiences and content creators to interact on an online platform with others who share their affinity for literature. As the online culture/ transmediality of books as material objects develops, certain culture signifiers have remained, making the Russian-speaking community unique in the way they present and identify with the books they own.