As dozens of independent bookstores permanently closed their doors in the first decade of the 21st century, consumers feared the age of books was approaching its doom. How much longer could this industry compete as entertainment against new technology?
But readers fought back by finding new ways of transforming and expressing their love of books. They turned to the internet to host book clubs on social platforms and even purchased stacks from cyber retailers.
Now almost ten years later, indie bookstores are once again being found on street corners and readers are supporting their local bookshops while using technology to their advantage.
“I try to visit indie bookstores as much as I can, but because there aren’t any in my community, I’ve had to get creative,” said 19-year-old Kansas resident Jessie McClain. “A lot of indie bookstores have online shops, so instead of physically browsing their shelves I support them by buying from them online.”
With the increasing use of the internet as well as the rise of audiobooks, podcasts, social media and even subscription boxes, it’s no surprise that readers are using these platforms to transform the reading experience and expand their communities.
Just a couple of years ago, readers began to share their love of books on social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. With thousands of users posting their latest reads and reviews on Instagram, readers began referring to their community as #bookstagram. The space is often referred to by bookworms as “the best corner of the internet.”
“Books have always been meaningful to me, but I feel that even more so now that I’ve found #bookstagram because I’ve found a community of people who love the same thing as me. How special is that?” said 25-year-old school counselor and bookstagrammer Katelyn Lane.
“I’ve formed so many amazing relationships through this platform, a few of whom I’ve even met in real life,” said the Birmingham, Alabama book blogger. “There really is nothing like a shared love of books to bring friends together, even if it’s on the internet.”
And Lane isn’t alone in using modern methods to express her love of literature and connect with other readers.
27-year-old Australian bookstagrammer Tegan Savic (@litwithtegan) also uses bookstagram to connect with other bibliophiles — many who live 10,000 miles away from her home in the country.
“Books have helped me through some of the worst times of my life; I can’t imagine not being a reader,” said Savic. “I’ve found so many beautiful friendships on bookstagram with people from all over the world. It makes me want to hop on a plane and pay everyone a visit sometimes.”
But bookstagram isn’t the only technology Savic uses for her advantage, she also has a special love for audiobooks.
“Nothing will ever replace a physical copy for me, but I really do enjoy audiobooks. I listen to them when I’m cleaning, going grocery shopping or just running errands. They help me get reading done even when I’m too busy to sit and read.”
Like Lane and Savic, 27-year-old bookstagrammer Jasmine Brown (@diaryofaclosetreader) also uses online platforms, such as Instagram and Goodreads, to express her love of books.
“My dad was in the military, so I grew up on an Air Force base. I loved growing up on base, but it could be really isolating at times,” said Brown. “The nearest town was almost an hour away, so honestly, I think my love for reading almost came out of necessity. Reading made me feel like I wasn’t the only one feeling the things I felt.”
Brown loves platforms that let her gush about books and make her feel connected to other readers. She especially loves browsing bookstagram and listening to book podcasts.
“My go-to is the Literally Us podcast (@literallyuspodcast) hosted by Gabi Kelly and Kamrun Nesa. They always find fun ways to talk about books,” said Brown.
“Having modern ways of expressing love for books makes reading feel less isolating and more like being a part of a community,” said Brown. “I can be in the middle of reading a book and post about how much I’m loving it on my Instagram stories, and people will write back and start a conversation with me about a character or scene. There’s something really special about people from all over the world coming together and connecting over stories.”
Like Kelly and Nesa, there are hundreds of other book lovers who express their passion for literature by hosting podcasts or even running book subscription businesses.
Smart Women Read Romance (@swreadrom) and Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club (@notyourmomsrom) are podcasts that are especially loved by romance readers. While Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club focuses primarily on discussing books, characters and scenes, the hosts from Smart Women Read Romance also make sure to address romance tropes, pet peeves and even popular TV shows like ‘Game of Thrones.’
Apart from podcasts, book subscription boxes are also quite popular among readers — as they combine books and convenience. While there are dozens in the market, the most popular subscription boxes include Book of the Month (@bookofthemonth) and the up and coming Foxed Box (@thefoxedbox).
While Book of the Month offers readers new releases at lower prices, The Foxed Box offers book lovers curated boxes right to their front door. The all-women run business prides itself on matching readers with their next 5-star read and giving used books a new home.
Whether it’s subscribing to book boxes or posting review videos on “booktube,” there’s no doubt that bookworms have embraced technology and used it to their advantage.
Readers may be shifting towards more modern platforms, but there’s really no reason to worry.
Books are alive and well, and they won’t be going out of style anytime soon.