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Artist Profile: ‘cari can read’ on BookTube and the Joy of Reading

Videos like Cakes’s “Here’s the entire plot of ACOTAR so you don't have to read 500 pages” allow readers to get invested in long series in a low-stakes manner.
Videos like Cakes’s “Here’s the entire plot of ACOTAR so you don't have to read 500 pages” allow readers to get invested in long series in a low-stakes manner. By Courtesy of Cari Cakes
By Hannah E. Gadway, Crimson Staff Writer

Cari Cakes is a content creator based in Seoul, Korea, known for her lifestyle vlogs and her book-centered YouTube channel, “cari can read.” In the fast-paced digital age, it may sound surprising that someone can generate a following based on reading, but Cakes’s “BookTube” account boasts nearly 300 thousand subscribers, and her videos have been viewed over 21 million times. In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, Cakes discussed how she entered the book space, social media’s effects on the publishing sphere, and advice for young professionals looking to pursue what they love.

With the growth of book-centered online communities like BookTube, BookTok, and Bookstagram, reading has become more accessible than ever. Videos like Cakes’s “Here’s the entire plot of ACOTAR so you don't have to read 500 pages” allow readers to get invested in long series in a low-stakes manner. Cakes spoke about how she has already seen book-based social media affect the publishing world, pointing at the popular publisher Entangled Publishing.

“They are so clearly tuned into BookTok and BookTube, all the book things. Because of the way that they’re publishing the books, their first editions are going to be gorgeous, always. They have the painted edges. They know that people are going to purchase it so that they can show it off, regardless of what’s actually in the book,” said Cakes.

Before becoming a content creator, Cakes had experience in the marketing and social media spaces. In her work as a book-centered content creator, she often sees marketing tactics in action.

“You see with marketing nowadays, they’re really holding onto tropes. You see a lot of marketing with ‘enemies to lovers’ plastered on the front because they know that those are the buzzwords of BookTok. I think that it’s definitely changing the publishing industry,” she said.

Cakes first transferred from the marketing sphere to YouTube with her travel and lifestyle vlog channel, “cari cakes.” There, she started to record her everyday life for friends and family, eventually generating a following. But after discovering that her American library card account opened up an entire new world of digital book content on the library app Libby, Cakes rediscovered her love for reading and turned to BookTube.

“I needed to talk to people about it,” said Cakes. “I discovered BookTube in 2020, which is kind of late in the game, and I started to make videos on my main channel. And I realized I had so much to say that I needed a separate space. So I started my BookTube, and I found that that’s actually kind of my happy place on the internet. It’s stress-free.”

Focusing on her love of books and reading has kept making content fun for Cakes. Still, some aspects of the job remain daunting.

“One thing that I’ve had a lot of trouble with, and I’m still dealing with, is sharing my opinion if it's unpopular. Especially if it is a trendy book or something like that, being brave enough to say, ‘Actually, I didn't get it,’” said Cakes.

Despite these scary aspects of BookTube, Cakes mostly finds fun in the content that she creates. One of her flagship series is her read-along videos of nostalgic books, such as “The Raven Cycle” or the “Crave” series. To Cakes, this series allows her to delve into the past and share what she finds with her audience.

“I forget plots the second I close a book. So to go through it again and get those plot points again — it’s just like reliving nostalgia. Wonderful. So I hope to give back to people as well who don’t have time to be rereading all those books,” she said.

Cakes is currently delving into Becca Fitzpatrick’s “Hush, Hush” series for a new video.

“It’s a very early 2000s-core, very ‘Twilight’-coded fallen angels,” she explained.

Cakes was able to celebrate these forgotten worlds by making a career switch from working in marketing and music support to being a full-time content creator. When asked about any advice she may have for students hoping to explore careers in fields that they love, Cakes emphasized the importance of being open to change.

“My main point that I always want to hammer in is that at the end of the day, it’s just a job, and you can always leave it. I had a pretty bad time in the marketing space. And I didn’t walk away because I felt like this is a job and I can’t quit. I’m not a quitter. And that really, really jeopardized my mental health and I went through a pretty bad time,” said Cakes. “So I definitely recommend remembering that any job is just a job.”

Cakes’s popularity on YouTube embraces this advice and shows the intriguing roads that spontaneity and flexibility can bring one down. Even a small change, like opening up an online library account, can lead a person to an entirely new world. “cari can read” exemplifies the community that one can build by embracing the unexpected and the joy that comes along with celebrating what we love.

—Staff writer Hannah E. Gadway can be reached at hannah.gadway@thecrimson.com.

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