There seems to be a lot of negativity and hate in the world these days. I can’t open my social media or news paper without seeing someone somewhere bitching about something. Frankly, the world has become a confusing and frightening place and I find myself genuinely anxious pretty much all of the time…it’s exhausting. I won’t get into the politics, the wars, the racism and bigotry because that’s not what my blog is about. My blog, as well as my social media platforms, are happy spaces filled with books, short stories, artists collaborations and all the nerdy things I love and want to share with you all, and isn’t that a lovely thing? Surely no one could find anything negative and bitchy to say about myself and a group of people sharing photographs and posts about our mutual love of books? That would be insanity. Apparently not.
This week a Vulture article by Hillary Kelly became another in a long line of so called journalism, where the entire contents of the articles are just people moaning about how strangers online organise their book shelves and photograph their books (You can read the article here). They organise their books by COLOUR you say, and not alphabetically or by topic? Oh dear God, where is their humanity! They sometimes DRAPE themselves over a display of books for a photograph? When will the madness end? Frankly, the fact that this actually warrants any amount of word count on any news or popular culture website is beyond me…surely there is some actual NEWS they could report? There are plenty of awful things happening in the world right now that could probably use the attention of a journalist or an article on a major site, but no let’s just be condescending to Instagram users, that’s way more important. Also, the fact that these ‘journalists’ are so incensed by these bookstagram communities and their photo arrangements bewilders me…do you not have something better to do with your time? Don’t you have a life? Obviously not.
For those of you unfamiliar with Bookstagram, it is basically Instagram for book worms like me. It is a community of book lovers and avid readers, sharing images of their favourite books and recommending reads to one another. Sounds lovely right? And it is. I have been a member of the community for a year and a half now and I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. I have made some great friends, met some incredibly talented artists and illustrators, heard about some fabulous reads and developed by own artistic style with my own photos and account. The community itself is a very supportive one, so when I hear pretentious jerks whining about how Bookstagram accounts like mine spell the death of all that’s good in the world, I get irritated, no more than that, I get angry. So I thought I would write my own little article, addressing some of these very important issues (can you tell how sarcastic I’m being right now?) being raised by these various Bookstagram hating puff pieces.
1. Yes, we do in fact read books.
The fundamental aspect of Bookstagram, it being the bookish side of Instagram, an app entirely dedicated to the posting of photographs, is the photographing of books. The very fact that I need to state that seems insane to me. For some reason, these haters are extremely preoccupied with whether the book pictured has been read or not, as if somehow photographing an as yet unread book is some kind of mortal sin. The fact is, the book pictured may not have been read. It could have just arrived or been purchased, perhaps it’s on the Bookstagrammers to be read list, or perhaps it’s a favourite of theirs which has been read a dozen times. My question is, does it matter? What difference does it make? Creating and maintaining a Bookstagram account takes a considerable amount of time and effort and I can assure you, people don’t do it if they do not in fact love to read. Yes, the books are props in our pictures but books are also our passion and we love sharing that passion with the world. Bookstagrammers do what they do because it makes them happy and they hope to pass on a little piece of that joy to others. We all read. Some read very quickly, digesting books at a rate of knots, others such as myself are slow readers, chipping away at our massive to be read pile one chapter at a time, but we all in fact love reading. Why else would we spend so much time and effort on our pictures and pages? We are passionate about what we do. I have no idea why that irritates you so much- perhaps you need to find a hobby of your own?
2. Photos are meant to encapsulate a moment or a feeling.
One of the other issues people have with Bookstagram, is the manner of the pictures themselves. The Vulture article mentions specific types of photos, some of which I myself have partaken in. It mentions those images of beautiful women sprawled over a pile of books or an image of sock clad legs next to a pile of books and a cup of coffee. Instagram is a photo sharing app and its entire purpose is to give a platform to people from all walks of life with all sorts of hobbies and interests- I can’t see anything wrong with that. Part of the reason some images may be a little abstract, is because we, like everyone else, want to stand out. There are millions of images out there and we want to get noticed. Sometimes, that’s in order to build a platform, as with myself, or to sell items or promote a business or perhaps it’s simply because having people like our images makes us proud and happy. Which takes me to my next point- we also want to take beautiful images. Photography is a wonderful art form and whilst Instagram may not be lauded by the art snob elites, it’s certainly an opportunity for some of the most talented photographers to get their art out there. Whether they photograph portraits, animals, home decor or books, they have worked hard to create an image they are proud of and want to share. Yes, often the image has nothing to do with the books stacked neatly within shot, and yes, perhaps the Bookstagrammer won’t even mention the title of those books or their contents, but a photograph does not literally have to sell or explain something, sometimes it is merely an idea. Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic” and sometimes that is what the image is trying to portray. Not a specific storyline or book’s contents, but the magic and wonder that books in general possess. The photos are supposed to evoke a feeling or encapsulate a moment and sometimes, they are just meant to be beautiful or unique. Either way, if you like the picture then comment, follow the account, give it a like. If you don’t, swipe on and keep your unwanted opinions to yourself.
3. Yes, we love a pretty cover but we don’t judge or exclude books based on it.
As previously mentioned, we work hard to take beautiful photos filled with beautiful objects, so of course, we love a beautiful, photo worthy book cover. Asking us to photograph an ugly cover is like asking a beauty blogger to post makeup they don’t like or a fashion blogger to post an image of themselves in a skirt they hate. The image is important, the aesthetic is important and I won’t apologise for that. Saying that, I don’t just buy pretty looking books, the contents are the important part. I also won’t reject a book because it’s cover doesn’t fit in with my page’s aesthetic. I buy books or accept ARCs from writers and publishers based on the story, pure and simple. So if I am reading and photographing a book with a cover that doesn’t fit my page’s style, I will show the inside title page instead. The book still gets exposure, the writer and publisher still get their advertising and promotion and my page and image look pretty- it’s a win win. Again, I find myself asking what about that is such a cause for frustration from these Bookstagram haters…literally, what difference does it make to you how I choose to photograph a book? The answer is Zero.
4. Bookstagram is the death of the publishing industry.
I have heard this one a few times now. People are whining that Bookstagram features the same selection of books, circulated en masse by large publishing houses that can afford such large scale publicity. In a way, I can see their point. I often see the same book in many of the accounts and yes they have all been sent by the publishing firms in order to publicise the book, but I have two points to raise. First, this is smart advertising. As modern technology evolves, advertising and PR companies have to evolve too. In the good old days, a large advert in a newspaper was the way to get a product out there, but the majority of people now get their news from news outlets online applications. There is the good old TV advert slotted neatly in the middle of a popular soap, but masses of people no longer watch TV live anymore instead choosing to stream from subscription based outlets like Netflix and Amazon Prime or from catch up channel applications. Businesses have to evolve if they want to promote their product and Social media, bloggers and (dare I use the term) social influencers are a great way to do this. Millions of people visit blogs each year (not mine unfortunately, but I am very grateful for my small audience- thanks guys) and there are currently 800 million users on Instagram. That is a huge audience, if you can get its attention. Publishing houses sending their latest release to popular Bookstagrammers, book bloggers and Booktubers makes perfect sense. It gives them a mass audience, for the price of a book! It’s just smart business and it’s a win win for us book worms because we get to read all the best books first and for free.
Second, Instagram gives a platform for small indie writers such as myself, as well as the big publishing houses. I sent my book to Bookstagrammers and bloggers in order to get exposure too and whilst it didn’t magically make me a best selling author, it did mean that people saw and purchased my book who would have never previously heard of it. Social media gives everyone an opportunity to have their voices heard, to have their art seen and their stories read and I think that’s wonderful.
For a long time, Kindle and e-books were outselling physical copies and people feared the end of books forever. Now, books are back. Sales are soaring and that is in no small part due to bloggers and Bookstagrammers. We aren’t destroying the industry- we are helping to save it.
5. Keep your negativity to yourself.
Look, I understand that Instagram involves people sharing images publicly and in a way, asking people to judge and form an opinion of that image, I get that, but you guys aren’t just criticising the images. You are criticising the community as a whole. You are criticising the entire concept of Bookstagram. You are criticising people’s hobby and past time, their passion. This isn’t really about the merit of a particular image, but an attack on the community as a whole. And that’s what it is, a community.
If you don’t like Bookstagram pictures then move on, there are plenty of pictures on there and I’m sure you are bound to find something you like. If you don’t like my account or other Bookstagram accounts, then don’t follow us. If your problem is with Instagram as a whole, remove it from your phone, stop visiting. Us being us, doing what we do doesn’t impact you in any way. It has nothing to do with you and the fact that me sharing an image of a book irks you to the point you feel the need to spend the time and effort required to research the topic, source images and write a whole article on it says way more about you than it does about me and my sock clad, coffee featuring images ever will.
We don’t want your negativity and judgement, so go pick on someone else.