Communities and Social Media

Readers use social media to host geographically diverse book clubs


This paper explores the way in which readers are turning to a variety of social media platforms to engage in niche book clubs that are not accessible in a localised setting. It discusses the methods of using broader social media platforms to host these virtual reading circles to ­invite open, public discussion, often facilitated by social influencers. For example, Instagram connects users via a number of hashtags dedicated to the wider reading community or specific fandoms, and readers can use these online groups to explore the social aspect of reading within a niche environment. Further, the visual premise of Instagram encourages users to post fanart, video reviews, or decorative images of a book itself. By extension, this encourages subjective discussion surrounding the themed posts.  Alternatively, the use of social digital libraries such as Goodreads or LibraryThing encourages content-specific discussion, giving heavier focus to the book in question than any related content. While this approach to virtual book clubs is typically less personal, it creates the opportunity for activist groups to examine and debate social justice literature. In some scenarios, however, users may blend the two platforms together, creating a book club that spreads across multiple sites. While any virtual book club requires supervised discussion from moderators, it can be concluded that virtual book clubs are successful, removing geographic boundaries and creating opportunity for niche reading communities.

In an age of instant communication, many traditional book clubs opt for an additional online presence, such as a website or a discussion board (Fajardo, 2010). The increasing popularity of Young Adult (YA) fiction has seen an increase in loosely defined book groups that exist only on social media, where readers can form fandoms. On platforms such as Instagram, users connect via tagged posts, such as fan art, excerpts, and other related content (Peeples et al., 2018). While these platforms encourage individuals to not only engage with content, but also with other users, the social elements of these groups rely largely on the content of particular posts, which can prompt a broad depth of discourse, ranging from words of affirmation or intense debate, rarely delving into the personal socialisation seen in physical book clubs. Further, many book groups are hosted on dedicated literary social platforms such as Goodreads, which invite discussion around the content of the book itself, rather than any remixed or re-imagined work relating to the book, as seen on broader social media platforms. However, whether a dedicated or broader platform, the overall successful transition to online book clubs and fandoms, as blogging platforms, whether text-, image-, or video-based, cannot support a community due to the one-sided nature of the platform. Taking into account these various host sites, this essay will explore how effectively readers can build social book clubs on dedicated platforms such as Goodreads, as well as broader social media platforms like Instagram. As such, readers often use social media platforms as a third place to connect and create niche book clubs and forums that would otherwise be limited by geographic boundaries.

Social media creates a third place for communities to connect

Where first and second places drive a binary approach for community interaction, third place creates hybrid sites for communal gatherings. Where the first place typically refers to the home and the second refers to the workplace, the theory of a third place suggests the existence of an overlapping location for communities to meet. This creates a hybrid location that often acts as a “bridge” (Pane, 2012, p. 79) between first and second place boundaries. Displaying these characteristics is the evolution of social media, which encourages connection without locational limits (Casero-Ripollés et al., 2020). In cases such as Instagram, the platform itself is considered to be the third place, but interactions are connected to one another through hashtags, establishing public conversations hosted online (McArthur & White, 2016). Although such hashtags are typically included in the content of a post, such as the caption, some users opt to include these in personal descriptions on their accounts. While interaction via hashtags is not considered a club in itself, the sense of belonging created by frequent interactions with other users and posts attached to the tag builds a non-exclusive reader community that exists outside of the boundaries that limit first and second places.

Connecting via groups and hashtags

Book clubs have long encouraged a sense of connection amongst readers (Clarke, 2017), but the modern transition to virtual gatherings and discussions has shifted connections away from broader relationships and towards more content-focused interactions.  (Foasberg, 2012). While this is particularly evident on platforms such as Instagram, these digital groups still fulfil and satisfy key elements of a book club; intellectual stimulation, forging communal bonds, and solving “the eternal quest for the next book” (Foasberg, 2012, p. 33). These platforms have evolved into third places for community groups to connect and share knowledge, creating a digitised habit that is being picked up by social readers. Due to the nature of Instagram, the communities formed can be labelled “communities of interests” (Serafinelli, 2017, p. 93), where such groups revolve around frequent visitation of particularly themed content (Serafinelli, 2017). As a result, many posts intended for a particular group of users ­– in this case, readers – lean towards mimicry of existing posts, therefore creating easily identifiable contributions to the intended community. Further, the visual premise of Instagram means many readers turn to popular hashtags among the reading community, such as #bookstagram, #amreading, and #tbr. For example, the Bookstagram hashtag alone currently has over 58 million posts to its name (Instagram, 2021). This allows users to explore new genres, engage with reviews and discussions, and connect with like-minded readers, rather than searching for key words among posts, as seen on other social platforms. Although connecting through hashtags is more closely defined as a social network (Can & Alatas, 2019), Instagram users who connect to book-related content on the platform often describe themselves as members of the Bookstagram community (Maarit, 2019). While often described as a narcissistic take on virtual book communities due to the aestheticised nature of the posts, the sensory approach to book club-style debate provides instant gratification among users in search of particular themes and narratives in the community. Further, an image depicting the reader holding the featured book, or even a close-up shot of the reader’s hand on the pages, creates “embodied re-enactment” (Thomas, 2021, p. 3) that can promote empathy on a platform that, in other circumstances, can become disconnected (Garas et al., 2012). Through this embodied re-enactment, contributions towards the Bookstagram community give the impression of currency and relatability, inviting connection between the content creator and viewer (Tolins & Samerit, 2016). While many featured posts among the community feature a novel resting among cups of tea, chocolates, or fabric (Thomas, 2021), the personalised nature of images featuring the reader alongside the book gives rise to a more interactive community, and by extension, social influencers.

