Many book lovers on Instagram participate in “book hauls,” which involve buying large amounts of books and showing them online. Bookstagram accounts constantly battle the algorithm by showing off their new book stacks or their walls filled with hundreds of books. The more books a content creator owns, the more social media engagement they are likely to receive. More often than not, success on Instagram and other social media platforms comes down to high-level aesthetics and which kinds of posts viewers in the community enjoy the most.
However, not everyone in the book community can reach this new photo standard. How does this consumerist perspective on book-buying affect the online community?
An Online Community for Book Lovers
Everyone can find a place to share their hobbies with like-minded individuals online. A community of book lovers on the popular Instagram platform, Bookstagram serves as an online space where readers can share images of their personal book collections with the world. Readers will often pose with a book in their hand, smiling at the camera or sitting in front of a bookshelf, while others prefer to post pictures depicting piles of books with common themes.
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One of the most popular ways in which readers enjoy participating in the online book community is by stacking their new books and posting a picture for their audience to see. Creators call this a “book haul,” and use such posts to generate discussion in the comments about which books viewers might want to read or purchase for themselves. While many book hauls consist of around five books, popular book hauls can be as large as 30 books or more. Several bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble, have even created book-selling campaigns based on the book haul trend. After all, avid readers love looking at books! Wouldn’t most readers love to buy dozens of books at a time?
Haul Culture and Competitive Visuals
Online hauls have taken place around the internet in many forms. Most commonly, creators on both YouTube and Instagram will post “haul” content pertaining to their latest fashion finds or makeup buys. Though the most popular haul content derives from fashion and beauty, haul content can come in many forms. Many online creators also make haul content related to their more niche hobbies, such as their recent Disney World purchases, and some creators will even go as far as using haul content to promote their small businesses.
Book hauls may seem no different than other hauls found online, but there is a certain aspect to it that makes them different than other Bookstagram posts, which could just include one book. Just like other social media platforms, Instagram creators often rely on the site’s algorithm software to pick up on trends and recommend posts to their followers and other accounts. Posts can thrive off of the algorithm based on likes, comments, shares and the amount of time a user spends viewing the post. Because of the Instagram algorithm’s logistics, showing multiple books all at once can increase the chances of someone seeing a book that they like, causing book hauls or any stack of books to garner favorable attention. Though book hauls are not exclusive to Bookstagram, the Instagram platform and its algorithm thrive on quick, popular content.
Additionally, book hauls on Instagram are different than the ones on YouTube. On the YouTube platform, users are expected to find new videos by either searching for what they want to see or by clicking on the video through the YouTube recommend section. On Instagram, users instead scroll through their home feed to find new posts. While book haul videos on YouTube tend to be over 10 minutes long, a book haul post on Instagram can be extremely easy for viewers to consume, as it only takes a few seconds to see the books and leave a like on the post.
Because Instagram posts are designed to promote quick interaction, book hauls are a fast way to grab an audience’s attention, because they are more likely to guarantee that the viewers have heard of at least one book in the pile.
Are Book Hauls a Problem?
By nature, haul content is based on a creator’s recent purchases. However, some members of the book community feel that book hauls are sometimes vain or boastful.
Readers who can afford to buy books and post more frequently on Instagram are often rewarded with likes, shares and comments, while other creators with fewer books may find themselves in a bind if they run out of new books to post about. Similarly, creators who frequently buy new books and post about them daily may alienate their audiences on Bookstagram if they are unable to purchase or borrow new books as quickly.
A More Feasible Alternative
Though hauls tend to revolve around a creator’s purchases, they don’t have to! There are no strict rules regarding whether or not hauls should contain new books exclusively.
As an alternative to the most popular book hauls, some creators have already started to include non-purchased books in their haul posts. Such hauls can include library books, digital books or otherwise gifted books. After all, the sentiment is still there. A book is still a book, no matter the form or condition.
Moreover, many creators have also taken to using free applications to edit book covers into their photos. Bookstagram creators around the world, including creators who have tens of thousands of followers, use free Photoshop alternatives.
Clearly, Instagram users do not need to purchase books in order to participate in a book haul.
Book Hauls Now and in the Future
Ultimately, people in the online book community are welcome to post any kind of content that makes them happy. There should be no pressure or expectations when posting about online passions. Whether a content creator wants to post about their recently purchased books or the oldest books in their collection, it is clear that Bookstagram users can find other ways to work with the Instagram algorithm.
Moving forward, book hauls of all shapes, sizes and mediums will hopefully become more normalized in the book community. Bookstagram users have shown that they can fit any kind of trendy post to their lifestyles, which is a great step toward a less consumerist future within the community.