If you have the misfortune of following me on Instagram, you might have noticed that since the New Year I’ve been making a pathetic, desperate and not entirely successful attempt at being accepted into the enigmatic world of #Bookstagram. Social networks have always fascinated me, I wrote 5000 words on Twitter for a project at school when I was 17, but with my latest adventure I didn’t expect a social media niche to feel so much like a hobby.
What is Bookstagram, you ask? It is essentially a hashtag, or a group of hashtags, on Instagram where people share pictures of books. The Bookstagram tag itself boasts more than 18 million pictures of books, bookshelves and book lovers with their books. Other hashtags like #Bookish, #Bibliophile and #Shelfie also have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of regular bookish users. Now most people when trying to enter the wicked world of an Instagram community will make a separate Instagram account. I however couldn’t be bothered with flicking between accounts, and expecting my venture with the fad to only run for a limited time I have, much to the annoyance of my family, just used my ‘personal’ account for this latest venture.
My interest in ‘joining’ Bookstagram came from the question that kept hitting me as an observer: “is there more to Bookstagram than judging books by their covers?” In my experience so far, yes, but also no. It’s true that there are definitely accounts that seem to only share pictures of books they have never read (but that are indeed very pretty). Sometimes this can be with the really successful accounts that are inundated with advanced copies from publishers, so it is an understandable and perhaps unavoidable TBR situation. There are, however, many more who are using the social media site to promote books they love, discuss books they hate, have sometimes very serious literary debate and explore how book publishing is going to survive in a digital age.
That’s what I think is really interesting about the Bookstagram ‘craze’ – it’s giving new life to an ancient art form. When Kindles and other e-readers began to gain popularity a few years ago, I was one of many people throwing hissy fits about how you can’t beat a real book. After a while, I began to accept that e-readers must be the future of reading, but then I discovered Bookstagram. Maybe it’s just a big cooperate conspiracy by big publishing houses to sell books, but Bookstagram has put a twenty-first century twist on an potentially outdated art form. I may even be as bold as to say that it is saving the art of reading (not writing, reading) by making art of reading – and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
The other thing I’ve learnt is that it’s bloody fun. Trying (and often failing) to think up and execute creative ways to photograph books that have already been shared thousands of times is an exciting challenge. While I’m not sure I can compete with the big-leagues or that the move will be permanent for my Instagram page itself, I have really enjoyed my foray into the Bookstagram universe so far. I think it also puts pressure on publishing houses to get really creative with their covers and it seems to be working. With every reprint of a book I already own I am getting serious book envy. The only major downside I have noticed, and perhaps experienced myself, is that members of the community seem to put a lot of pressure on themselves to read huge amounts annually and monthly. That ain’t good – quality over quantity, always.
If you want to see what I’m talking about check out the #Bookstagram feed on Instagram, follow me or even better follow some of these brilliant account that post engaging and stunning bookish photos and entertaining captions on the regs – they are all super interesting and have book collections that will make you drool: