Bookstagram, Booktube, and Pinterest: The Book Reviews of 2018


Bookstagrams, Booktubes, and Pinterest are reshaping book commerce because of their power to amplify word of mouth through aficionados and influencers. As such, publishers and booksellers need to take these communities into account as they build their book marketing strategies.


Given the role these communities hold in the way readers discover books, here’s a breakdown of everything a publisher needs to know about modern book reviewers:

  • A bookstagram is an instagram account that regularly features books. As of February 2018 the hashtag: #Bookstagram has more than 17 million posts, all by bibliophiles.
  • Booktube, or “Book YouTube”, is the video equivalent: a subgroup of Youtube's community, encompassing the channels that discuss and review books.
  • Pinterest for books does not have its own fancy name yet, but a search of the word ‘book’ on the platform is enough to reveal thousands of boards that are like walking through a beautiful online library.

A. Where did online book reviews start?

The initial online format for book reviews was the book blog.(Brain Pickings is a good example of a modern one.) As effective as they were, traditional blogs were still restricted to the niche corners of the internet. Book reviewers who were not Oprah, nor famous book critics, still found it near impossible to make their opinions ripple. With the rise of social media, and platforms like Facebook, Yelp! and TripAdvisor, and with them the Amazon Reviewer.

Online reviews, once written by the elite, are now written by the reader. They abide to a simple rating system: 5 stars, thumbs up/down, or just a few subjective lines about the book. These reviews, at this point a central pillar of the buying experience, have gained unprecedented reach and popularity.

Multi-format social media platforms such as Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest have given the readers new outlets to share their book commentaries.

B. The Bookstagrammer

1. Who are Bookstagrammers?

They run Bookstagram accounts. Publishers who market their brands on Instagram also fall under this umbrella, but our interest here lies with user and influencer generated reviews.

Plenty of bookstagrammers are worth your time. Start with Kate Tilton’s Masterlist of book Instagram blogs, if you want a neatly compiled index. A specific example is @Oliverskywolf. With a humble 5000 followers, he captions his images with lengthy, thought-provoking book reviews. His photographs mirror the books he’s reviewing. Another bookstagram, @ernest_hedgingway posts pictures of a hedgehog posing with books. Ernest has 50.6k followers who get updates on the hedgehog’s favorite books. Some bookstagrams, such as @hotdudesreading are less serious in tone, but more successful in terms of followers and visibility. The account attributes its success not just to the attractive pictures of men reading on subways, but also to inventive, humorous captions that revolve around books and puns: evidence that there’s no single formula to what works or what doesn’t. All that is needed is a strong content strategy.

2. What is a Bookstagram’s typical content?

The emphasis with Bookstagrams usually falls on the art of book photography rather than on the book’s content. A bookstagram account can be funny, personal, or even artistic. The tone is usually personal, relaxed and therefore, accessible. With Instagram stories, nostalgic filters, and captions that allow up to 2000 words, Instagram is veered towards eliciting an intimate relationship with its followers. Instagram has the dual ability to show a book cover and evoke the emotions that go with it. A picture of a book is also about the experience of flipping through the book’s pages, and the nostalgia of visualizing a calm beach and manuscripts on white sand. This ability to communicate with audiences on a personal level and appeal to their emotions they associate with reading is a powerful advantage. As a result, Instagram reviews advertise not just the book, but the experience of reading.

3. Do Instagram Reviews Sell Books?

Sale conversions are difficult to measure, unless the bookstagrammers accounts are affiliated with an online bookstore. Instagram insights are indicators that when it comes to conversions, user-generated content statistically increases the chance of conversion by 4.5%.

An important case to remember is that of The Luckiest Girl Alive, by first-time novelist Jessica Knoll. Instagram’s influence came into the spotlight when it unexpectedly landed the book on the Amazon’s top 100 Book list, after Reese Witherspoon posted a video of herself reading it. The success was apparent here because of the volume of sales attributed to one celebrity’s action. However, the phenomenon, while less flagrant, exists independently of celebrity status, as long as the influencer’s audience is large enough.

Instagram book reviewers, at least the good ones, are revered artists in their own rights, and sometimes masters of content creation. Bookstagram accounts’ popularity speaks for themselves. They are a great way to discover books, offering book lovers a haven for easy to consume, trustworthy recommendations.

