#Bookfaces and the Face of the Reader

Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover? Now you can also pose with it! The latest Instagram trend ‘#Bookface’ consists of taking a perfectly positioned photo with the cover of a book so that it extends over into real-life. The question is, what might such a trend reveal about our relationship to literature? 

© Élodie Katan

© Élodie Katan

First and foremost, “#Bookface” is a practice that allows users to experiment with their own creativity. Participants use books in a fun and clever way, turning an object into a prop for artistic expression. It takes serious time and effort to come up with the perfect photo, to perfectly line up the book cover with real-life models or objects. Some appear to be purely coincidental, while others are true works of art. In the age of rampant visual and social media in which everything starts with a picture, it makes sense that such a trend has blown up on Instagram. It can be done as a game, as a contest, or even used to promote a particular book or bookstore.  

However, if we examine what “#Bookface” means for the purposes of literature, it is also a practice that empties the book of its original content. Fixating on the cover art exclusively means that the story no longer matters; the jacket must simply allow for original pictures. The inner pages may as well be blank! It comes as no surprise then that the viral trend originally started out with vinyl album covers instead of books. In the future, it could also expand into paintings, posters, etc. After the #Bookstagram effect shook up dull bookshelves with more colourful covers, will there be a #Bookface effect, with more and more book covers containing faces or other body parts?  

1. https://phototrend.fr/2018/10/bookface-selfie-litteraire-instagram/

Élodie Katan, étudiante en M2
Cours Literature & The Media
Master 2 LISH,
Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones 
Université Paris 8

Reading Literature or Exhibiting the Reader?

In the future, will paper books be obsolete? Will there come a time when the only way we know how to flip a page is to swipe a finger across a screen? These days, we already do most of our reading online. Newspapers, magazines, personal blogs, fiction and nonfiction novels, have all found a happy home on the Internet. So why have we become so obsessed with #bookfaces?


© Camille Kemache

© Camille Kemache

Paper pages translate almost perfectly to the bright screens of our computers, phones, and other interactive electronic devices. However, more nostalgic readers crave the materiality of printed text: the various textures, the smells, not to mention the physical weight of a compilation of pages sewn together. Either way, there is no doubt that books are still relevant today.   

The recent ‘#Bookface’ trend proves that we are still far from abandoning this primary form of communication and storytelling. In fact, the viral challenge demonstrates just how much more we are willing to empathise with the characters of a book. Readers embody a front cover persona through their similar physical traits, but also through body posture —life imitates art, and vice versa. While participants may be tempted to find just the right book, most make the best of what is on hand with surprisingly satisfying and convincing results. In this way, the challenge is both a matter of spontaneity and artistic vision. 

For some, however, what is most notable—and a bit disheartening—is that the books in question won’t necessarily be read by their ‘impersonators.’ ‘#Bookface’ takes away from books their inherent three-dimensional nature and flattens them out into a social media-ready snapshot. As a result, we may finally understand that we are indeed in an age in which a picture is worth a thousand words.  

Camille Kemache, Master 2 MC2L, Université Paris 8
Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones 

Becoming Books: the Meaning of Bookfaces

In France, ‘#Bookfaces’ were popularised on Instagram by the famous book shop Mollat, based in Bordeaux. But what does such a trend say about our relationship to literature?  

© Clémence Varène

© Clémence Varène

‘#Bookface’ posts have proved a useful marketing tool for many bookshops. Having blossomed into a worldwide trend, the hashtag now attracts people from across the globe. “Tourists from all over the world are coming to the shop specifically because of Bookfaces,” explains Emmanuelle Robillar, Project and Quality Manager at Mollat in Bordeaux, France. “It’s a way to create new interest in literature for readers. [Books] are no longer just something you can read, but something you can play with.” 

The trend is certainly a by-product of the social media era in which everything is about being part of a community. By taking part in the #Bookface challenge, participants can use literature as a means to fit in, by doing what is in. In this sense, literature becomes something public and social, as opposed to the more personal and private experience of reading a book for oneself. 

In any case, the ‘#Bookface’ trend is a completely new way to mediatise literature. It gives books a new face, so to speak, and a new dimension on the Internet at a time when social media is arguably the number one means of communication. Every popular ‘Bookstagrammer’ has seized the opportunity to jump on board, as well as a large number of libraries and bookshops. 