A number of popular users on Instagram, known as influencers, use their public platform to engage with other users, acting as leaders within their community. While in some scenarios, these influencers use their platform to create a market surrounding a product, others, such as those in the Bookstagram community, use their influence to prompt discussion and content creation in the community. However, it should be noted that the virtual community found using Instagram and its book-related hashtags is able to influence the market, due to the deeper connections between readers, authors, and, in some cases, cover artists (Lo, 2020). A typical post from one of these users could include a recent collection of books purchased, a review, or even a short skit relating to a particular novel, any of which can take the form of a standard post, or, introduced more recently, an Instagram reel. In some cases, these Bookstagram influencers encourage the community built on Instagram to further personal connection by engaging in a dedicated book club on host sites such as Goodreads.

Social communities hosted by digital libraries

Created with the intention of connecting users to authors and fellow readers, readers use literature-driven social media platforms to review novels, log recommendations, and interact with users who enjoy similar material. Referred to as “social digital libraries” (Makri, 2020, p. 1409) networking sites such as Goodreads or LibraryThing introduce the concept of digital libraries to social media, and encourage users to interact through groups, discussion boards, quizzes, and “ask the author” (Goodreads, n.d., para 1) events. The social world perspective put forward by Anselm Strauss in 1978 says a “social world” (Strauss, 1978, p. 119) is defined by a shared primary activity, platform, technology used for carrying out the primary activity, and an intention to further an aspect of the world’s activities. Drawing on this, users of these platforms’ community pages and groups create a number of subcultures embedded in the site’s ecosystem. Further, a participant in a study conducted by Florida State University likened the interaction between users through reviews and discussion boards as “like a real friendship” (Worrall, 2015, p. 7), with another participant suggesting the more private groups on the platforms were akin to being part of a tavern community, bonding over similar interests (Worrall, 2015).  Furthering the bonds formed among such communities, some users engage in similar groups that exist on a multi-platform level.

On occasion, these clubs can be hosted across a number of platforms when introduced to broader social media. For example, popular Instagram user, Jaysen Headley – identified as @ezeekat on the platform – uses his digital reach to facilitate a YA book club for his followers (Headley, 2021a). This group, known as Ezeekat’s Book Club, is hosted on Goodreads, where members are invited to engage in subjective discourse relating to the group’s latest novel (Headley, 2021b). This complements the accessibility of digital community groups while creating a niche environment for his target audience – other YA readers. However, the group is primarily advertised via Headley’s Instagram profile, rather than his user profile on Goodreads. This, therefore, suggests virtual book clubs may need external support from a number of related platforms to thrive. Drawing on the theory of networked individualism, this highlights the rising prevalence of readers shifting from close-knit book clubs, such as those hosted in a localised setting, to the loosely defined clubs and communities that exist as a result of cross-platform communications (Wellman, 2001). This also exists on blogging platforms, where book bloggers utilise links to social media accounts to encourage viewers to engage with the blogger’s content on a personal level, as opposed to the detached setting of a blog and its potential comment section (Foasberg, 2012). While fiction-driven book clubs established via social digital libraries require this multi-platform approach, some activist communities use social digital libraries to examine the literature on various social issues as a group without the need for additional platforms.

Virtual book communities on social digital libraries, while often sharing an admiration for similar genre-fiction novels, can also take the form of educational activism. Book clubs such as Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf group, hosted on Goodreads, focus on building knowledge communities and prompting informed debate around social issues. For example, Our Shared Shelf picks broader social issues, such as disability awareness or feminism, and invites members to analyse the philosophical and academic concepts explored in the corresponding book for those topics (Haastrup, 2018). Despite the link to Emma Watson, and by extension, her affiliated social media accounts, this book club and others like it do not rely on cross-platform interaction as they are not reliant on personal relatability. As many readers join these book clubs in pursuit of information, it could be said that the resulting groups become knowledge communities (Sedo, 2003). Further, the lack of geographic boundaries among virtual communities allows these book clubs to become an aggregate of distributed knowledge and expertise, independent of locational biases (Hauser et al., 2017). Where many physical book clubs are hosted by libraries and therefore engage with a variety of literary genres, the accessibility of virtual book clubs and their niche content creates the basis through which activist book clubs can thrive. However, these communities are heavily reliant on frequent contribution from members and leaders alike.

