It might seem strange to some, but Instagram is pretty popular among readers. If you plug #bookstagram into the app’s search bar, you’ll get 32.7 million hits. Every day, “bookstagram” accounts flood the social media platform with book-related images. Readers use the app to share their thoughts on their favourite novels and show off their extensive book collections. Authors reveal new book covers and give updates on their day-to-day lives. Even publishers like Penguin, Hachette Book Group and Allen & Unwin use Instagram as a marketing tool to promote their latest novels and author events.
In 2019, many voracious readers are spending hours posting and scrolling through images. Unavoidably, this eats away at time that could be spent reading. But what if it were possible for readers to do more than just look at books on Instagram?
Last year, the New York Public Library (NYPL) did something innovative. They made it possible to read books on a platform that prides itself on being all about pictures. The NYPL used Instagram Stories—a feature that enables users to share photographs in a slideshow format—to upload Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Each book is accompanied by a specially-made cover, that has motion and sound, and each page is adorned with a unique decoration. It’s a simple concept, brilliantly executed. Before 2018, no one had ever done it before. Now, Instagram users can access classic works of fiction for free, from the comfort of their mobile phones.
While no one has attempted to emulate the NYPL just yet, other Instagram accounts are already taking advantage of the idea. Penguin Random House has opted to use the function as a marketing tool, posting extracts of novels they wish to promote. The Penguin Books Australia Instagram account posted extracts of Minnie Darke’s Star Crossed and Ocean Young’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Penguin Kids Australia posted an extract of Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party by Laura Sieveking. The publishing house has only released samples thus far, but this has still given Instagram users plenty of reading material. Which, while it possibly defeats the purpose of the app, we think is a bit brilliant.
This year, the Brisbane Writers Festival is hosting a plethora of Instagram-savvy authors. From Jessica Townsend, author of Nevermoor, who has more than 4,000 followers, to Benjamin Law, author of The Family Man, who boasts more than 30,000. #bookstagram is alive and well at Brisbane Writers Festival 2019. Join your fellow readers and writers to revel in a shared love for the written word, see your favourite authors up close and explore the big ideas!
Author: Grace Cassidy