One aspect of bookstagram that cannot be ignored and that is rarely talked about is consumerism. For better or for worse, bookstagram promotes consumerist attitudes. I think this is something we need to acknowledge, and perhaps be wary of but not malign.
How a person chooses to spend their money is up to them. Those who aren’t interested in spending beyond books or those who can’t afford to shouldn’t be forced to the periphery of the community. At the same time, those who purchase and/or feature consumer products shouldn’t be given flak for it.
What we need to remember is that the focus of bookstagram is books. Books are a shared passion among bookstagrammers, and it is up to the individual to decide how they want to support that through their own Instagram accounts. What they post is up to them. If their content doesn’t agree with you but it’s not in any way insulting, suck it up or unfollow.
Books and Consumerism
Beyond books, aesthetics are important to many bookstagrammers. This can be seen in elaborately staged photo ops. Even those who choose to share more of their day-to-day lives involving books still curate their Instagram feeds. This includes picking which books they do or don’t want to feature.
It’s not uncommon for bookstagrammers to admit that they choose editions of books to acquire based on the cover design. Some do this in a bid to elevate the style of their photos. As a result, physical books dominate the bookstagram sphere, often to the exclusion of library books. Ebooks and audiobooks hardly feature either, though their presence is steadily increasing.
Despite the widespread adoption of hardcovers, don’t let that be a barrier to joining bookstagram. Neither look down on someone who prefers well-thumbed paperbacks. Sure, it’s harder to produce clean photography but with practice, it can be done.
Whichever formats you choose, don’t feel coerced to buy something you don’t want to or can’t afford. Drill that into your head! Before buying a book, ask yourself, would you, independently of bookstagram, still buy this book? Would you buy this specific edition, even though it’s more expensive? If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, do you have a dedicated budget for bookstagram? If yes, calculate if it fits. If no, don’t buy the book.
Props and Funko Pops
Besides books, props also are integral to the style of many on bookstagram. Flowers, accessories, candles, watches, pouches, pillow cases, and so on have found their homes alongside books. Props raise the appeal of their photos. They can complement the books and add variety to the posts that appear in our feeds.
Furthermore, it’s natural that anyone would want to share the bookish products they’ve acquired. They’re excited. They want to share with their friends and followers who might be interested in these items too. If you couldn’t care less, why not simply appreciate their posts and photos for what they are? After all, it takes time, vision and effort to put these together.
Of course, not everyone is into the prolific Funko Pops that the bookstagram community has readily embraced. Personally, I’m not a fan. Sure, there are some that I kind of like but not enough to spend money on. I rather reserve mine for books. That’s my prerogative.
In fact, I don’t own a lot of props. I post relatively minimalistic photos. Nonetheless, I’ve found my place in the community. You can too. Don’t let the pressure to “fit in” weigh you down. If you’re not into something that everyone else seems to be, it really is no big deal. There’re enough Funko Pops to go around on bookstagram. Nobody expects me to add more. How much I engage in consumerism is up to me.
Then there are the privileged ones who are selected as reps or approached for brand collaborations. Don’t rain on their parade, commenting or subtweeting that they’re only in for the freebies. For the vast majority, that’s not the main driver of being a bookstagrammer.
Yes, not all can afford to purchase the items they promote but they are paying with their time. That time for some of the bigger bookstagrammers goes far back. Believe it or not, some have been around for three to four years! That’s a huge commitment.
Unlike fashion and tech influencers, bookstagrammers mostly don’t receive monetary reimbursements. And if they did, it would surely be for the better. Paying for services often increases the quality of content.
Now, I know many of us don’t appreciate being sold to 24/7. If you feel that any particular account is guilty of that, and you don’t like it, jump ship. If you prefer the “good ol’ days” where it was “less competitive” and only about sharing and talking about books, look for like-minded people. Nobody’s forcing you to follow anyone whose content you don’t like.
On the flip side, bookstagram is a treasure trove of beautiful products that accentuate the love for books. You can find amazing designs tailored to your favourites. Following brand accounts and sponsored bookstagrammers helps in discovering them.
Tracey @PrintedWordsAnd says
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one! I’ve struggled a lot with Bookstagram purely because I was so concerned with what I thought people wanted to see rather than what I enjoyed posting. I’ve cut back because it was actually consuming me and I was getting super stressed about posting a photo. A PHOTO!
These days I try to be more spontaneous and have fun with it rather than pre-planning, positioning and editing like crazy.
Tracey @PrintedWordsAnd recently posted Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I’ve Added To My To-Be-Read List
This is a great post. I don’t take many bookish photos for my Instagram as I don’t buy a lot of physical books and my bookstagram skills are rubbish. But I do follow a lot of bookstagram accounts and apart from those who repost giveaway posts and really obviously sponsored content, I haven’t even thought of this. I don’t feel pressured to buy andything – and if I did, I’d unfollow that account. Nobody says I have to keep following someone if I don’t like their content.
I hope you haven’t received any nasty comments because your photos are just lovely.
I love this post. I could relate to everything you said. It’s really helpful for people like me who are just starting their bookstagram life. I do sometimes feel like I’m not fitted for it because of high standards I see and I get really insecure with my photos. Thank you for writing this. It made me feel better that I’m not obliged to live up to everyone’s expectation when I say I’m a “bookstagrammer”.
stacee @ adventures of a book junkie says
This is a great post!
It’s definitely gotten overwhelming seeing all of the rep posts, but such is the evolution of bookstagram. Variety is the best part of the community and it all boils down to being about the books. And I love the idea of seeing well used paperbacks. I need to find those accounts. :D
Thanks for sharing!!
