Simply put, bookstagram is a bookish community on Instagram, books + Instagram. In more elaborate terms, bookstagram encompasses photos related to books that are shared on Instagram. This extends to the people who dedicate their time and effort to photographing their books and posting them on Instagram under the hashtag #bookstagram.
You already knew what bookstagram was? Well then, have you ever considered its popularity? It has quietly gained traction over the past two years and yet when you google bookstagram, you'll find a mere 20 pages worth of results, most of which are mirror sites that display photos originally posted on Instagram. Very little has actually been written about it.
If you hitherto had no idea what bookstagram was, launch your Instagram app (or download it if you haven't even done that) and search the hashtag. You'll find an ever growing number of photos with at least 790,000 and counting.
Sharing the Love for Books
As a community of book lovers, users engage on Instagram through the main medium of photos to share book-related posts. By focusing on books instead of one's personal life, bookstagrammers take part in 'communal photographic exchanges' (Digital photography, van Dijck 2008, p. 63) that reinforce their place in the community. Book-related photos then are the basic currency that allows them access to the bookstagram community.
Although, all one needs to join the bookstagram community is access to Instagram. It isn't even necessary to post photos. I'm certain lurkers gain from bookstagram as much as content producers because it is an overflowing source of book recs.
What makes bookstagram so attractive surely applies to Instagram as a whole: it is a visual social network. Who doesn't love eye candy? The collision of books and Instagram has got to be a bibliophile's dream, except it is reality.
Photos are important media that can be much more pervasive than text. Viewers need to spend less time looking at photos than reading text and yet photos tend to be much more memorable (The Effects of Verbal Versus Photographic Self-Presentation on Impression Formation in Facebook, Van der Heide et al 2012, p. 101). This I think is why Instagram has attracted more than 300 million users.
Scrolling through Instagram means looking at individual photos posted by other users. Instead of looking through albums as on Facebook with countless photos, Instagram makes it easy to engage for a few seconds and then move on.
Book Covers Trump Book Titles
Given how much more memorable images are than text, bookstagram is the perfect community for bibliophiles. With the proliferation of exquisite book cover designs, there's a vast treasure trove of books one can feature. Plus, research on visual primacy would suggest that seeing a book on Instagram is much more likely to compel someone to pick up a book than seeing the same (textual) title on Twitter.
Personally, I've found that my reading choices are influenced a whole lot more via Instagram than Twitter. Sure, I've read plenty of books upon book recs I received on Twitter. However, that was because these recs came from people whose opinions I value. On Instagram, I can be much more passive and yet find myself buying a book a month later that a random bookstagrammer raved about.
Another aspect of bookstagram that I've observed is the presentation of reading lifestyles. By sharing photos of books one is reading as well as book hauls, bookstagrammers are sharing a part of their lives with the world.
There's a wide spectrum of bookstagrammers, some of whom won't even show a glimpse of their faces, while others invite followers into other aspects of their lives. Yet, no matter how private or open bookstagrammers are, there is no denying that books are an integral part of their lives.
The more bookstagrammers emerge, the more attention is raised about the normalcy of reading. For book nerds who have been labeled as shy or anti-social, the bookstagram community demonstrates that book nerds actually evade labels.
Some book nerds are introverts and some are extroverts; some are into sports and others are into art; some are quiet and others are loud. In spite of their personalities, reading is a lifestyle and bookstagram offers up acceptance, particularly for bibliophiles who don't have friends or family who read.
Getting Involved with Tags
Bookstagram is a very vibrant community. Posting and commenting on photos is the first step to get involved. The next step is taking part in tags. When someone tags you in a photo, you're supposed to take a photo related to the primary hashtag of the photo. Tags revolve around a particular theme like #mappedbooks, #seaofbooks or my personal favourite, #essentialsforbiblio.
The great thing about hashtags is that they offer a source of inspiration when bookstagrammers run out of ideas and tags also link up the community. The web of tags connects everyone and tells people who else is part of the bookstagram community. I've discovered some fellow bookstagrammers simply because we were tagged in the same photos.
As I mentioned before, all one needs to join bookstagram is access to Instagram. Set up an account you want to use to follow others and maybe even post your own photos.
Be sure to look out for book-related hashtags such as some of the following:
Above all, the bookstagram community is very friendly and welcoming. That to me is the biggest draw. As with any community, there are cliques but even the more popular bookstagrammers gladly reach out to newcomers. They actively answer questions in their comments as well.
Many are also very supportive towards newcomers by posting shout-outs, encouraging their own followers to also follow the accounts they have just discovered.
There you have it; a quick overview of what bookstagram is all about. The visual culture and openness of the community have come a long way in contributing to the rise of bookstagram and has done well in luring bibliophiles into the wondrous world of social book photography.
This post was written by guest blogger Joséphine. Find her online at: Word Revel | Instagram: @wordrevel | Twitter: @wordrevel