Social Media and Print Books: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

These days, a lot of focus is put on social media as a marketing tool. For us book readers, this can be both a good and bad thing. Phrases like “print is dead” are thrown about with alarming consistency. With everything from Pinterest to Netflix vying for a reader’s attention, we can easily bemoan the onslaught of technology and blame it for a drop in book sales, or for anything else. But let’s look at the bright side of this dark cloud, shall we? I, for one, believe that technology and print are not mutually exclusive, and sometimes technology can even help books gain readership and add to print book sales.

How, you ask?

Dig out your iPhone—don’t act like you don’t have one—and open up Instagram. Sure, you probably use it to keep up with friends and family and maybe follow National Geographic for the pretty pictures, but did you know that hidden beneath the thousands of duck-faced selfies, Instagram harbors a very healthy book-reading community? Just search for the tag “bookstagram” to see what I mean. Any booklover, even the most die-hard antitechnology, proprint booklover, will be heartened by the view of thousands of posts with that tag, and almost all of them feature print books in the picture.

That’s right—even with the millions of ebooks out there, even with struggling sales at some bookstores, even with your parents’ doubts about you ever finding a job in publishing in this day and age—here is definitive proof that people still buy print books.

Want even more proof? A new app called Litsy was recently rolled out that provides a social media platform specifically for the book-reading community. A combination of Instagram and Goodreads, Litsy is a place you can share quotes, reviews, and pictures of your favorite books with other booklovers across the country. And, like the bookstagram posts, most of them show full-to-bursting bookshelves, pretty book covers, and aesthetically pleasing arrangements of print books and other objects.

There are literally hundreds of dedicated bookstagrammers out there who will consistently get thousands of likes on their pictures. And we all know that people tend to pick up on and imitate what’s popular. If the popular bookstagrammers are only posting pictures of print books, not ebooks, then it stands to reason that any new bookstagrammers or avid Litsy posters will be consistently buying print books.

Though it’s pretty much impossible to get any hard data on this idea, it’s my opinion that having thousands of social media users who constantly need to be buying new print books to feature on their accounts must be having some effect on the market. Maybe not enough to make a detectable difference—and maybe not enough to prop up the market on its own or offset a lack of sales from competing sources—but hey, if even one print book is sold because of social media-induced peer pressure, then it’s all worth it, right?

So next time somebody comes at you with the ol’ “print is dead!” mantra, shove a bookstagram photo of a $200 hardcover classics set that has thousands of likes in their face and prove them wrong.

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