Maintaining virtual book clubs and communities requires frequent interaction

Although access to niche book clubs via social media and social digital libraries is empowered by availability and lack of geographic boundaries, the upkeep of such communities requires greater input than physical book clubs. Further, these communities thrive under leadership supervision, such as club coordinators, administrators, or moderators (Gazit, 2021). This is largely a result of the expertise many book club leaders bring, therefore allowing them to curate, edit, and create content for an online book club, thus shaping the discussion (Colladon & Vagaggini, 2017). Where a group of individuals meeting digitally require discussion supervisors to prompt engagement, the format of traditional book clubs requires little, if any, organised conversation. Instead, members often approach the meeting with particular elements to discuss (MacGillivray et al., 2019). While such interaction exists in communities of virtual equivalent, some users say online forums and chat groups do not hold the attention of a user enough for a community member to find the time to interact with online discussions (Huang et al., 2018). As a result, supervision roles in these groups not only involve discussion prompts, but also requires introducing entertaining content for members to interact with, such as fanart or related videos. Despite the need for supervision in these groups, virtual book clubs are empowered by the lack of geographic boundaries and themed, niche content.


As readers continue to evolve the social element of reading via the formation of online book clubs and communities, it can be concluded that the introduction of social media furthers this endeavour, allowing users to form communities around niche areas in literature. Where a traditional book club requires limited guidance in order to thrive, virtual book clubs rely on supervision to maintain member engagement. As a result, some of these reading circles, such as those hosted on social digital libraries, reduce the personal relationships between users. This is likely a result of the tendency for guided discussions to lean into content-heavy discussions, rather than exploring personal relationships with the reading material and other members. However, broader social media, such as Instagram, is emerging as a platform for virtual reading communities, and often drives relatability and subjective discourse amongst members due to the visual nature of the platform. As this essay was limited to the functionality of virtual book clubs, further research could establish a connection between these groups and the publishing industry and genre demands.


Can, F., & Alatas, B. (2019). A new direction in social network analysis: Online social network analysis problems and applications. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 535(1), 1-25.

Casero-Ripollés, A., Micó-Sanz, J., & Díez-Bosch, M. (2020). Digital Public Sphere and Geography: The Influence of Physical Location on Twitter’s Political Conversation. Media and Communication, 8(4), 96-106.

Colladon, A. F., & Vagaggini, F. (2017). Robustness and stability of enterprise intranet social networks: The impact of moderators. Information Processing & Management, 63(6), 1287-1298.

Clarke, R. (2017). What we can learn from book clubs. University of Tasmania.

Fajardo, A. (2010). Book Clubs: Not Just for Public Libraries. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 17(1), 65-69.

Foasberg, N. (2012). Online Reading Communities: From Book Clubs to Book Blogs. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 1(1), 30-51.

Garas, A., Garcia, D., Skowron, M., & Schweitzer, F. (2012). Emotional persistence in online chatting communities. Scientific Reports, 2(402), 1-7.

Gazit, T. (2021, Jan 5). Exploring leadership in Facebook communities: personality traits and activities [Paper presentation]. Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 2021.

Goodreads. (n.d.). Ask the Author.

Haastrup, H. (2018). Hermione’s feminist book club: Celebrity activism and cultural critique. Journal of media and communication research, 34(65), 98-116.

Hauser, F., Hautz, J., Hutter, K., & Füller, J. (2017). Firestorms: Modeling conflict diffusion and management strategies in online communities. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 26(4), 285-321.

Headley, J. [@ezeekat]. (2021a, March 2). Did I pick this book just so I have people to talk about it with? [Photograph]. Instagram.

Headley, J. (2021b). Ezeekat’s Book Club. Goodreads.

Huang, W., Pakanen, M., Haukipuro, L., Väinämö, S., & Arhippainen, L. (2018, May 15-18). Motivate Online Users by Moderating and Providing Tasty Testing Experiences [Paper presentation]. 22nd Conference of Open Innovations Association (FRUCT). 10.23919/FRUCT.2018.8468279

Instagram. (2021). #bookstagram. Instagram.

Lo, E.Y. (2020). How Social Media, Movies, and TV Shows Interacts with Young Adult Literature from 2015 to 2019. Publishing Research Quarterly, 36(4), 611-617.

Maarit, J. (2019). From re-viewers to me-viewers: The #Bookstagram review sphere on Instagram and the uses of the perceived platform and genre affordances. Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture, 10(1-2), 91-110.

