This Or That: Booktok’s Bookish Debates

Earlier this year, my sister and I started a joint TikTok account: BookRush. Mostly, it features the Rush siblings ribbing each other for their poor taste in books and sharing new reads with the larger “BookTok” community. 

Occasionally, we’ll put out a poll asking BookTok folks to chime in on big bookish debates. To date, we’ve posted 11 such polls, and they’ve each shed some light on long-held bookish opinions. Where do readers stand in the ebook vs. physical battle? How about Hardcover vs. Paperback? These questions and more have finally been answered beyond even a minuscule shadow of a doubt…

…or maybe they’ve just been answered by the small sampling of BookTokers that follow BookRush. Still, the insights are fun to explore, so let’s dive into some of the bookish debates. 

Libraries Vs. Bookstores

  • Libraries: 30% (59 votes)
  • Bookstores: 71% (141 votes) (not a typo)

We’re no strangers to this ages-old battle at The Quill To Live. Leave it to BookTok to break the system and fuel a poll result totaling 101%. 

I’m not incredibly surprised here, though. Much of the bookish TikTok community flaunts their book hauls and shopping sprees, while a quiet minority extolls the virtues of local libraries. 

Ideal Reading Time: Morning Vs. Evening

  • Morning: 19% (17 votes)
  • Evening: 81% (71 votes)

Disclaimer: this poll is the most recent to go live, so it could still skew slightly. However, the majority seems to favor evening reading sessions, and I agree. For me, reading time hits when all other responsibilities are off the table, all boxes checked. My brain can shut down, enter a state of flow, and enjoy my latest Brandy Sandy book. 

A small cadre of commenters noted that they like to read in spurts throughout the day, often due to the structure of their work. Good on you, BookTokers. Get those pages in whenever you can. 

Stopping Points: Mid-Chapter Vs. End Of Chapter

  • Stop Mid-Chapter: 48% (81 votes)
  • Finish the chapter: 52% (89 votes)

Funny, the poll that has the most split response also relies heavily on outside reading factors. I prefer to finish a chapter, but time constraints don’t always allow for it. On the train? Stop when you disembark. Between meetings? Close the book and hop on that call (then pick it back up because meetings are shams and Corporate America is society’s collective lie).

All fair, though I did ask for personal preference, and the split proves interesting. I’m still firmly on the “finish when you can” side of things. Clean stopping points make for nicely packaged reading sessions. 

Fantasy Vs. Science Fiction

  • Sci-fi: 19% (36 votes)
  • Fantasy: 81% (151 votes)

What a landslide. What a disappointing landslide. BookTok loves fantasy–outside of contemporary/lit-fic accounts, I’d wager most BookTokers are fantasy aficionados. You’re hard-pressed to find a sci-fi-specific account, and it feels like most consider spacefaring favorites part of a secondary genre.

Some of the comments on this poll call the discrepancy out directly. “Y’all are sleeping on sci-fi,” one user correctly says. 

I think there’s a hesitation and a misunderstanding among many fantasy readers about just what, precisely, sci-fi can be. It’s not all The Martian, folks. You can find heartwarming, magical space adventures too. Have you met Becky Chambers? Martha Wells? Let me introduce you. 

To be fair, the question in the video asked readers to choose ONE genre for the rest of their lives, and I get the gut instinct to stick to what you know. 

Fast-Paced Plot Stories Vs. Slow-Burn Character-Centric Stories

  • Fast-paced: 67% (65 votes)
  • Slow-burn: 33% (33 votes)

In retrospect, I feel stupid for even asking this question. Mistborn ticks both boxes, as do countless other books. But the crux of the question is: would you rather read something like Dune or something like Dark Matter? Both have their merits, but they are distinct forms of storytelling. 

I’m not too surprised by the outcome here, considering most of BookTok favors contemporary romance and modern thrillers. Shoutout to the fantasy fans who chimed in with the slow-burn option, which I favor. 

Hardcover Vs. Paperback

  • Hardcover: 39% (120 votes)
  • Paperback: 61% (189 votes)

One of the closest splits here, and that tracks. Commenters seem to prefer the portable nature of paperbacks and the stability of hardcovers. And I imagine most readers have a hearty combination of both on their home shelves. 

Still, questions of ideal format are usually very interesting, which brings me to…

Physical Vs. Ebook

  • Physical: 87% (245 votes)
  • Ebook: 13% (36 votes)

Get fucked, ebooks. Physical books have earned the largest margin of victory against their opponent across all the polls I’ve posted. But I think most readers lean toward a combo deal. I certainly do, especially because digital ARCs are easier to find than physical copies. 

Ideal Chapter Length: Long Vs. Quick

  • Long: 18% (30 votes)
  • Quick: 82% (133 votes)

Mehhhhhh. Count me among the minority here. I like a beefy chapter. Quickfire snippets always spark that voice in my head: “Well, this would be a good stopping point.” Or I constantly flip pages ahead to see how many I have left. With a long chapter, I just go. When I’m done, I’m done. And if I need to stop mid-chapter, so be it. I prefer my chapters to feel like full, fleshed-out stories rather than speedy vignettes. 

Fantasy Settings: Real World Or Different World?

  • Real World: 20% (19 votes)
  • Different World: 80% (74 votes)

I’m not surprised by this at all. Most readers prefer to be swept away and introduced to a world completely separate from ours.

There’s merit in both story types, of course. Urban fantasies and real-world tales with a magical twist (e.g. Harry Potter or The Magicians) have to get creative with the way our world works. But the allure of new realms is hard to fight. 

Best Way To Read Comics: Issue By Issue Vs. Collected Editions

  • Issue By Issue: 31% (17 votes)
  • Collected editions: 69%* (37 votes)

Small sample size here, probably due to the sweeping prose-leaning preferences of my BookTok circles. But a fair share of comic fans chimed in, and the collected editions won the day. This is how I prefer my graphic stories; I’ve always found the wait between issues exhausting. 

I guess there’s still a dedicated comic book fandom that appreciates the format’s historical approach to new releases, and I can appreciate that. Just give me the big volumes once the latest story arc ends and I’ll be happy. 


The Shining: Book Or Movie?

  • Book: 65% (59 votes)
  • Movie: 35% (32 votes)

I specifically asked people to vote only if they’ve both read the book and seen the movie. Surely nobody voted after consuming only one or the other…right?

Regardless, happy the book got its due here. However, both mediums tell a worthy version of the same story, and I’m happy Kubrick’s film got some love, too. 

Who Wins In A Fight: Vin Or Geralt?

  • Vin: 73% (24 votes)
  • Geralt: 27% (9 votes)

I love these thought experiments, and I’ll probably do more smackdowns in the future. But I’m happy the viewers picked Vin. As one commenter put it, “Vin is essentially a lesser god.” Truth, and I think Geralt would struggle to hold his own against even a book 2 Vin. The mobility and versatility of Allomancy make her a difficult target to pin down, and–oh, what’s that? Geralt’s primary sword is made of steel? I don’t know whether Vin will eat it or flick it away with a stray thought, but either way, I need to see this. 

This vote is skewed anyway, thanks to my friend Dylan, who voted despite never having read Mistborn. Way to go, Dylan, you’re wrong again. 


3 thoughts on “This Or That: Booktok’s Bookish Debates

  1. A huge number of short chapters is a a bit of a warning sign for me. It doesn’t have to be all bad, but it usually means that the book will lack depth. It doesn’t leave enough room to get deeply immersed in the world or the characters because almost all the time has to be spent on the plot. I can still enjoy such a book if the story is entertaining enough, but it’s not as fulfilling as a meaty book

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