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People of all ages like audiobooks. According to Audible, one of the largest players in the industry, users downloaded almost 2 billion hours of content in 2016. But while adults are paying mainstream companies to hear Kate Winslet or Colin Firth read aloud, young audiobook lovers are flocking to a different platform — YouTube.
Here’s how it works: creators will sit in front of the camera and read aloud. No cheesy music or fancy graphics. It is simply ordinary people who sometimes show their faces, and usually upload the books by chapter. It is a simple, low-tech way to share content. But is it legal?
Using YouTube to listen to books allows teens to avoid the high costs of a subscription service — and some are even joining in and filming themselves reading books. That got us curious: What is it like to run one of these channels? Do you make any money? What about copyright claims?
Youth Radio’s Malia Disney recently interviewed YouTuber Foxxy, a 26-year-old whose channel, Bringing Books to Life, has more than 1,000 followers. Instead of reading books verbatim, Foxxy descriptively summarizes each chapter. She says most of her viewers are 18-24-year-olds, and high school students also watch a lot of her content.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Malia Disney: What motivated you to create this channel?
Foxxy: I thought about what I do all the time, which is read. I read at work, I read at home and I figured, what could it hurt to write chapter reviews while I read? I could possibly help those who don’t read that much get interested in it. So I started with the book series The Maze Runner by James Dashner.
How much time and energy do you devote to this channel, and do you make any money from it?
It’s hard to tally up how much time a week or month I put into my channel. I spend countless hours reading, writing the reviews at the end of each chapter, recording each video and then listening to each one to edit them. I work on a book or two each month and I try not to upload anything unless I have the whole book ready to go. The upkeep of the channel is minimal and I can go a month or two without adding any new content. I do make money from the channel. It’s minimal, but it’s increasing as the channel grows. Though I didn’t start the channel for the purpose of earning money, it is nice to see that people like what I put out.
Have you faced any claims of copyright infringement? If so, how did you deal with them?
When I first started my channel, I did run into some issues. I didn’t know that I couldn’t do audiobooks of the first chapter of a book unless the publishers allowed it. When I uploaded the first chapter of The Maze Runner, I had no issues. I even waited a bit before uploading more to make sure I wouldn’t get into trouble. When I didn’t get a claim, I began uploading more.
Then I got a copyright claim after uploading To Kill a Mockingbird [by Harper Lee]. When you get a claim, YouTube takes down your video and gives you a strike. Once you receive three strikes, they take down your channel. I didn’t want that, so I did some research to make sure that I knew what I could and couldn’t upload.
Are you promoting the books that you are reading?
I try to tell everyone to go buy the book and read it for themselves. I make sure they know I leave out a lot of details. All I want to do with this channel is to help people who don’t like to [read] or can’t read, to be able to have access to some of my favorite books. Earning some money off the time I put into the channel is an added bonus.
What do you think/hope that your viewers get out of your videos?
Some need it for school, whether they forgot [to do an assignment] or couldn’t read [an assigned book] as fast. They appreciate the simple reviews I do to help them along. Some use it for my voice as background noise to fall asleep and others want to know what’s happening in the book. From listening to my channel, I hope all of my readers want to start reading more, buy books or go to their nearest library. I want them to enjoy reading as much as I do.
How do you choose what books to read?
I started with my personal collection of books like The Hangman’s Curse and The Hunger Games. I’ve since chosen books that others have requested. I try to mix it up to interest all kinds of people. The most popular book I’ve done has been The Maze Runner, although The Great Gatsby is a close second.