The answer, my dear readers, is yes: it is.
I’ve been blogging about books for over 4 years now and instagramming about books (or bookstagramming) for about 2. In all time that, I never really sat down to think about or appreciate what technology has done for the literary world. That is, not until I read this article in The Guardian a few months ago. After reading this article, I thought about all the ways the internet and, as an extension social media, have changed literature. And then I wrote a paper about it. And then I submitted said paper to the Sigma Tau Delta literary convention. Hopefully it will be accepted and I can present it in March! If not, at least the experience of writing the paper was an insightful and enjoyable one. I’d like to post some of the highlights from my paper here and see what you all think. Rather than being in academic format, I’ll paraphrase, as my blog is much more informal, and I’d like to keep it that way.
A lot of people think technology is killing the physical book. I’ve heard people say e-readers and audiobooks are going to kill physical bookstores and the books themselves. However, after the research I’ve done, I think the opposite is true. I think technology, or, rather social media, is helping the industry. Virtual bookshelves may be possible and popular, but I don’t think the physical book will ever disappear.
A big way the internet and social media have affected literature is in the content itself. Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t have died if only they’d had cellphones and Wi-Fi, right? Maybe. But the technologically advanced world provides its own set of challenges, too. Tons of books not only include social media in the stories, but some focus solely on this technology. Like, it’s part of the main plot. A book that comes to mind is The Future of Us by Jay Asher. A terrible book, but nonetheless a story about Facebook. The characters of Everything, Everything would never have been able to communicate if not for texting. Same goes with the characters in Simon Vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda and emails. These kinds of stories didn’t really exist before the technology was created. Literature mirrors society.
The covers of these books have also been affected by social media. Bookstagram is wildly popular with book lovers. If you search #bookstagram on Insta, you’ll find literally millions of posts with the hashtag. People are not only sharing the books they love and cherish, but also appreciating the aesthetically pleasing books they buy. Attractive covers = more posts and more sales. Designers of covers know this and they capitalize on it. But newly published titles aren’t the only books partaking in this trend—the classics are getting makeovers, too. It only makes sense to re-brand old books and make them new again and pleasing to the 21st century eye. Classics are being redesigned and re-released with modern covers. The classics are always going to sell—that’s what makes them “classic.” But a fancy new cover can mean a jump in sales and publicity.
The internet has also changed the way society shares and discusses literature. Instagram is only one of the many sites used by book lovers. We also utilize blogging sites, Twitter, Litsy, Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, Pinterest, etc. One person’s opinion about a book can instantly be read by thousands using social media. The internet gives a platform to anyone who wants one. Never has it been easier to communicate on such a large scale. Not only can book lovers communicate with each other, but we can also communicate with the authors who wrote the books we love. I follow many authors on social media. Some are more active than others, like John and Hank Green, Neil Gaiman, Jeff VanderMeer, and Rainbow Rowell, to name a few. Receiving a like or comment from one of these authors can be the most exciting experience. One time I tweeted Jeff VanderMeer and when he replied I was so giddy I could barely control myself. Another time I went to see Neil Gaiman and wound up in the front row of the non-VIP section and happened to show up in a photo he took and shared on Twitter. These kinds of things are encouraging and amazing for some of us. Heck, even getting a comment from a fellow book lover means the world to me.
I don’t think technology is going to kill the physical book. I think, if anything, it is helping. And I, quite frankly, find it fascinating to see how many ways social media has changed literature. My paper delves much further and is written better, but I really wanted to share this on my blog, too, so I hope you’ve found this as interesting. There’s not a lot of academic writing about this topic, so I encourage those of you interested to write, write, write! And keep blogging. Keep reading. Keep bookstagramming. Keep doing it all, because it not only promotes literature but helps to keep it alive.
Any thoughts and general comments are welcome, as I would love to hear what anyone else thinks about the topic.