MacGillivray, L., Ardell, A. L., Curwen, M. S., & Wiggin, S. (2019). “I Feel Normal Here”: The Social Functions of a Book Club in a Residential Recovery Program. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 15(1), 1-23.

Makri, S. (2020). Information informing design: Information Science research with implications for the design of digital information environments. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 71(11), 1402-1412.

McArthur, J. A., & White, A. F. (2016). Twitter Chats as Third Places: Conceptualizing a Digital Gathering Site. Social Media + Society, 2(3), 1-9.

Pane D.M. (2013, March). Third Space Theory: Reconceptualizing Content Literacy Learning [Paper presentation]. Twelfth Annual South Florida Education Research Conference.

Peeples, D., Yen, J., & Weigle, P. (2018). Geeks, Fandoms, and Social Engagement. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 27(2), 247-267.

Sedo, D. (2003). Readers in Reading GroupsAn Online Survey of Face-to-Face and Virtual Book Clubs. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 9(1), 66-90.

Serafinelli, E. (2017). Analysis of Photo Sharing and Visual Social Relationships: Instagram as a case study. Photographies, 10(1), 91-111.

Strauss, A. (1978). A Social World Perspective. Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 1, 119-128.

Thomas, B. (2021). The #bookstagram: distributed reading in the social media age. Language Sciences. Advance online publication.

Tolins, J., & Samermit, P. (2016). GIFs as Embodied Enactments in Text-Mediated Conversation. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 49(2), 75-91.

Wellman, B. (2001, October 18-20). Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism [Paper presentation]. Second Kyoto Workshop on Digital Cities, Japan.

Worrall, A. (2015, March 3). “Like a Real Friendship”: Translation, Coherence, and Convergence of Information Values in LibraryThing and Goodreads [Paper presentation]. iConference 2015 Proceedings.

19 thoughts on “Readers use social media to host geographically diverse book clubs

  1. Hey Sierra,

    I saw the title of your paper and had to give it a read. I love books and your paper was great to read and very unique. I agree with your statement that readers are turning to a variety of social media platforms to engage in niche book clubs, especially during COVID-19 lockdowns. You mostly talk about Instagram and digital libraries being a third place for users to go and connect with each other about books. I was wondering what your thoughts were on other Social Networking Sites being as effective as those mentioned. For example, I come across a lot of good book recommendations on TikTok. Similarly to Instagram, users can also be connected by hashtags on TikTok. I also regularly check the comment section of book review videos where there seems to be a lot of discussion about the book being shown. I am curious to know why Instagram would be a better platform for hosting geographically diverse book clubs.

    Looking forward to your response!

  2. I like your approach to discussing the geographic biases of book clubs. I wonder how much the bias still is still skewed towards specific national identities, however? Despite the national reach of the internet, it seems that many areas of the world are operating on different platforms parallel to each other. Have you seen any examples of cross-platform book clubs that bridge this new invisible, geographic barrier?

    On another note you mentioned there is the potential for a disconnect online. I found the discussion of how bookstagram uses things like photos of people holding books to bridge that gap and create empathy for an otherwise anonymous identity really interesting. I’d never considered that function of it before. I recently participated in a book club run by a small YouTube I watch. Something she choose to do was live stream the discussion, creating a two way conversation between her and the people in her chat, who could talk to each other as well as listen to her responses live.

    I suppose in a way, this is the same idea. Do you think that the growth of live streaming will heavily change how people conduct online book clubs?

    1. Hi Isaac,

      I think there would definitely be bias towards some identities, though perhaps this could be more of a language or cultural barrier, rather than a nationality barrier. For example, some book groups I have seen are heavily focussed on western authors with very little diversity, which could pose a sense of exclusivity for non-western readers, as these books may not provide a well-written protagonist they can relate to. In terms of seeing book clubs that address the invisible geographic barrier, I’d like to refer to a book club I’m a member of myself (Fantasy Link Book Club on Facebook). We have monthly zoom meetings to allow members across the globe to participate, and offer multiple meetings at different times to suit people joining us from different locations. Last month, we offered 6 separate meetings for members to join, each hosted by an admin of the group to prompt discussion. It was interesting to hear about the many places people were calling in from!

      I myself was surprised that there was more reason for holding a book or picturing a book in someone’s lap than just aesthetic purposes. I’ve been a passive member (in that I like and occasionally comment on photos, but don’t post my own content) of the Bookstagram community for a long time, and had never given it a second thought. There is often a rotation of the same style photos that circulate the community, such as books featured with food or drink, on a bed, in someone’s hand or lap, a close-up of the pages inside, or an image of someone’s bookshelf (often tagged #shelfie). Learning about the concept of embodied reenactment in some of these photos has made me wonder; are there other examples of images passed as mere aesthetic that perhaps have a similar method of creating connections between images and a viewer? Keen to hear your thoughts!

