Babble,  Bookish Stuff

My Struggles With Bookstagram

I usually “rant away” on my Tumblr, but as I was typing up this one, I felt like it wasn’t enough to just post it on there. Here’s the thing: I love Bookstagram. I absolutely love creating beautiful photos for both my blog and my IG. However, I’m also really struggling with the platform. If you follow me, you might know I’ve been posting terribly inconsistently. Until recently, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I struggled so much.Then I read this thing on Twitter and I was like “Ooohh…” It’s not just one thing that bothers me or that I struggle with. There’s more.

What I Read on Twitter

The “inspiration” for this post came from some tweets I read on Twitter over the past couple of months. There’s not really one tweet or thread I could link here to make my point or show you what I mean, because mostly they just made me think and that made me come to my own mind. Everyone knows Instagram’s algorithm is the worst and it’s actually getting even worse soon because apparently we’re getting Suggested Posts from people we don’t follow. (Ugh, really?) Anyway, there are many complaints about the algorithm, and I 100% agree!

The other thing I struggle with – but it’s mentioned a lot? – is how Bookstagram is such an expensive hobby! Like, seriously, have a look at the popular Bookstagrammers. What do they all have in common? A massive amount of props from fake flowers to daggers and swords (Yes, SWORDS!) and they have stacks upon stacks with the latest releases in hardback. Oh my goodness, have you even seen their bookshelves?! Basically, Bookstagram is all for those who can afford it. It doesn’t reward the things that make books accessible like library books or eBooks. I’ve recently found a few people who use more of those, but let’s be real; there aren’t many of those around. This tweet/reply I found on Twitter is still stuck in my head. “It’s wealth on display.”

My Experience With Bookstagram

I’ve realised lately that I don’t go on Instagram as often as I used to. The most beautiful photos get the most likes and interaction, so if the algorithm were a sea, they’d float on top. I don’t see anything from the people with minimalistic and inexpensive feeds I follow. I envy those with beautiful fake flowers, pretty backdrops, tons of props and the biggest stacks of newly released hardcovers. I used to “network” on Instagram by just going through my feed or the explore feed for fifteen minutes to comment and like pictures. I don’t do it anymore, because it’s become upsetting.

I’m not saying I want to get tons of likes on my photos. Or actually, I do, but that’s not why I’m on Bookstagram. I’m on Bookstagram because I like pretty pictures and to share my own. But every time I see a photo with hundreds of likes and see how mine only get 50 max, it’s discouraging. I’ve been at it for almost two years now, and I just can’t seem to gain likes and followers.

Bookstagram is Expensive

Like I said before, Bookstagram is expensive. Though I never realised just how expensive it was. It’s also subjective, because not everyone spends money on Bookstagram. Some people simply enjoy sharing pics of their current reads! But think about it, the things you need for a Bookstagram photo; 1) books. 2) a backdrop. 3) props. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but eventually you probably will start spending money on your bookish photos. (If you can, of course!) I mean, I started out only with what I had around the house. Eventually, that got a bit boring. I got myself some MDF boards and marble contact paper off eBay. It might only have cost me about €10, but all the little things add up.

Looking at the “big” Bookstagrammers, their photos are so expensive. There’s usually some fake flowers, which I know can be super pricey. Then there’s usually a stack of hardback books (say it’s a stack of 6, x €15 = €90… Yikes.) And then we haven’t even talked about the backdrops and props beside those (pretty but expensive) fake florals. Or the equipment used. I don’t mean to “ruin” Instagram for you by giving you a full anatomy of a Bookstagram photo, I’m also not trying to discredit people who spend money on making beautiful photos and I’m definitely not saying all photos are like this. It’s just the main part of my feed is like this.

Demographic

More and more (YA) Bookstagrammers have started showing their faces, whether that’s in the photos on their feed, or on their stories. I feel like most of the people on my feed are adults. Girls/woman with husbands, kids and (probably) lots of free time and money. I mention the free time because it takes so much time to create a “standard” IG feed with beautiful photos. How often do you see “Looking for teen readers/bloggers” on Twitter? Because at this point, finding an actual teenager who reads/blogs about YA seems rare. There’s nothing wrong with that, I think. It just explains why Instagram can be so expensive. Adults usually have more money to spend than teens and college students. And what about people with part time jobs or who work from home? They can spend so much time perfecting their feed while students are in school!

Am I Not Contributing to This Problem?

When I was writing my post on Tumblr, I nearly deleted it. Am I not the exact same at those I’m “complaining” about? I mean, I use quite a few props in my photos. To me, it doesn’t feel like I’m “the same”. Over half of what’s in my “Bookstagram cart” (an Ikea Räskog) is stuff I already owned or got from my family. The flowers I purchased were all less than €5 and I think the most expensive “prop” I ever bought was a rose-shaped candle holder for around €8, that I didn’t even buy specifically for photography, but to light candles in my bedroom. My iPad was a birthday present years ago, and for the longest time I used it only for college, since I only started reading on it about two years ago. But does this matter to “outsiders”, the people who don’t know where I got my stuff? No, it doesn’t. I don’t know where anyone got their props from. Maybe someone just has a lot of pretty stuff in their house? Maybe it’s from a cheap store and it looks like crap in real life, but pretty in photos!? In the end, everyone’s just taking photos they like to promote books they love. Who am I to complain about that?

We Can’t Really Fix This

Unless the “expensive” Bookstagrammers on my feed suddenly quit Bookstagram tomorrow, there’s nothing we can really do to fix the problem. Is it even okay if I call it a problem? What we can do, though, is try and use those eBooks, library books, old books, borrowed books, etc. in our own photos. Let’s break through this “standard” of making bookish photos look expensive. Literally anyone can become a Bookstagrammer as long as they have a phone and a book. You don’t need stacks and stacks of hardbacks, you don’t need the latest releases and you don’t need all the props. It’s difficult to kind of… ignore the fact that there are some very beautiful (but expensive-looking) feeds out there, but you just gotta do you. If that means using library books and no props, so be it!

What do you think of Bookstagram? Do you agree with what’s in this post? Let’s chat!

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0 Comments

  • Fanna

    I don’t know where to start but I’ll simply start by saying how much I love your pictures and how glad I am that you wrote such an honest post about all the feels you get as a bookstagrammer!

    I do think it’s mostly about wealth and who can get the most themed or color-coded props that would go with the books but I also think that it’s a form of getting your love for the books across and it shouldn’t matter if that person wants to buy expensive (or just pick up things they already have in house) to get those photos done.

    Then again, I understand how Instagram is already a hub of prettiest of the pretty pictures and not all bookstagrammers get most of what they put in. There’s a subtle competition that goes on and while we can double tap on every picture, we usually don’t. Plus, like you said, the pretty hardbacks and physical copies would always shine more than the ebooks or old library copies. And of course, the amount one would spend on the little things here and there would eventually add up and the entire work becomes expensive.

    At the end, I’m with you and all those who feel the same! It should all be about the books, no matter how expensive or simple a bookish picture looks 😀

    • Ayla

      Thank you so much, Fanna! 🌸

      I agree that it shouldn’t matter! I mentioned this in another comment before, but I’m doing Bookstagram for ME and not others, so I shouldn’t really care what others do, right? I’m still struggling a little, but I’m finally learning that! I feel as if I’m making it a bigger problem than it is, but this has just been on my mind for a while.

      I’m definitely “guilty” of only liking the pictures I find beautiful while I could also just double-tap all the photos I come across! That does make it a little bit like a competition, but it shouldn’t be! It’s kind of natural and normal for the beautiful pictures to stand out more, that’s just the way it is, I guess. 😉

      • Fanna

        No, you aren’t making it a big problem! Since you’re a part of the bookstagramming community, you’re free to keep your opinions out there especially if the community as a whole is related to that opinion 😀

        True, so true!

  • AvalinahsBooks

    I so agree about wealth on display. But you know, I don’t mind – that’s exactly why I don’t “do” Instagram. And I won’t let myself feel bad for it. But I get why it would be sad and annoying for someone who does Instagram and understands how it’s becomming harder and harder because of this.

    And Instagram isn’t just expensive, it’s expensive in TIME. And I think it eats up WAY more time than money even. For me, I feel like I can’t afford that, and I don’t see the point of buying a lot of trinkets just to take pics (lastly, I don’t think I have the aesthetic sense for that xD and also then there’s the international part – where I just don’t have print books, and taking pics of my kindle is just boooooriiiiing.)

