Welcome to the new type of book club
It’s no secret that eBooks aren’t a phase, and that boutique book shops are closing every day. But can Instagram change that?
Once upon a time, authors would be crossing their fingers that the all-powerful Queen O would give her official seal of approval to their book. If Oprah wasn’t the official endorser, then a feature in the New York Times would guarantee a steady flow of book sales from the most-respected literary critics. As of the end of 2017, the New York Times had 130 million monthly readers. Oprah is still a doyenne, but her supreme reign doesn’t have the same reach as our favourite photo platform. Instagram has over 800 million monthly users, which obviously means one thing – Oprah and the New York Times are just not cutting it anymore.
These days, it’s not so unfair to suggest that writing a fantastic book is only a small contributor to the overall success of a book on the market. Marketing alignment and publicity have a lot to do with how successful a book might be, in terms of sales. You could even argue that the covers of books are more important now than ever before. No doubt they’ll appear carefully-spread on crisp white sheets, or next to a perfectly-placed coffee at a café (I’m guilty) on your feed. As brick and mortar book shops are crumbling down around us, Instagram serves as a virtual recommended shelf.
#Bookstagram is so popular because quite frankly, who could hate the view of a cosy set up with book and bevvy? Book flat lays are especially fun to set up yourself, particularly if you could never quite get behind the Tumblr black-lacy-bralette-flat-lay fad (also guilty). Instagram showcases the best parts of our lives – usually very social, posed for, and likeable. There’s no doubt that #shelfies aren’t set up just for the ‘gram, but they are a softer version of our otherwise ostentatious showings.
The best parts about the Instagram book club:
- You’re exposed to new authors that you’d probably not pick up otherwise
- You can engage in debate and discussion online
- All the pretty book covers posed next to coffees, plush rugs, on the beach – the list goes on.
So if you’re looking to turn your gram’s feed into the book wonderland it truly has the potential to be, then you might want to be a part of these book clubs.
Reese Witherspoon is the unofficial Queen of Instagram book clubs. With over half a million followers, Reese’s readers wait for the monthly book recommendation. The way Reese has leveraged the Instagram platform really epitomises all the Instagram features and the community spirit that it’s known for. Her book club expanded from the humble hashtag #RWBookClub into the account it is now. The Instagram handle is a fusion of the book club and the media business founded by Reese that aims to “shine a light” on female narratives, so all of the book recommendations are authored by females or have a strong female lead. Queen Reese gives her own wrap on the monthly book in the Story Highlights for each month, and then reposts other people’s photos of books and #shelfies and tags them for credit. Now that’s the girls supporting girls spirit that Elle Woods worked so hard to popularise.
Belletrist is organised by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss. Just like Reese’s book club, there’s a monthly book recommended by the book connoisseurs themselves, and lots of lively discussion in the comments. The aesthetic of this feed is more edgy than most of the colourful book clubs, which is perfect for those who are looking for something wild to pop across their feeds. If you subscribe to the email list, you get a newsletter that includes exclusive interviews with authors, extra recommendations and the occasional promotional code to fund your growing bookcase – and who doesn’t love a good discount?
My two favourite Instagram book clubs have the white, English-speaking women vibe, so I’m spreading out. Rebel Women Lit is on the rise; Making a big effort to be inclusive of narratives and authors that aren’t white, straight, able and cis-gendered, the book club is in the early stages of life, and hopefully the ‘gram is the place for them to grow. Rebel Women Lit is headquartered in Jamaica, and has a 2018 diversity reading challenge that urges you to read the narratives of authors who don’t get the mainstream press: like authors of colour, stories set not in America or England, and stories with protagonists of different body types.
Defying the colourful and square-shaped feeds of most other bookstagrams, this one has a black-and-white aesthetic, with a feed that’s more people-focused than its pastel counterparts. The account features people in cities all over the world, who have been spotted reading books on public transport. Subway spotters then ask them for a synopsis of the book so far, or why they began to read it in the first place. The story highlights are used to display specific cities, all from Mexico City to Milan.
And finally, if you’re on the hunt for only the most aesthetic bookstagram online, then you should check out UTS’ own book aesthetician, Emily Mead. I’ve caught myself trying to take a page from Emily’s book about daring poses – although she strongly encourages her audience to not try them at home. With such a diverse method of displaying covers – from flat lays with book jackets to rainbow shelfies, this account continuously inspires me to go back to print copies. If there’s one thing that Emily shows her audience for certain, it’s that print is, in fact, not dead.
Elyse Popplewell is a final-year Journalism student who is passionate about sharing narratives. She likes to read, drink coffee, and then take photos of exactly that for Instagram