C. The Booktuber

1. Who are Booktubers?

The modern Youtube reviewer is young, charismatic and jumping off the screen. Chami’s Books I Did Not Finish video is a case in point: it’s energetic, it has a refreshing angle on book reviews, and it’s simply fun to watch. Booktubers describe their work as a labor of love, rather than money. All the more reason for publishers to interfere and find ways of having conversations with these gatekeepers. Booktubes are personalized. Every niche has its type of review: the edgy comic book reviewer (ComicGirl19), the gothic reviewer (LigeiaResurrected) and the girl-next-door reviewer (abookutopia) are some examples. Thug Notes by Wisecrack offers in-depth analysis of literary themes in books ranging from Macbeth (with more than 1 million views) to the Count of Monte Cristo, all delivered with a satirical approach that mixes Hip Hop speak with academic lingo.

2. What is Booktube’s typical content?

Video did not kill the written review, but it’s safe to say that Youtube has offered bookworms access to a refreshing format. This type of content allows room for reviewers to experiment with tone, style and themes. Videos range from the profound to the straight-out hilarious, and most of the time, they’re both (PolandBananaBooks).

What’s interesting about Booktube is that it has restored reading to what it has always been: a personal experience. Videos are either simple, one-person-one-camera formats, or they can be elaborate well-edited masterpieces with energetic jump cuts, collages, animations and art direction. Not only do some episodes go up to 20 minutes, but an extensive comments section allows interaction with audiences. It’s not uncommon to witness entire debates about plot, theme and style develop in the Youtube comments.

3. Do Youtube Reviews sell books?

Marketers who use video in their strategies have 49% faster revenue growth than those who don’t. This proves there’s a huge opportunity for publishers to market books through video. Book sellers can easily taking advantage of that by building the right relationships with these influencers. Many booktube channels, however don’t have affiliate links, and do not actively try to convert viewers, which is perhaps part of the appeal.

Conversions or not, with millions of views per video, bloggers, online personalities, and the average youtuber have become authorities, and a great medium to get a book in the correct hands. If we go by the rule that the bigger the audience the more valuable the opinion, then their opinion is worth millions.

D. Pinterest for Books

1. Who is on Pinterest for books?

Publishers, authors, bloggers and readers. Many people think of Pinterest when they think of wedding dresses and home decor. However, this intuitive platform is also a useful tool for people who save reading lists and collect attractive covers. Readers often curate entire recommendations or mood boards that revolve around books. A great example of a user-driven board is Victoria Smith’s Book By Its Cover that compiles the best book cover designs. For a quick dip into Pinterest, Book Riot has compiled a list of the 15 best book Pinterests which includes boards created by publishers and users.

2. What is Pinterest for book’s content?

Pinterest is straightforward. It allows users to create online collages or pins. While this sounds simple, it is an effective tool in facilitating book discovery and recommendations. Users can curate boards that group books, images, reading lists and covers that fall under a same theme. The reviews are not reviews in the traditional sense of the word, but Pinterest makes it easier for readers to find a book related to their interests. Unlike YouTube, or Instagram not all users add their explicit opinion of a book. However, by adding a book to their board, they are giving it their stamp of approval. A board about Rome, for instance, will have images of the streets, the food, the view, and the books to read while visiting the city. It’s a great way to help readers discover books even when they’re not looking for them: a publisher’s dream.

Alternatively, a complete board can be created for a single book, combining different places, characters and artwork that are related to the book, giving potential readers a visual summary of what it’s about.

3. Do Pinterest book boards sell books?

From a business point of view, the best part about Pinterest’s content is that every collage can be linked to a product page, a website, or an online store. This feature is at the heart of Pinterest, and helps drives sales through fuelling traffic. In fact, the Pinterest’s business page boasts that 87% of pinners purchased a product because of Pinterest, while 93% of users say they use Pinterest to plan purchases. As such, Pinterest’s book reviews could be vital elements of a publisher’s solid marketing strategy.

Today, influential people are not just in Hollywood and behind keyboards, but everywhere on the net. People’s buying journeys are evolving, and so is the way they share and consume content. User-generated content is the new big player, and it has found its way into the domain of book reviews. With an opinion, any book reader becomes a book reviewer, and with a big enough audience, they can impact book sales.

But how can publishers take advantage of the book reviews of 2018? When it comes to Instagram and Youtube, it’s important to get the books in the hands of the right influencer, through advanced reader copies, free ebook versions or other deals if the budget allows it. As for Pinterest, publishers might need to get hands-on with the work themselves and compile attractive content in a smart way. Done well, this should attract the right users and entice them to share the content themselves.

The book review of 2018 can have many shapes and authors, but just like its predecessors, it will always have the same purpose: help readers decide which book to read next.

Jonathan Dagher

Jonathan leads the production of E-learning content at Bookwitty. He creates online courses, educational videos, and papers about the book & publishing industry. After starting his career as an engineer, he now focuses on creative writing and producing content for the web.