    Also, I disagree about adults having more time. I am an adult. I work from home. Guess how much time I have? I end up working more than the average office person. Sometimes I’ll be working late. More often than not. And then there are the blog posts to write. On the contrary, I feel like the teens have so much more time than me, because I did when I was a teen. And in the end, it might be that I think they have more time, and they also think I have more time, but none of us actually do have the time…

    I don’t really mind people having time or money to do Bookstagram though. I just know that it’s not for me, and what can you do. Even if I had the props and time, I would probably just not have the burning passion for it. Some people who have the passion, make it without the expensive props or too much time. Some people will be better at managing one aspect, some will be better at managing another. I agree that it’s important to just be you!

    • Ayla

      The “wealth on display” thing really used to bother me, but I’ve realised lately that I don’t care as much! It IS getting harder, but it doesn’t have to be. I take photos because I love doing it and I love sharing my thoughts on books through Instagram, so I shouldn’t care so much about what others do?

      I love your point on how it so time-consuming! I can literally can take photos for hours on end and only end up with like 5/6 photos to use and it’s just crazy! I guess how much time you have really depends on the person. I can understand that you actually have less time since you work from home, but since I graduated for college, I have so much more time! I guess I just had stay-at-home moms in mind when I said that adults have more time. SOME adults might have more time, but definitely not all!

      Thanks so much for your comment! 🌸

  • Charley Hrobsky

    I was literally going to write a post about using library books in bookstagram feeds! A lot of times you can’t even see a sticker (at least at my library) on the covers. When I started bookstagram, I got a buttload of props because I thought it was necessary. Now I have a simple backdrop of fabric I got on sale at a craft store, a dollar store poster board (if I want to angle my photos), and my books. Occasionally, I will have some book merch but that’s about it.

    Thank you for starting this conversation!

    • Ayla

      Sometimes less in more and simple fabric backdrops work perfectly fine in photos! I haven’t been to the library for over 10 years, I think, but back then the books I used to borrow were in quite a bad shape so I don’t think I would’ve used them for photos, but I do know what you mean! Sometimes you can’t even really see they’re from a library! 😉

  • Signourney

    It is really hard to stand out on bookstagram these days and instagram makes it even harder with the now interaction thing as well that I’ve seen. I thought bookstagram was more fun without the algorithm. Back then i would comment more and see so many more. So I understand your frustration with it.

    I’ve stopped caring too much about what other people spend on their pictures. I do me, you do you. I currently use my reading blanket as a part of my background, haha. And I don’t post daily at the moment as the grey weather sucks. I’ve taken pictures of library books lately, and ebooks too. They deserve to be showcased too. 😀

    • Ayla

      It really is, isn’t it? Like, so many people take so many pictures that it’s quite difficult to stand out and be noticed! I think the algorithm is the worst part of the problem, as I KNOW I follow “different” bookstagrammers, but they just don’t show up on my feed!

      I used to get a bit upset over Bookstagram sometimes, but I’m slowly “accepting” that I shouldn’t care too much! I’m hoping to start posting photos again soon. but I keep forgetting or something! I’m hoping that once I get into it again that I’ll enjoy it more. ☺️

  • dominique_x

    AHH! I totally agree with you. I really love taking pictures and I love books as well, but I don’t have the time and money to make those absolutely stunning pictures you are talking about. I sort of wanted to quit bookstagram for a while, but then I thought I take pictures of books because I love it and because I want to share my favorite books, so I decided to not to care to much (it’s hard sometimes ;() I think your pictures are really pretty, so I hope you will continuing taking pictures and bookstagram.

    • Ayla

      Thank you so much! I’ll definitely be back on Instagram, just gotta figure out a schedule for my unpublished photos and my blog stuff! (And I gotta find the time to figure out captions, which is always a struggle, hehe!) 🌸

      It’s definitely a bit hard to not care about others, but I’ve realised now I’ve taken a break from Instagram it’s much easier to handle than before. I actually can’t wait to be back!

  • Ruby J

    I love your pictures, so please keep taking photos and sharing them on instagram!

