We all love books, and the joy they bring in their many formats. As book lovers we, or at least I, already struggle with book buying. There’s nothing like getting a highly anticipated new release, or a new book in general. I’ve spoken about this in an earlier post, click here for that one. This post isn’t really a reflection on the act of getting books, reading them, enjoying them, or discussing them. Instead, I’d say this is focused more on the imbalance at times in how the community talks books. When loving books there is a balance I’ve sometimes have had a hard time maintaining, and honestly it only seems to get harder the more I’m on social media.
Why social media in particular? Unless you have a group of nearby fellow readers most of us get our discussion fix by talking to others on all the different social sites. Most sites actually facilitate discussion and sharing more so than pure promotion, but there are sites like Instagram and Youtube where I feel there is more potential for consumerism. Instagram for instance is filled with all the latest and greatest books out on the market, as well as all the book boxes, book memorabilia, and special editions a person could ever want. I’m not hating on that, I actually love seeing everything that is on the market, but between the hauls and the shots of overflowing shelves it could be easy to fall into a buying frenzy. I’ve felt it on different occasions, especially when in a reading slump. Youtube has a similar issue as we see lots of haul/review videos, and massive bookshelf tours. It’s just a lot of information coming at us, all with a similar theme of buying rather than just talking about books. Add in sponsored content, brands living on social media, and the hype that sucks us all in and it’s no surprise we all tend to buy what we see on these platforms.
This isn’t to say that this material is bad or that any of the influencers producing the images or videos are doing anything wrong. For one thing, there are a lot of influencers who make it clear they are sent a majority of the material they are showing, hinting that not everything in their collection was bought on their dime. Reviews in and of themselves are a great tool in any industry, helping each of us decide whether we want that item or not. I also don’t judge on book buying either since our money is our own, and books in a haul could easily be bought over a stretch of time rather than in one go. Where it gets difficult in the community, and some find it hard to take in is when there is mass buying, hoarding, or un-hauling. The concern is generally that these could be cases of buying without purpose, and promoting the same behavior in a young audience.
I can’t speak for everyone in the community on how much/prevalent this issue truly is among influencers since I’m not close to any booktuber or bookstagrammer with that big a following, nor am I a consensus for the community. I think the first thing that came to mind when this topic originally came up was how it affected me. I’ve started to “sit” on purchases I’ve had in mind, weighing it in my head for at least a week before saying yes to a book box, or special edition. It’s saved me from getting pulled into a hype, or something I would buy simply because it fit an aesthetic. Not falling into hype has also made me think about the books I look at in the first place. Marketers have a good read on the pulse of the book community, drumming up praise for books that aren’t always stellar reads. This makes seeing how something gets truly reviewed an important part of my book buying process. I do haul and unhaul books, but I’m careful in my buying, and tough in the unhauling. Where before I would keep books that I loved from way back when, I now lean a little closer to the Marie Kondo logic, selling whatever doesn’t make me happy to the secondhand bookstore.
There are a handful of other ways to avoid buying into hype or the constant promotion that occurs like frequenting a local library, secondhand bookstores, creating a buying process, and so much more. I think as a book community we are starting to grow, my friend recently pointing out the power that the community used to demand more diverse books, as well as supporting the local bookstores during these tough times. It is also one of the most welcoming community where as long as you’ve got a book on your mind, in your hand, or ready to read there’s always someone ready to rave about it with you. What are your impressions on consumerism in the book community? Is it real, judgement, or a collective craziness we all have? Let me know in the comments below!