      I definitely think live streaming will play a role in online book clubs, but I wouldn’t say it will change the way they’re conducted. While I love a good live stream from my favourite author or Bookstagram influencer, I think this method still puts one individual in a position of higher esteem than others simply due to their visibility as opposed to those who communicate via the live stream’s comments. Instead, I think platforms such as Zoom give members an opportunity to discuss books on equal footing, as everyone is (usually) visible, and the focus does not rest on one individual person. However, I do think live streams will change the way authors interact with their audience, particularly as we see more and more Q&A style videos. They give readers an opportunity to ask their favourite author a question, and due to the focus live streams place on one person, I think they present the best platform for such events. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this! Do you think Zoom (and similar platforms) or live streams are better for hosting online communities? Which creates a more sound third space?

      Kind regards,

  3. I had no idea that Goodreads could host online book clubs! I find the whole idea awesome, it’s something that I would definitely enjoy participating in. Your paper was so interesting, this is an area I didn’t know much about. I’ve somehow managed to keep my book reading hobby somewhat separate from my online life. For whatever reason, I’ve never really been a part of Bookstagram, and am very inconsistent with using Goodreads. Your paper makes me want to be more active on those sites! I’ve always wanted to partake in a book club, but I’m not much of an extrovert, and the idea of in-person meetings makes me cringe. An online option would be great!

    1. Hi Silas,

      Thank you for the feedback! As an introvert myself, I definitely agree that the idea of in-person book clubs can be a little cringe-worthy! I currently engage in one online book club, and wanted to push myself to put myself out there in my community and be active in discussions. As a result, I’ve been promoted as an ‘admin’ within the group, and now have personal experience in the supervisory roles I explored in my paper!

      It’s interesting that you note that your reading hobby has been kept seperate from your online life! Personally, reading has always been a pinnacle part of who I am, and have always felt most at home when talking about books, and I feel this translated naturally onto social media platforms when sites such as Goodreads and areas of Instagram such as Bookstagram became popular. However, while I’ve engaged with Book-related content for many years now, I would say I’ve only recently established myself as a member of the community. For example, as outlined by Cotter (2018), “likes” can be misconstrued as spam, with some users even being “shadowbanned” if too many photos are liked or commented on in short periods of time. While the posts I liked were not in quick enough succession for me to get shadowbanned, I do not feel that this is enough active engagement to constitute membership within a community, particularly in comparison with the value placed on liking, sharing, commenting, or saving posts by the Instagram algorithm (Agung & Darma, 2019). In the past six months, however, I have begun sharing my own content, actively engaging in discussion, and in relation to some of the recent social issues seen internationally, engaging in the reading community’s role in social activism (such as reading diversely, exploring #ownvoices books, etc). In particular, I’ve taken an active approach to the reading community for the sense of togetherness a community provides, and the opportunity to hear a wide range of perspectives on books I love (or hate!). What is it about the reading community and online book clubs that you feel drawn to ? Do you think theres is a way to promote virtual book clubs, or even take a hybrid approach to modern book clubs? While I’m not sure how the specifics would work, I think a blended book club, similar to what some workplaces are doing post COVID in terms of remote and office working, could be an interesting approach.

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

      Kind regards,

      Agung, N. & Darma, G. (2019). Opportunities and Challenges of Instagram Algorithm in Improving Competitive Advantage. International Journal of Innovative Science and Research Technology, 4(1), 1-5.
      Cotter, K. (2019). Playing the visibility game: How digital influencers and algorithms negotiate influence on Instagram. New Media & Society, 21(4), 895–913.

  4. Hi Sierra,

    I found your paper was researched in depth highlighting both negative and positive sides of virtual book clubs. Perhaps virtual book clubs have or should re-define our own definition of the ‘book club’ which opens this community to a level of engagement and reach normally not found in an offline book club.

    I did not know that Goodreads hosted virtual book clubs. With my own research on YouTube’s literary vloggers, I discovered that such a platform also allows for the virtual ‘book club’ experience. I recently saw BookTuber/Bookstagrammer @withcindy (2021), announce a “2021 Asain Readathon” (to encourage those in the community to read books by Asian authors, and books with Asian main characters etc), this certainly highlights the way virtual book clubs are redefining ‘book clubs’; I saw many people getting involved and sharing books via Instagram (a unique hashtag was also created, and people shared a template that showed the categories to be filled in with a virtual book cover). I also found among the BookTube community that many use multiple platforms, while not necessarily repeating content but utilising the different platforms affordances, I can see that Instagram certainly affords its users with a different type/quality of engagement. Has cross-platform sharing become the new criteria to belong/thrive in these virtual book clubs?

    WithCindy. (2021, April). 2021 Asian Readathon [Video]. YouTube.

    1. Hi Cody,

      Thanks for the feedback!