PS. Your IG is gorgeous.
stacee @ adventures of a book junkie recently posted The time it was about Carve the Mark
I love the way to tackle this topic! Consumerism is something that has been nagging on my mind in book community, but it’s really obvious in the bookstagram community. I’m not judging, it’s really people’s bussiness how they spend their money. But it’s really easy to get swept away into the hype and just buying things we don’t really need or wanted for the sake of bookstagram. I think it’s really important for each individuals to prioritize their needs and just do their best with what’s available :) Practice makes perfect and I’m sure with a lot of trials and errors, even the simplest pictures could turn out amazing. Lovely post Josephine! <3
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Puput @ Sparkling Letters says
Loved this post! I’ve never encountered a post like this before but I completely, 100% agree with you! When I first started, I was kind of scared of seeing everyone’s props, they use funkos and swords and every other fancy things that I can’t and won’t afford, just like you I’d rather spend my extra money on the book itself. But after trying out a lot of things, I found what work best for me and I realized that you don’t have t spend extra money if you don’t want to, there are a lot of free/cheap props that we could get out there. As for certain edition, I think the way you do, I ask myself whether I still want it if it’s not for bookstagram and if I could afford it. If yes, then I will, if no, I’ll settle with the affordable editions. Photographing e-reader is tricky, they surely don’t look as… good? I don’t know, I used to feel like my photo of e-reader seems lack of something, but then I tried several things and I found that pairing up my e-reader with paperbacks make the photo seem less lonely. So yes, I think the key to bookstagram is only to find what works for us :) great post! <3
Puput @ Sparkling Letters recently posted The Roles of Family in Young Adult Fiction // A LOT of Book Recommendations!
Briana @ Pages Unbound says
I have seen a lot of people say they don’t feel they can be successful on Instagram based on the books they own (or don’t own). It does seem as if the most popular photos feature stacks and stacks of hardcovers. Even as someone who *does* own a decent number of books, I can’t compete with that–because many of my books are used classic paperbacks. I definitely cannot build a bookish rainbow out of YA hardcovers. I don’t have the books for it. However, I don’t begrudge people who do this or their popularity on Instagram. The photos are popular in part because they can be difficult to achieve. They’re rare, beautiful. Is it “unfair” that these people presumably have more money to be able to buy books to photograph? I don’t think so. Life is “unfair” in that sense. Someone will always have more money than me. I’d rather just appreciate the cool things those people are accomplishing with their money rather than being bitter about it.
So, personally, I have been photographing many library books. I think we should continue to assure people this is not a bad thing, that they shouldn’t feel unwelcome because they don’t own masses of hardcovers. Different types of photos can be beautiful.
As to sponsored products, this does not bother me. I don’t know any of these people personally, but I don’t think many of them can be selling out, just doing it for the money, etc. As this whole discussion indicates, curating a successful Instagram can take a lot of time–and often money. These people probably invested A LOT in their accounts before they even became big enough to get sponsorships. I assume they were doing it for the love of it at the beginning when they didn’t have sponsorships and still enjoy doing it even now that they’re more successful. Personally, I would love to be paid for doing something I like, so good for them.
Briana @ Pages Unbound recently posted Four Contemporary Authors With Beautiful Prose
Being a college student and having no job actually makes it hard to acquire books, especially brand new books. And seeing those newly released books of other bookstagrammers kinda makes me envious but I honestly am more of a paperback reader so it’s okay. And I buy second hand books and unhyped ones so my account is slightly more focused on those books. You really just have to make it work with what you have. Happy bookstagramming!
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At this point in my life, I have very little interest in Bookstagram, and you touched on many of the reasons why. But I 100% agree that the solution to that is to just not worry about it. It’s absolutely wonderful if other people find joy in it! (Also, I’ve been around long enough to know that I might change my mind about a social media format that I initially don’t care for–see Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!)
Great post, I totally agree with everything you said !
This post is perfection!
I’ve always felt behind because I could never buy physical copies and it was definitely my head telling me that I was levels below. But I did embrace my style and now, I work with what I have without looking over my shoulder. It’s definitely overwhelming- especially for new bookstagrammers- because the first impression seems as if bookstagram is consumer driven, than experience driven. But honestly, it’s more about sharing the feeling and the creating a virtual library of your bookish life.
Thank you for addressing this topic when it is obviously difficult to word it right. GO JO!!
Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says
This is a great post Jo! I think when it comes down to it, there’s probably a lot of jealousy for what one can afford and pressure to buy a lot of props and hardcovers to keep up. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the individual on how they post and style their photos and as you said, there’s so many people out there with some great photos without props.
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Hana Bilqisthi says
Totally agree! When I wad newbie on bookstagram, I feel compeled to buy a lot props but thanks god I saw lot simple and minimalistic theme in bookstagram. Their account made me realize that it is okay not buy funko and any other props. Then I unfollow some bookstagrammers because I knew my mind is not strong enough to resist the temptation. I glad you bring this topic, I thought I was alone.
Hana Bilqisthi recently posted Hana Book Review’s 1st Blogversary
I do buy more books for Instagram, because I love to make people want to buy books that I also liked and a nice picture of a paper book works better than one of my ereader.. but I don’t really feel like it’s a bad thing, at least it’s still books I would have bought anyway!
I did started at one point to feel like I should maybe invest more time and effort in my pictures but I realised I’d rather spend this time actually reading!
It’s still fun to look at super beautiful Instagram accounts✨ (-> started following yours just now, lovely!)
if the book will be too difficult says
I mainly read from library books and only buy a book if I’m sure I’m going to read it again and again, which has made participating in bookstagram feel a bit strange. I get the focus on having pretty editions of books, but I can’t afford to rush out and buy everything. *shrug* I think this was a pretty good subject to bring up!