Book Gatekeeping is for the Birds

May 24, 2024 by HL Bernabe

On bookstagram I often see references to gatekeeping books. Mostly that takes the form of deriding people for their choice of reading material or for the way they ingest said material. With either, I don’t understand why people try to shit on other people for choices they make that have absolutely nothing to do with them. Their thing is their thing, not anybody else’s and their thing doesn’t hurt anyone, so what difference does it make?

I may not like bro-hole alpha male red-flaggy romances, but I will not tell someone else they can’t read them. I may not like a particular author’s books, but I understand that taste is subjective. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean other people will feel the same. I may love something someone else hates. I don’t like it when people look down their noses at a book and claim it’s junk or not “real” literature. To me, reading is about learning, expanding your horizons, making connections, and being entertained, and it’s wonderful when you can get all of it in the same book. Even the smuttiest of smutty books has value if the person reading it had a good time reading it. I don’t care if people don’t think it’s “literature.”

I don’t see people giving each other as much of a hard time for reading e-books these days. I think it’s because they have become so pervasive. But audiobooks still seem to be fair game for derision. They say listening to audiobooks is not the same thing as reading. Says who? One is an audible form of a book, and the other visual, but both enter the brain and tell the same story. In some ways, audiobooks are better than their written counterparts because they allow us to ingest them during times and circumstances that we might not otherwise be able to. I’m often terribly busy and don’t always have time for a book. If I’m using my eyes, I can’t do anything else but read the book. But with an audiobook, I can listen to it while I do chores or go for a walk, or do other mindless work while listening. It allows me to be productive AND still get my stories in. Audiobooks can enable people to read who might otherwise not be able to. They make reading more accessible.

I don’t understand the need for some people to gatekeep. It makes no sense to me. There is something for everyone out there. I will not tell other people what they can or can’t like, or if it even qualifies as “reading”. That is something that is personal to the reader. And I won't let anyone else tell me what qualifies as reading, either. F*** that.