With trends like #Bookfaces, literature itself is evolving according to cross-media trends in order to include and promote books in our everyday lives, both on and offline. 

Clémence Varène, étudiante en M2
Cours Literature & the Media
Master 2 MC2L,
Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones 
Université Paris 8

Show Me Your Cover!

While many literature-themed challenges have emerged on social media, one in particular has gone viral: #BookFace. The hashtag counts tens of thousands of posts on Instagram, but the real question is what do such challenges say about the place of literature in today’s society? 

The participation of local bookshops in the ‘#Bookface’ trend is largely due to the book industry’s steady decline. With the growth of other entertainment formats, e-books, and Amazon, the number of books sold in independent bookshops in particular has continued to fall every year. The need to appeal to new customers has led struggling businesses to get a bit more creative. In Bordeaux, France, the bookshop Mollat has taken full advantage of this new social media opportunity. “We have a lot of foreigners who come to visit our bookshop […] thanks to Instagram,” says David Pigeret, Community Manager..  

The ‘#Bookface’ trend is representative of how media overall has evolved in the digital age. In the past, many books were initially published as series. Now, every trend comes from social media. The literature industry has had to adapt to this cultural shift by investing in viral challenges and visual marketing. 

Speaking of visuals, this challenge highlights the fact that book covers are more and more aesthetically pleasing. “The book has had to become attractive and popular,” asserts Cécile Boyer-Runge from French publishing company Le Livre de Poche. “So much so that today, books are visual objects as much as literary works. Otherwise, such visual-based challenges could not exist.”

Yaël Kunz, Master 2 MC2L, Université Paris 8
Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones 

The Bookface Challenge: A New Trend & Exciting Marketing Opportunity for Literature

Over the past few years, among the countless categories of Instagram influencers – lifestyle, beauty, fitness and more – one small but unstoppable group has emerged, fostering an entirely new online community: ‘bookstagram.’  

Filled with aesthetic pictures of the latest books users have purchased or read, ‘bookstagram’ is a virtual platform for readers everywhere to share their passion for books in creative ways. Recently, one viral ‘bookstagram’ challenge attracted the world’s attention. The ‘Bookface’ challenge consists of lining up one’s face or a part of the body with a matching body part featured on a book cover. The trend grew extremely popular, and in turn attracted even more users to the ‘bookstagram’ community.  

The ‘bookface’ challenge is undoubtedly an effective way for publishers to promote books and interact creatively with readers. However, in the digital age that we live in, the challenge has also helped market ‘’reading’’ in general as something fun, even cool. ‘Bookstagram’ and ‘booktube’ (adapted to YouTube) communities have inspired many people to become avid readers. A challenge like the ‘bookface’ challenge perfectly demonstrates how this new generation of readers uses social media to share their passion. And yet, just like that, it becomes more apparent than ever that literature is not only an art, but a market. Social media is thus the perfect tool for publishing houses and libraries to promote their books, and reading in general.  

Hayette Houaoui, Master 2 MC2L, Université Paris 8
Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones 

#Bookface: Exhibiting Books on Instagram

The #Bookface trend likely came from the imaginative minds of those who love literature as much as social media. It involves taking a photo of oneself as part of the cover of a favorite book, essentially creating a whole new cover that includes a little piece of the reader.  

© Entlira Begkai

From a marketing perspective, this trend provides great publicity. On Instagram, for example, users publish their creations along with hashtags referencing their favorite book, author, bookstore, or library. Since when do libraries care about advertising, you might ask? As a matter of fact, more than a few have started rebranding for the new media age. “When you think about the library,” explains Johannes Neuer, director of digital engagement at the New York Public Library, “you think about written text, but what we’ve shown [on social media] is that we have a vibrant visual side.” 

As the new generation spends more and more time on social media, viral hashtags promoting literature may be an excellent opportunity to encourage younger demographics to fall in love with the written word.  

On the other hand, literature lovers may find themselves a bit peeved due to the fact that reading a book is hardly the same as posting to a social media feed. Since current studies show that teens already use social media more often than they read books, such trends may encourage them to be online even more often, as opposed to spending their time more constructively by reading literature.   


  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/03/fashion/oh-those-clever-librarians-and-their-bookface.html
  2. https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/08/20/study-teens-text-and-use-social-media-instead-of-reading-books/

Entlira Begkai, Master 2 MC2L, Université Paris 8
Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones