Do you believe that ‘reading a book isn’t complete unless posted on social media’? Given how the discussion around reading books has remained within the so-called sanctity of book clubs, many might be wary of sharing the same on social media. But if any thanks are due for keeping books alive in the digital era, it’s to bookstagrammers.
First started by a community of readers, writers and like-minded book enthusiasts, bookstagrammers populate a niche corner of Instagram, where dazzling photos of single books, stacks of books, coffee and books, nature and books and all things that promote reading are shared. “We have been heavily misunderstood by many. Taking aesthetically pleasing photos of books has always entailed the question, ‘Do you even read those, or just post pictures?’. Well, there might be some who do that, but the majority of us are just here for the love of reading and are trying to propagate the same,” says Danielle Usha, a photographer and bookstagrammer.
And more so, during a pandemic that has left people with little else to do. For bookstagrammer Ankita Tyagi, the lockdown has dissolved many boundaries. “With everyone locked up, people have turned to not just reading books, but also sharing them on their social media profiles. Something we’ve been doing for quite some time. People who frowned upon the idea of sharing the experience of reading on social media, are now constantly sharing pics of their current reads,” says Tyagi.
Bookstagram has bound people by the virtual halo of reading and given them the experience of collective participation. “It has introduced the concept of buddy reading. Looking around at people actively participating in book discussions, and openly sharing their views, automatically encourages people to read. Instagram has also made people quite familiar with the concept of book clubs, where they give you goals like number of books to be finished in a month, classics, theme-based reading, and the like,” says Tanushri Indoria, a bookstagrammer, adding, “With relatable and appealing pictures as well as easy to comprehend reviews, we aim at making people believe that reading is a whole new world in itself.”
And that very idea of a collective conscience had many bookstagrammers helping out several authors in advertising their books, which, due to the lockdown, couldn’t be slotted for a public release. “The lockdown has caused many businesses to be shut and even budding authors are facing a lot of issues. My book is all ready to be distributed but, given the situation, it has become difficult. It was with the help of some bookstagrammers, who helped share the e-copy of my book in the form of reviews and posts, that I got an audience,” says Anuj Bansal, a 20-year-old budding author. Not just authors, some bookshops too find the community helpful, as they promote the idea of visiting bookstores. “Before bookstagram, bookstores were considered just as places where you could buy books, nothing else. But it glorified bookstores into an experience,” says Mirza Touseef of Midland Book Shop, Delhi.
But for bookstagrammers like Hari Krishnan Prasath, the platform is not just about making people read or visit a bookstore. “Bookstagram is a place of un-conditioning. Since a very young age, every one of us is conditioned to a way of thinking. Bookstagram, through its many books, influences people to unlearn and relearn things they have subconsciously written off. For example, patriarchy, misogyny, freedom of will,” says Prasath.
“There’s a wall. A wall of standardisations stating what should be read and what shouldn’t. Bookstagrammers are breaking the wall, little by little, by diluting the boundaries of ‘not this’ to ‘why not this’,” says Amit Soni, a social media manager at a publishing house, adding, “the change is real.”
Connect with the author on Twitter/@scriblaniac