Design Plus: Rise of the Bookstagrammers

Far from being killed off by digital media, print books have inspired a new generation of advocates on Instagram.

by Mark Tungate , MAYDREAM

The bookstagrammers crept up on me gradually. At first I came across a handful of pictures on Instagram. They were oddly similar: well-composed still-life images of books lying on café or restaurant tables, often next to a cup of coffee. Or sometimes held aloft in front of a beach or a garden scene, as if the reader was about to settle into a deckchair for the afternoon.

Being a bookish type myself, I followed a few of these people. They led to more. Then even more. Until finally it dawned on me that there was a whole bibliophile sub-culture on Instagram. I discovered that they even had a name: bookstagrammers.

They are called SweptAwayByBooks, Bookmateriality, The Bookist or Bookbaristas (see top image). They take pictures of books in piles, books on shelves (#shelfie) and books lovingly art-directed with thematic props scattered around them. They usually include a few lines of review. And they are becoming increasingly influential in the publishing world.

Ella Davidson, founder of UK literary PR agency TheBookPublicist, comments: “The lines between ‘traditional’ PR and social media and influencers are increasingly blurred. We now work with publishers and authors who not only want PR in mainstream media, but also want to connect with influential bloggers and bookstagrammers. The popularity of our ‘blogger tour’ packages have increased massively in the last 18 months, not only for fiction books, but also self-development and wellness titles.”


Authors certainly agree. The young Swiss writer Jon Monnard (who I also discovered thanks to Instagram, by the way), author of Et à la fois je savais que je n’étais pas magnifique, found that the bookstagram trend was a useful way of spotlighting his own work as well as that of writers he admires.

“Bookstagram was an incredible way of driving distribution of my work outside Switzerland. But it also enabled me to make new friends and literary companions. As a writer I find myself being inspired by book cover designs and what’s being done abroad.”

As you can see above, Jon is something of a bookstagrammer himself. “What interested me was the ability to express the idea of literature, the book as an object: the beauty of a bookshelf, a stack of books about to collapse, vintage book covers, different translations of classics around the world…it’s wonderful.”

Ella Davidson would agree. “When Kindles and e-books started gaining popularity a decade or so ago, many people thought it might spell the end for hard copy books, but trends like bookstagrammers show just how much people love ‘real’ books. They’re not just vehicles for words, but beautiful, tangible objects and pieces of art that people want in their homes.”

Jon points out that bookstagrammers stand apart from the elitist world of the literary critic. They promote the books they love, whether they’re critically acclaimed or genre titles. Sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, indie…there’s a bookstragrammer for everyone. “Bookstagram enables you to discover new books and gives unknown authors a stage,” says Jon.

Last but not least, bookstagrammers have underlined the artistry of book cover design. Ella Davidson observes: “The famous saying is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ but actually, what good bookstagrammers do really well is take a book cover and present it in a way that says so much more about the content, ideas and themes in the book and positions it in a way that will appeal to the right kind of audience for that title.”

The print book is back. And, as unlikely as it may seem, Instagram is leading the renaissance.