    I completely agree about the wealth thing. Strangely enough, I find that I spend much more time than money on IG. I really don’t care about hardbacks, so it doesn’t bother me as much to see a shelf full of hardbacks. I really don’t care about them. They’re cute, they look posh and professional and all, but at the end of the day, they’re way too expensive for this girl. As for the props, I find mine at used shops and flea markets really. So I don’t spend that much on props (plus I really don’t like a photo with too many props, I like minimalistic feeds more). But the time…man does it take me a lot. I think a week of photos takes me roughly 4-5 hours, between setting up the photos, finding the right angle, putting everything back in their respective places, tweaking the photos on my computer and posting/creating the caption (which I generally hate so I leave it for the last possible moment).

    The new algorithm is really bad, and I feel like it doesn’t allow regular folks with fewer likes and fewer followers to grow as fast. I will probably keep bookstagramming just because it allows me to learn how to take better pictures. That’s basically why I started doing it. I have fun sharing photos of my ebooks, paperbacks, and used books. I’d rather have fewer likes but be proud of a photo I took, than trying really hard to follow trends, if it makes sense.

    Last, but not least, you shouldn’t let stats discourage you. I know it’s frustrating, I know it makes you feel bad (I’m there 50% of time when I see a photo of mine doesn’t go over 30 likes) but that shouldn’t influence you doing something you enjoy (provided you enjoy taking photos of books and sharing them on the internet). As for props, my only idea if you don’t want to spend any money at all, is to use stuff you have in the house. Anything can be a prop in my opinion.

    • Ayla

      Thank you so much, I’ll definitely not stop taking pictures and I hope to be back on Insta soon! 🌸

      It’s just that the combination of everything you mentioned got a bit overwhelming for me, and with a new job and changes in my life I guess it just got too much. Now I’ve taken a break, I look at most things differently. Like, everything I wrote about is still there but I don’t struggle with it all that much, if that makes sense? I think sometimes I just need a break from it and I feel like that’s perfectly normal! I mean, I put so much time into photography and then to see bad stats gets discouraging after a while, but it shouldn’t matter that much! I’ve been thinking about all these things for a while but I really feel as if my struggles aren’t as bad anymore. ☺️

  • Kristina

    your pictures are soo on point !! Much better than mine could ever be .. 😂
    That’s why im not on bookstagram, but rather sharing them on tumblr (which WILL BE posted on my blog later this month ! :’) ) but yeah .. I usually pick watever I have in my house (& my dogs ..) for that, I havent bought anything strictly for it. I have balloon dogs toothpicks I bought for my dog birthday “party” … ahahaha xD I just thought hey, I could use for picture aswell ! so they’re not totally useless, you know …

    • Ayla

      Thank you, Kristina! It’s so wonderful to hear people like my photos! 💕
      I’ve used the most random things in photos over the past two years, I think I once even used some old-ish shoes in a photo that had nothing to do with shoes but I just… needed something, lol! So yeah, I totally understand using the most random things… ha! 😂

  • Daniela Ark

    funny I think I ended up here because your bookstagram account and when I saw the title of this post I was like huh? What could Ayla possible struggle with since her bookstagram feed is so beautiful but yes! I hear you! I think the new algorithm is the reason why I’m not more active in IG!
    It’s very frustrating but I hope you do continue! Your pics are so pretty!

    • Ayla

      Heheh, I bet that was a weird think to see! And thank you so, so much! It’s not the actual photography that I struggle with (although I occasionally run out of inspiration, hahah!) but the things I mentioned int this post.

      I’m definitely planning on posting again soon, I have plenty of unpublished photos, just need time to schedule them! 😉

  • Lara

    I will never be an “expensive” bookstagrammer because I’m such an inconsistent Instagram user anyway that it just wouldn’t be worth it. When I take photos I just take them and chuck them up so I know that I’ll never be as popular as some of those other instagrammers, but to be honest I’m not actually quite sure why I have it because I don’t use it that much and I’m not very good at it… We’ll see how it goes! Awesome post, very accurate!!

    • Ayla

      Thank you, Lara! ☺️ There was a period in which I would just keep buying things for Bookstagram (cheap things, but still) because I really cared about changing things up and having more and more stuff to use in photos, but it’s so different now! I’ve figured out my theme and what I liked so I don’t buy as much as I used to and I’m totally okay with that! I think there’s definitely a difference between people who use Instagram daily and kind of use it as most bloggers use their blogs, if that makes sense? 😉

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