      I do think cross-platform sharing gives virtual book clubs a better opportunity to thrive in an online space, but depending on the primary platform, I don’t think it’s necessarily required. For example, my own virtual book club primarily exists on Facebook, but we also have a Discord server set up to encourage ‘buddy reading’, instant messaging between members, and voice chat rooms. The content related heavily to our book of the month is shared via Facebook, as well as a few extra posts featuring fun polls and related quizzes shared from EpicReads and Buzzfeed, whereas our discord server allows us to explore the books we read outside of the month’s featured book. I think personally, I would argue that a book “club” cannot exist on a platform that does not give equal weight to every member, as such communities thrive on vibrant discussion and debate. For example, if my book club existed on Instagram or YouTube, it would require at least one primary member to post content for others to comment on. In this case, I would describe the relationship between members as a community, rather than a club. However, if that club extended to other platforms, such as discord or facebook, where users can equally post content and are not reliant on hashtags or comments to remain visible, I think such a community could evolve into a book club. For example, the Bookstagrammer I refer to in my paper, @ezeekat, uses his platform to share book related content and ‘plug’ his book club, but the club itself is hosted on Goodreads, where user-generated discussion boards are available. I’ve shared a link to one of his Instagram posts about the book club below, as well as a link to the Goodreads book club to help illustrate what I’m describing. If you do get a chance to have a look, please let me know what you think! Does having discussion boards create a greater sense of community ties to club members than simply sharing content under the same hashtag?

      Looking forward to hearing from you!

      Kind regards,

      Headley, J. [@ezeekat]. (2021, March 2). Did I pick this book just so I have people to talk about it with? [Photograph]. Instagram.

      Headley, J. (2021). Ezeekat’s Book Club. Goodreads.

      1. Thanks for continuing this discussion with me. I have to agree about the ‘club’ vs ‘community’, the comment section does allow for that sense of community as reflected in the Instagram example you shared. I can see that it has potential to turn into a bookclub as I have discovered with following BookTubers, or club members as you stated, who encourage discussion around particular books. But, as you have stated, it requires one ‘member’ to start the conversation via posting.

        1. Hi Cody,

          I think it’s also worth noting the foundational element of a book club, which aimed to provide a third space for readers to meet and discuss a book. Creating a dedicated group online, such as on Facebook or Goodreads, recreates this third space for readers, whereas a comment section could be more closely related to a community forum, such as those that occur during local election periods. They invite discussion about a particular topic, but do not offer the opportunity to segue into other areas. For example, a book club may start a discussion around a particular book, which may evolve into a discussion about genre, and, developing further, could result in the discussion of books unrelated to the monthly book. A forum answers a particular question, and once that happens, is abandoned.

          Do you have any personal experience with online book communities? If you do, what platforms did they exist on? Do their traits better fit broader communities, or clubs?

          Hope to hear from you soon!

          Kind regards,

  5. Hey Sierra,

    This was a very interesting read!

    I think that the idea of “bookstagram” is very interesting considering the platform is such a visual one. Just by browsing the hashtag, I can see that many of the photos are of physical copies of books on nice backgrounds and on shelves, and I was just reading an article from the Digital Marketing Institute (2020) about how last year physical copies of books were outselling digital copies. The article suggests that surprisingly millennials were largely responsible for the spike in sales, and that there was a desire to collect and save a “reading history” of books one has. Considering Instagram’s demographic is largely within this age range (Statista, 2021), do you think that this is why they’ve chosen this particular platform to post about books on? I think it’s interesting because there are book YouTubers and channels, and you’d imagine your viewers would be able to engage with the books more on those platforms.

    I was also wondering what your thoughts were on the impact the pandemic has had on these types of groups? Do you think there was more or less engagement with these groups during lockdowns and isolation because we weren’t able to gather with localised groups? And if interest in reading did increase as the article suggests during the pandemic, then I suppose consumers may have been more inclined to join these groups and engage with the texts with others.

    Kind regards,

    Digital Marketing Institute. (2020). The Publishing Industry in a Digital Age. Retrieved from

    Statista. (2021). Distribution of Instagram users worldwide as of January 2021, by age and gender. Retrieved from

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Thank you for the feedback!

      I definitely think Bookstagram contributes to many physical book sales, but as the community has existed on the platform for a few years now (I myself have been following #bookstagram content for 6 years), I don’t think it necessarily causes the spike. However, with the many months of lockdown that occurred last year, it’s likely many readers took the opportunity to reconnect with their hobby, readers may have increased buying demand for books. Further, many statistics point to physical books being a strong preference due to the notion of getting the full experience, such as ‘new book smell’, the weight of a book, and the physical act of turning a page, creating a “more primal emotional level” (Toner Buzz, 2021). Personally, I also saw an increase in new Bookstagram accounts last year, though this is just my experience with the platform. With the increased number of people buying physical books, perhaps that has given rise to the number of new accounts! It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation; Did Bookstagram cause a spike in physical book sales, or did the spike in physical book sales cause the expansion of the Bookstagram community?

