November 27, 2021


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The overriding emphasis is on the image: Books are draped on coffee tables, shown in an outdoor setting, held up to the camera for a selfie – or placed next to a vintage phone.

Literary lovers win on Instagram – Goethe-Institut

Instagram is the social network of the hour, and book bloggers have also discovered the platform for themselves. About a new form of literary criticism in 2,200 characters plus an image.

by Fabian Thomas

The number of users on Instagram is at an all-time high: about 1 billion people use the app every month, 500 million users every day. While the application has the largest number of users in the USA, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia, in Germany, according to the latest official information in August 2017, it was still about 15 million.

The platform is both a promise and a sales machine: with the right enthusiasm and the right hand, anyone can become an influencer themselves. In fact, it has never been easier to produce engaging content by relatively simple means: a smartphone with a decent camera is enough, the appropriate filters are set quickly, and you’re all set.

This idea gradually found its way into the world of book bloggers. Those who are interested in new posts, genre titles or youth book recommendations are getting more and more information on Instagram. Here, too, the bottom line is most important: if you don’t want to mess with the elaborate design of a WordPress blog or even want to program a website yourself, you can simply set up an Instagram account and start using “Books”.

Focus on the picture

But that’s also part of the truth: the review, which book bloggers are primarily interested in, is sidelined for better or worse due to an image-focused platform like Instagram. Previewing the image description in the viewer’s feed is limited to just under three lines and even after clicking “More” there are only 2,200 characters left for the text which should be short and crisp.

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So the focus is on the image. And there are no limits to creativity: books are covered on coffee tables, staged outdoors, held in camera for a selfie, intensely colourful, very sharp, sometimes related to content, sometimes linked freely. Tino Schlench, who this year received the Youth Excellence Award from Börsenblatt, the trade magazine of the German book trade, reported for his “Literaturpalast” channel, that he is a true perfectionist when it comes to his images. Commitment to personal time is high: “I spend a lot of time thinking of an idea suitable for the book in question – everything should fit. I am less interested in highly professional equipment than in implementing an idea. A live rabbit is placed next to a book, a book is placed in a museum or a Take him on vacation for a proper photo session. It also means: I rarely leave the house without a book. When I discover a topic, I take a picture of it. It is also possible that the appropriate post will not appear on Instagram until later.”

Book blogger Tino Schlench spends a lot of time thinking about the right idea for his ‘Literaturpalast’ channel: a live pigeon is placed next to a book. | Photo (details): © Tino Schlench
This creates a portfolio that represents one’s work and can also be used for self-marketing, if pursued seriously: in the case of “Literaturpalast”, this is a literary channel focused on Eastern Europe. “It wasn’t a coincidence either,” says Schlench. “I wanted to create a channel on Instagram that was distinctly different from others, and Eastern Europe seemed perfect for that,” Schleinsch says. He now has over 9,000 subscribers on his channel and several hundred “likes” per post – a huge reach that might not have risen so quickly with a classic blog.

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Long reading takes place elsewhere

As far as the number of book designers on Instagram, the bulk of the titles discussed are often monolithic: there are plenty of bestsellers like Juli Zeh or Sebastian Fitzek, but also books that have been carefully considered by publishers’ blogger relations departments. scattered among the interested parties. Because here, too, the message has arrived that it is possible to advertise exclusively original on social networks. Entire departments of publishing houses are no longer responsible for anything else. Above all, they hope that the platform will also reach other target groups.

Studies estimate that the majority of Instagram users are in their mid-20s and therefore much younger than the average newspaper readership. Conversely, interest in the genre and nicknames of young people is high. Myriam Zeh, who moves both worlds, stresses that these particular items aren’t discussed in the features section, but on the platform “will work really well.” Zeh writes book reviews for Deutschlandfunk, but is also active in the “Books Up” project, which Literaturhaus Bonn, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Science in North Rhine-Westphalia, focuses on literature in social media and brings it into the conversation of a young target group wanting. “Instagram is a world of luxury. But sometimes it’s too positive,” she explains. “Of course, the dimensions cannot be compared to the world of fashion influencers, who in some cases can make a living out of their collaboration. There is nothing to compare in the book sector. However, the way it is talked about has an impact on the book bubble.”

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It is not easy anywhere else to collect likes for a perfect collage. For the right critique, it becomes more difficult: due to the focus on visuals, the use of narcissistic influence and a high degree of content specification, through which users organize themselves and enjoy “instant gratification” – the immediate reward – attention is to more complex content is simply not available. ‘Long reading’, detailed deep literary criticism – takes place elsewhere.
On the go with reading: Many book bloggers rarely leave home without a book.On the go with reading: Many book bloggers rarely leave home without a book. | Photo (details): © Tino Schlench