Introducing Egypt’s BookTubers

Nada El Shabrawi 05.12.2018
Nada El Shabrawi was the first Egyptian to create her own professional BookTubing channel in 2017. In her videos she talks about books that have struck a nerve with her. 

Shady also produces shows online that offer tips on literature. In interview, the two discuss this new trend, their passion for literature and the Arab public’s response.

How popular is BookTubing in the Arab World?
Shady: BookTubing is a relatively recent trend in the Arab world, especially in Egypt – some other Arab countries were admittedly quicker to discover it. Nada was the first Egyptian to really get to grips with BookTubing. Before long other channels and shows began popping up, including mine. I have followers in all Arab countries as well as Arab readers in other countries.
Nada: When I first started BookTubing it wasn’t a thing in Egypt. People weren’t familiar with it. But they got along with it right from the start. It’s not that they loved it or hated it, they didn’t know it. I have followers throughout the Arab world. Apart from Egypt, I have many followers in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
When and why did you start BookTubing?
Nada: I started reviewing books online through videos on Facebook in March 2017, switching to YouTube in July. Booktubing is very important to me, because I believe that this way I can give something back to potential readers for all the knowledge I have gained from books.
Shady: I started my show “Beta’ al-kutub” (“بتاع الكتب”) exactly one year ago. First it only ran on Facebook, then I switched to YouTube in September 2017. I’m interested in BookTubing because that’s my passion: talking about things I like and communicating with people in a different, more contemporary and appealing way.
How often do you upload videos? How many followers do you have?
Nada: I post four times a month, but sometimes I also post videos during the week in which I try to be more interactive with my followers. I build the whole video on the questions I have received from them. I have 19,000 subscribers on YouTube and 27,000 followers on Facebook.
Shady: It’s a weekly show with four episodes a month. The videos are uploaded every Friday on my YouTube channel. Sometimes there are more than four episodes because I also stream live videos on my Facebook page on weekdays. I usually improvise these videos and give book and reading tips. But in my main videos I talk about selected books and based on a script I wrote for them. I have about 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 choose the books that you review? Do publishers or authors reach out to you?
Shady: In my videos I talk about very different books. I concentrate on fiction, but I also talk about important non-fiction books on psychology, history or biographies. I don’t just talk about books on my YouTube channel, after all, one video a week isn’t that much. I also post reviews and recommendations on my Facebook page. I choose the books myself based on my own reading and recommendations from reliable friends. Some publishers have approached me about their books, of course, but I prefer to choose them myself.
Nada: The books I discuss must meet certain criteria, personal or professional. First of all, I only review a book if I like it. At the same time, I try to select from the books I like those that have a readership. Or those for whom it seems likely that they will find a readership. So I don’t just post what I like, because not everything I read is what others want to hear. No, I don’t get recommendations for books I should review.
Nada: I’m amazed by the success and the popularity the show has gained in such short time. And I’m glad to be doing something that moves so many people – whether they read 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, in terms of content, presentation or production. Many followers have noticed this and they like it.
How would you describe the role of BookTubing in Egypt today?
Nada: I would say that BookTubing is gaining in popularity every day. People are constantly starting new channels that are related to books, which is a good sign.
Shady: BookTubing is important because it represents a revolutionary way of communicating and connecting with readers. Not many people read nowadays, so written reviews have lost importance and are not as helpful as videos. Some people simply find it easier and more helpful to watch something. I hope to see more creativity in this field and more support and development of this phenomenon.
Nada El Shabrawi, 23 years old, is a law graduate. She works as a publishing director at Tanmia publishing house in Cairo.