      In terms of whether or not people engage better with book-related YouTube channels and Bookstagram, I think it comes down to the time a user has. Due to the time limit on Instagram’s videos, as well as the predominantly static image feed, Instagram offers users instant gratification when looking to engage with book-related content. Alternatively, YouTube videos can be anywhere from a few seconds to many hours, so users need to pick and choose which videos to watch based on the time they have. Both platforms have centralised content with a commenting feature, and I think this, therefore, gives a similar experience. To get deeper engagement from either community, I think cross-platform communication would be advantageous, as platforms such as Facebook and Discord offer communities a third space to interact as well as allowing each member to contribute with equal weight, as opposed to Instagram and YouTube’s singular posts that rely on comments to interact, creating a sense of hierarchy between the content creator and viewer.

      In terms of the pandemic, I haven’t seen much beyond anecdotal data, but what I have seen suggests that many physical book clubs, such as those hosted by libraries and museums, made the switch to being accessible on an online platform during the pandemic (Semingson & Kerns, 2020). These largely consisted of the same members. Before COVID-19, platforms such as Facebook were home to many niche book clubs, such as genre-specific or even author-specific groups. While these were popular in the reading community before the pandemic, I think the increase in reading during 2020 would have made these groups stand out more, which may have given rise to an influx of new members. I would be interested to see data on this topic, but have yet to see anything beyond written accounts and experiences from other readers. I’d also be interested to know how many virtual book clubs were started as a result of the pandemic; with remote work, many workplaces no longer had physical social activities. Do you think online book clubs may have presented an opportunity to maintain socialisation in workplaces? I’d also be interested to know how many online book clubs have lost traction as some areas begin to return to (the new) normal.

      Keen to hear your thoughts!

      Kind regards,

      Semingson, P. & Kerns, W. (2020). #Lockdownreading and Virtual Literary Dialogue: Learning how Types of Online Book Club Platforms Functioned During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Proceedings of EdMedia + Innovate Learning, 109-114.

      Toner Buzz. (2021). Paper books vs eBooks statistics show print is here to stay! Toner Buzz.

  6. Hey Sierra!

    Thanks for a very interesting read. The capabilities that social media has to improve content sharing and connect users are truly remarkable. You make a great point about the ability to share visual aid in the form of video reviews and fan art. This would undoubtedly improve the potential to engage in a conversation.

    For my paper, I wrote about the benefits of social media in improving communication and connection between students and teachers. It would be amazing if you could share your thoughts!

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Yes, Sharing visual aid definitely helps individuals to engage with and respond to content. According to Faraday’s visual hierarchy model, images create entry points to content that retain a reader’s attention, but also guide them to other content. While this typically applies to the layout of a webpage itself, I believe it can, therefore, be assumed that webpages containing digital media (such as fanart) create a more engaging platform, and may prompt greater and deeper discussion than pages that do not. Further, it is this model that many social media communities rely on, such as Instagram, due to the visual nature of the platform. While this may not contribute to what extent communities engage with one another, it certainly impact the rate at which a community grows, and how visually prevalent the community is among a plethora of other posts and virtual community groups. However, it could be argued that using visual media to expand a community sacrifices the intimacy of a smaller group. What are your thoughts on this? Do the visual elements of social media put intimacy of online communities at risk, in favour of visual prevalence and audience reach?

      Kind regards,

      Grier, R. (2004). Visual Attention and Web Design [Doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati]. ResearchGate.

  7. Hi Sierra,

    I enjoyed reading your paper, you made some really interesting points.

    You highlight a really interesting topic when discussing the sense of embodied re-enactment on Bookstagram. This isn’t really possible to achieve in the offline space as you don’t see readers walking around holding their book in aesthetically pleasing ways that are meant to provoke a sense of connection between the book and reader. The way these viewers understand and relate to how the reader feels about a book just from the placement of book and body in the image posted on social media demonstrates how the online book club communities can be even more connected than the traditional offline communities.

    In some cases do you think influencers could be trying to commercialise and capitalise on Bookstagram for their own use, detracting from its intended wholesome nature? While we see some celebrities such as Emma Watson benefiting online book clubs and encouraging users to participate, whether for enjoyment or activist reasons, is it possible that not all influencers has such positive intentions and more personal profit making ones?

    It is great how the social media hosted book clubs can mimic physical libraries in so many ways while also adding value to them. For instance discussions with the author in physical libraries are confined to the geographical location the reading is taking place, but on social media through live stories or “ask the author” events there is a farther reach into a third place where the majority of fans can participate without geographical barriers. The sense of browsing, borrowing books and returning them is also oddly calming and satisfying, common feelings associated with book clubs, I know I for one love the process. The ability to mimic this in online libraries adds to the realistic feeling of book clubs.

