Where Is the New Book Collector? How About on the New Social Media

- by Michael Stillman

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An Instagram image from ABAA bookseller Honey & Wax.

Where is the new book collector? Maybe where the young congregate? Certainly, they can be found on social media, and even the older folks know Facebook, probably even have a page and participate. The young have not quite moved on from Facebook, but its role in their lives has diminished. Instead, other social media are taking up more of their time, and the greatest growth the last few years has come from Instagram. Not so many older people use Instagram, but the young do. In a relatively short time (it was created during this decade), it has grown to encompass a billion members. If I had just one dollar for every Instagram member...

 

Instagram is a photo sharing service. I will admit to knowing very little about it. I do know it is not the one where your photos disappear in ten seconds, so you can safely send selfie porn. It's the other photo sharing service.

 

It had not occurred to me that a photo sharing service would be a place to sell books. Not only did the audience seem wrong, the capacity to sell your wares did not seem a good fit. Artwork, maybe. It is visual. Books are textual. Facebook gives you text. Twitter, for all its severe limit on the size of posts, provides text. If Twitter posts are too wordy, how can you sell books?

 

Still, there it was. An article appeared in Forbes Magazine (The Capitalist Tool) entitled "8 Tips For Becoming An Instagram Book Dealer." Obviously, some dealers are reaching their audience this way. While there are some older people on Instagram, one would assume a bookseller uses it to reach a younger audience. According to Statista, 71% of those who use Instagram are between the ages of 13-34. This is not the demographic of the typical book collector. Only 5% are 55 and up, 2% 65 and up.

 

The eight tips for selling books on Instagram are what you might expect. Selling is selling, regardless of the vehicle, and these tips are good advice no matter where you sell. They are: (1) Take great pictures; (2) Treat every sale seriously; (3) Be social; (4) Be a real person, not just a seller; (5) Be fair; (6) Reward your repeat customers; (7) Never stop learning; and (8) Support the competition. The one thing missing from this list is "Write great descriptions," but that one is not possible with the Instagram format.

 

With Instagram, you will be confronted with a page of pictures. You can choose your pictures by terms, or hashtags. The rare books hashtag (#rarebooks) will create an album of book pictures. Other book hashtags, such as #oldbooks or #bookshop will do the same. Subject specific hashtags, such as #australia, may find some books about Australia, but they are likely to be lost among all the other images relating to Australia.

 

What you really need to do is follow the booksellers you like. This way you will find out when they post new material. In some cases, this may be the only way to inquire about the book you find of interest. The result is that personal interactions with buyers are more important on Instagram than typical listing sites such as AbeBooks. Hence the advice about being personal, social, and rewarding repeat customers is particularly important when selling on Instagram. Another benefit of selling on Instagram, and dealers will love this, is because the connection is directly between buyers and sellers, there are no commissions charged on sales.

 

According to the Forbes article, at least from the interviewed bookseller, the books are mostly lower priced. Most of his sales are under $10, but have gone as high as $1,000.

 

You can read the complete Forbes article by clicking here.