I’m late to the discussion, I know. Typical me.
But if you didn’t know, recently, the Bookstagram community was attacked by The Guardian. Articles here and here.
The general idea was that “bookstagrammers” didn’t actually read; we just bought and photographed pretty books. Here are some quotes from the articles:
Don’t have time to read a book? Just pose with them on Instagram
Like a librarian who has fallen over, the latest trend is readers posing on top of piles of books.
I’m not sure. I don’t use Instagram. Is that the one where you pretend to have a beautiful life in order to make other people even more depressedthan you are? That’s right. And photographing yourself with books is very popular on the platform. Even publishers talk about their “most Instagrammable covers”.
Typical publishers. They just want to sell their books. Um, yes. They do. Now the #bookselfie has grown into an annoying art form.
Damn those publishers wanting to sell books that people have spent years, sometimes decades, writing. How dare they.
In my experience people who snuggle up in some fallen leaves do not have beautiful lives. Even with a book. That may be so, but Instagram is fantasy, remember. And the next level is to lay dozens of books open on the floor, drape yourself on top of them and take a picture.
I’m sorry, but when did creativity and photography become a SIN? You know those lovely wedding photos that people take, do you think they really stand like that normally? Or how about that selfie you just took? Was it 100% candid?
But social media – specifically Instagram, which promotes the coveting of beautiful covers on hashtags such as #bookstagram – is putting a new emphasis on cover aesthetics. We no longer need to go home with someone in order to see their bookcase.
You also no longer need to search for months to find a young person reading. Because we’re promoting & encouraging our generation to continue reading. Oh, and, remember when everyone thought eBooks would overtake physical books? Perhaps this “bookstagram” hobby you’re talking about might have just helped to save that.
Then there were the comments on the articles.
The irony of pretending to be well read whilst posing for a trendy selfie.
You’re probably right. These people that own hundreds of books have probably never read one of them.
People who takes selfies have never read anything more complicated than the ‘Mr. Men’ books…
Oh, ha. ha. ha. You are so funny, mister. Yes, it’s not like these people are reading over 100 books per year.
How pathetic. People should be cleaning up the environment and cooking burgers instead, and going to shops.
Ah, yes! I knew I was wasting my time reading. Let me cook some burgers instead!
Anyway, you get the message. Everyone hates bookstagrammers. We are the worst.
And of course, there was a blow-up on Twitter between Bookstagrammers and the rest of the world who genuinely believed that we take a photo of a book and then “throw it in the garbage” (quote from a tweet).
It all ended with my very insightful statement:
In response to this lovely article, I did a few more things.
Number 1) I photographed what my view looked like when I was really reading, rather than setting up a photo.
Number 2) I asked my followers how many books they have read.
Number 3) I have written an emotional love letter to Bookstagram.
So let’s get started.
What Real Reading Looks Like
There was discussion around this article that it was okay to read & post about reading as long as you weren’t setting up your shots to promote and show off books.
This is what my Instagram feed looks like:
I know I’m not the best photographer & editor out there. But I have 14,500+ followers and a great relationship with the Bookstagram community. I absolutely love the way my photos look together. And, very often, I get someone saying they read a book because of my recommendation!
If I had an ugly looking account, I’d have less interaction and therefore, less influence on people reading. That would defeat the point of sharing love for books.
Setting up a photo, spending 10 minutes getting it right, taking the photo from 10 different angles and then another 10 minutes editing it is important to me because it allows me to reach as many people as possible.
Of course, these millennial-hating-Guardian-readers dislike that about me very much.
However, when I took a snapshot of me really reading over the course of 9 different reading sessions, I concluded there was no way that I would ever stop photographing books how I do for my account currently. And, I don’t think that people who do photograph their real reading experience would have much of an influence on the community because aesthetic does matter.
The only thing I did was take the photos with the Huji cam to ensure a little bit brighter colouring. But even with that, who would want to follow this feed?
I usually read at night so all the lighting is artificial which casts strange shadows and awkward colours. I’m not showing off titles of the books. I am only reading two different books in all these pictures which would soon bore people. I have the same blanket in two photos. There is no theme between the photos. I don’t have anything else interesting to include ie. people, candles, etc. And of course, the angles are awful. Because that was real reading.
Now, just because I photograph a set up of books doesn’t mean I don’t really read.
In fact, I read 7 times as many books because of Bookstagram. (More on that later).
Bookstagram = More Books Read
I’m not the only one who reads more because of Bookstagram. I asked my followers how many books they have read this year (date: 17th December 2018).
Results after 18 hours:
“too many to count”
Only two people read any less than 30 books whereas the most common number of books read was in the 60’s. The average number of books get was: 57.65.
And The Guardian actually made money from saying Bookstagrammers don’t actually read.
This is proof that they do. Plus, if you look at any bookstagrammer’s Instagram bio, they usually have the number of books they’ve read for the year and it is always impressive. It’s never zero.
We are bookstagrammers because we love to read.
There are travelgrams for people who love to travel.
Plantgrams for people who love to grow plants.
Foodgrams for people who love to cook.
It’s an online community to express and enthuse about something we love: reading.
The letter you’ve all been waiting for.
Well, as you can see by the blog post, I’m quite passionate about Bookstagram and clearly insulted by The Guardian’s article, as was the Bookstagram community.
And that’s because Bookstagram is more than just a bunch of bored people taking pictures of books.
We met in 2016 and you changed my life. I always followed a few Bookstagram accounts, envious of their aesthetic and their love for reading.
I’ve always been a reader, a bookworm, a lover of stories, a writer. But I never knew how to find the time to read or an avenue to wrap all my hobbies together in one place.
I was sitting in a boring journalism lecture one day when I wondered if I could start my own bookstagram. The next week, @bethsbookshelf was born. It started with a stutter, a handful of followers, run by someone who was too busy planning a wedding to read and review books.
But after I got married and things were a lot less crazy, I started reading again. I brought a ton of books with me on my honeymoon and loved them all. There was no better way to celebrate than sharing the books with the Bookstagram community.
When I saw how many books people were reading, and the amazing reaction to certain franchises and series, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of it. I had finally found my place.
There weren’t a lot of bookworms in my life and certainly not such a massive community of them. To me, logging onto Bookstagram was like walking into a warm welcoming cosy book club every single day. I got book recommendations, great discussions and finally, new friends. No matter what I read, I can post about that book on Instagram and have at least one person respond saying, ‘I’ve read that, too!’
That doesn’t happen in real life.
I went from reading six or seven books a year to reading 30. Then that jumped to 40, then 50 and now, I’m reading at least one novel per week.
52 books a year. And The Guardian has the cheek to say we aren’t reading at all. Twitter has the cheek to say we throw the books in the trash.
Before someone judges someone else, they need to know exactly what they are talking about. Bookstagram is the biggest, most passionate, most hungry for literature, group of people I have ever come across in my life (and I studied English literature at university).
We just so happen to also adore photography. With Bookstagram, we can combine two of our favourite things, share our love of reading, reignite the passion for words at the same time as being relevant to the 21st century.
And that. That is amazing.
5 thoughts on “WHY BOOKSTAGRAMMERS ARE JUST THE WORST”
I never tire of reading these posts ! They’re basically love letters to books and reading 💖 It makes me emotional to see how bookstagrammers stand together and stay respectful (even after reading these “articles”…). Thank you Beth, for another honest & lovely post !
Oh thank you lovely Celine! These comments mean a lot. 🙂
Cheers Beth, keep going! You’re the first person I’ve found who helped me understand Instagram for readers and writers and I’m setting up my bookstagram account as we speak. I’m also on Instagram personally as Roberta McDonnell (Belfast) and just completing a Masters in Marketing. Following you is a great help and inspiration. As we say in Belfast, Keep ‘er lit 🔥
THAT IS SO COOL. I am buzzing about this comment! That means so so much. What’s your bookstagram @ username?! If your masters is finished now, I hope it’s going well. What a fun degree! Lots of loveeee ❤ ❤
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Cheers Beth! 🙂 I’m @roberta.mcdonnell on Instagram 💜