    I thought it was interesting when you mention how the immediacy found on blogging platforms compared to blog comment sections creates a warm and sociable third place. I hadn’t really considered how this may relate to book clubs before.

    An absorbing read thank you.

    I also discuss the third place on social media but in regard to deaf communities if you’re interested:

    – Lily

    1. Hi Lily,

      It’s definitely interesting to see how embodied re-enactment influences online book communities! While I agree that readers don’t typically walk around holding a book in an aesthetically pleasing manner, I think the notion of embodied re-enactment in this scenario is more reflective of the metaphorical connection to books. I think it could even highlight the connection many readers have to physical books (the feel of making progress in a good book, “new book smell”, the weight of a book being held) as opposed to eBooks, but is potentially reflective of the connection new generations of readers have with online communities. Featuring a limb with a book reminds viewers of the sensory elements of reading a good book!

      I definitely think some influencers capitalise on Bookstagram and their platforms for commercial gain. As someone who frequently explores the Bookstagram tags on Instagram, I often see sponsored posts featuring book subscription boxes and giveaways for book-related merchandise. However, I wouldn’t necessarily argue this is a strictly negative thing. While some Bookstagram influencers may use the platform to share activism related books and content, Bookstagram influencers who use the platform for commercial gain, many of the sponsored products they advertise come from small businesses, both well-known and lesser-known, or content from budding authors. I would argue that this isn’t all too different to if a company paid for pop-up advertising on online retail stores. Arguably, partnering with influencers shows that the company/author knows their target audience and has a better connection and understanding of how to reach that market. I’m not sure how successful influencers who set up a platform with the sole purpose of capitalising on their audience are; many of the Bookstagram influencers I’ve seen seem to have a passion for their content, and have very few sponsored posts. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this!

      Kind regards,

  8. Hi Sierra,

    I read with interest your paper especially the topic regarding “social digital libraries”. It’s amazing to see how the fellow readers are using social media platforms to stay connected not only with one another but the authors as well. This is a good channel for them to provide feedback to the authors on the content of their books. Through all these interactions and discussions, they have been sharing knowledges and experiences with each other. I think indirectly this helps in the development of education in the communities apart from building up their friendship.

    Likewise, the virtual book clubs are another avenue where readers can stay connected and exchange with each other their reading materials of common interest.

    Best regards,


    1. Hi Elaine,

      I think exploring the concept of social digital libraries was the most interesting element for myself too; I use Goodreads frequently, but I use it strictly to track the books I’ve read, and don’t typically engage in the communities, so I engaged in a book club I found to get a better understanding of how they work when writing this paper, and I think it’s definitely something I’ll stick with!

      I agree with your point that social digital libraries help authors connect with readers as well. Have you ever used this type of platform to engage with authors in this way? What was your experience like? I “follow” authors on the platform, but don’t usually interact. However, I do interact with the same authors on other platforms such as Instagram. Personally, I find those platforms more humanising for authors; author profiles on sites such as Goodreads often strike me as very marketing-driven, and seem quite removed compared to normal social media sites. What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a preference for how you engage with authors (if at all)?

      Looking forward to hearing from you!

      Kind regards,

      1. Hi Sierra,

        Thanks for your sharing.

        I have used the digital libraries to connect with other readers but not the author yet. As such, I do not have any experience to share regarding the author. Sorry for that. Overall, it is a very good platform for exchanging information, views and thoughts with other readers.

        Best regards,

        1. Hi Elaine,

          Thanks for your feedback!

          What has your experience with digital libraries been? Do you feel more connected to the reading community online or in-person? From my own experience, I feel more engaged with fellow readers in an online space as opposed to a physical one. As an introvert, I feel like there is less pressure to interact and engage in conversation that I many not feel comfortable with in an online space than a physical one, as there is typically a greater number of members online!

          I agree with your point that digital libraries present a good platform for exchanging information, views, and thoughts with other readers. This contrasts with Instagram, which perhaps focuses too heavily on the visual and aesthetic elements of reading. Nakamura (2013) says the publishing industry is “fetishising” the way we read by putting emphasis on cover art and reading devices, rather than the content of a novel. Do you think this is the case? This rivals the age-old saying of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, and act I am personally guilty of. While I won’t pick a book purely for it’s cover art, I will look for the nicest or prettiest edition of the book I’m hoping to buy. For example, I make a point of buying a series that has matching cover art, or collector’s editions of a stand-alone novel that may have embossed lettering or metallic imagery. Do you think some online reading communities run the risk of focusing on the aesthetic of book, rather than the content, due to the visual prevalence of some platforms?

          Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

          Kind regards,

          Nakamura, L. (2013). “Words with Friends”: Socially Networked Reading on “Goodreads”. PMLA, 128(1), 238-243.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *