About 200,000 people follow online book reviewer Sasha Alsberg's ('19) YouTube channel.
With a video camera, some basic lighting equipment, and an Internet connection, Emerson College freshman Sasha Alsberg ’19 operates the second-largest book-lover site on YouTube— Abookutopia—which boasts more than 200,000 subscribers and almost 15 million views. Her Instagram account has some 120,000 followers and Twitter weighs in at 30,000.
BookTuber Alsberg, a Writing, Literature and Publishing major, turned her passion for fantasy fiction (“worlds that aren’t like my own”) into an unstoppable fan and book review site three years ago when her mother died. Grieving, she was looking for a project that would help distract her. “Instead of being depressed, I would do this,” she recalled. “It helped heal me.”
Alsberg’s audience is about 90 percent female. She realizes, too, that some of her audience members skew as young as 9, so “I don’t swear, because I want to be a positive influence on the younger viewers.”
Reading one to two books a week, Alsberg’s popularity can be attributed to her in-depth reviews; her fans can’t wait to hear her take on the latest literature. Her bubbly on-camera presence doesn’t hurt, either.
Her fans are loyal. When Alsberg arrived at Emerson this fall, she created a video she called “Dorm Room Tour!,” which clocked in at 18 minutes and 44 seconds—an eternity in the digital age. Yet, the video received 113,000 views and more than 500 comments. “I’m still shocked by how many people want to watch my videos,” she said. “It’s mind boggling.” When she recently held a live meetup in London, more than 100 people showed up.
When Alsberg started out three years ago, she made a video that she admitted “wasn’t very good. It was me, a fangirl, and my web camera.” But the quality of her videos has come a long way. She still does all of her own shooting and editing.
Major publishers such as Harper Collins and Little, Brown have caught on, sending her review copies of upcoming books and flying her across the country to attend book events.
When it comes to digital or print, Alsberg is a traditionalist, reading primarily in print, with some e-books on the side. Among her favorite books are The Bronze Horsemen trilogy by Paullina Simons and White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements) by Jennifer L. Armentrout.
At Emerson, Alsberg is in good company, as all of her suitemates are book lovers. One day, she hopes to turn the tables from reviewer to author and write a novel.
Till then, she and one of her suitemates make sure they set aside a healthy chunk of reading time—an hour or two—before turning in each night.
Here is a sample of ABooktopia: