Turning over a new leaf: why are so many YouTubers writing books?
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YouTube has spawned its own class of seemingly superhuman individuals. They, in a manner not overly dissimilar to the plot line of many a science fiction franchise, have eased themselves into world domination – for the teen generation at least. 'YouTuber' is now an entirely valid – highly lucrative, even – job title, the key qualification for which is a legion of loyal subscribers to the individual in question's channel. A YouTuber's mysterious power is his or her effortless and impenetrable guise of normality, whilst influencing our opinions, purchases and tastes. Of course, the cult of the YouTuber owes its success to the immediacy and interactivity of the internet. Channels are supported by accounts on other social media websites such as Instagram and Twitter. Yet in recent months, there has been a growing trend in YouTubers extending their influence beyond the virtual and into new, literary realms. For example, British 24-year-old Zoe Sugg – whose channel 'Zoella' boasts over 6.5 million subscribers – released her debut novel Girl Online in late November this year. As to be expected, the book was an instant success and became the fastest ever selling debut novel, smashing J. K. Rowling's previous record. On YouTube, Sugg offers big sisterly advice on beauty, fashion and the more troubling issues teens today face such as anxiety and online bullying. Her new book features a protagonist constructed around these themes. Earlier this year, Sugg's boyfriend Alfie Deyes, whose main channel 'PointlessBlog' focuses on wacky challenges and vlogging released The Pointless Book, filled with games and activities. His signing event at a London Waterstones was so mobbed by young fans a police helicopter was drafted in to monitor crowds. This expansion into the literary world may seem like an unusual move. For the younger generation, the internet – or even the simple reading of any kind of text on a mobile device – has overtaken the humble book (yes, made of real paper pages!) as new consumers prefer its interactivity and ability to quickly connect with others sharing a particular idea or interest. Yet despite the merits of an enormous social media following, writing a book can seem like a YouTuber's crowning achievement, proving that the individual in question has truly become a sparkling media star. The internet belongs to everyone as its users engage with one another as equals, yet this makes for a diluted environment in which high quality media can be lost amongst ubiquitous hashtags, selfies and trolls. To be an author wields implications of authority, as a book condenses an individual's ideas and anchors them firmly in one place, safe from the threat of the unsubscribe button. Many YouTubers initially began making videos to supplement their blogs. However, a clear distinction is always made between being a blogger and an author, even though the two are based on the same principle – writing and sharing this work with others. Today, social media ironically places value on the material, as books are appreciated for their ability to distance both writers and their readers from the babble of voices online.
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