FINAL_essay.docx

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Summary

Nook Covers is the title of this digital artefact, a project based on reading and the “aesthetic qualities of literariness” (Murray 2018, p. 83). The development of Nook Covers has gone from being a Society 6 shop page, to a Pinterest and now, an Instagram portfolio. The inspiration behind this project comes from my own bookshelf and being an avid reader myself. There has been countless occasions where personal followers ask for book recommendations. This is where the inspiration came from, the mix of giving suggestions whilst also being creative. Nook Covers exclusively showcases book culture and the redesigning of book covers. Covers chosen based on a subjective bookshelf. The word ‘nook’ was included within the name to associate a finding your very own nook; corner of social media. Initially, the project was directed toward reading addicts. However, even bookish Instagram pages appeal to those who do not read as regularly. The aesthetic lures followers in, regardless of the relevance to their personal feed.

Beginning with Society 6 was ambitious, since print-on-demand websites often use key word association with the design to then attract buyers. This categorisation is fundamental to gaining an audience. However, it is difficult to obtain a constant spot within the online pattern. The four step approach noted from the project’s initial pitch was centric to Society 6. The quick list contains (1) design, (2) upload (3) promote and (4) maintain. These steps still apply to the current version of the project. The fourth step – to maintain – is most difficult when content creation can stunt the process.

Nook Covers has shifted its focus from Society 6, moving to Instagram as per peer suggestions during class meetings. Due to a previous digital artefact (sophiemaykes), I already had a following which I could utilise for Nook Covers. The accounts share similarities with creativity, yet, differ with target audience. This affects how followers interact.

The cover design is not the usual layout, purposefully so. Experimentation with collage, pattern making and typography allows for a unique way to recommend books. The common idea is to not judge a book by its cover, however, the judgment is encouraged on such a platform like Instagram. Likes and comments showcase how followers react immediately. The use of captions facilitate how the books are mentioned, recommended and ultimately, praised. Joan Wong, a book designer who frequents her Instagram page with her successful cover designs works as a reference. Her grid is consistent, clean and meaningful to her brand as a visual designer. The flow is clear for any Instagram user and or follower. This has been a difficult method to work out with Nook Covers. Using planning phone applications, the development of content can be clearly understood. However, Nook Covers’ grid is busy by nature, making the page appropriately reflect its content.

Screenshot of official posts

Analysis

Posts vary from book cover designs and #shelfie inspiration, to textual references from the revealed book. This diversification allows for the account to be consumable, mixing the real posts with organised material. For instance, @fictionmatters is an account dedicated to giving numerous book suggestions. The creator is an educator who successfully sells her product – the art of reading. Sara Hildreth creates a welcoming feed with an assortment of book shelves, single book features and herself. Not to mention her inclusion of competitions and reading challenges. ‘Fiction Matters’ uses Stories to review books in a quick and effective manner, this is an important factor to consider when using such a platform. Particularly, Hildreth’s use of emojis to rate mentioned books, it uses the digital language in a concise manner which translates to users. Other notable accounts include @readitforward, Kate Gavino’s @lastnightreading and @readbetweenthelattes.

‘Read it Forward’ creates a distinctive book community for users to take advantage of a source for suggestion. The content is scattered across their socials and website – with a following of over thirty thousand – users are sure to stay intrigued by their great use of mixed media. From images of quotes to flat lays books, this page offers inspiration for Nook Covers through their content creation. Kate Gavino’s ‘Last Night’s Reading’ (LNR) focuses on authors more than the books themselves. The incredibly artistic page embraces portraiture with quotes to caption.

Screenshot (LNR)

This was the inspiration for the Carmen Maria Machado featured post on Nook Covers (see below).

Screenshot of author illustration post

The inclusion of the author is a useful tool in achieving a wider audience of their fans. This is due to the presence such authors are urged to build via social media. Readers are followers of the author’s work, making the author a celebrity in their own right. Murray (2018) suggests authors must “perform” online for the sake of their fans, across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (p. 169). Authors can tap into the marketing opportunities book socials offer as they post to thousands of readers already. The creative twist is an innovative addition to already marketable content. The last mention is the cosiest muse to follow, a page dedicated to coffee and the social act of reading – ‘Read Between the Lattes.’ Long (2003) dedicates reading to be an inevitable social act (p. 22). What more of a better way to socialise, via social media. This allows for a broader book culture than ever before.

More screenshots

The purpose of remixing is to create a building block for what works in an online environment. As Flath et al. (2017) explains, remixing is not set to the music industry but rather any industry that creates. Using an open platform like Instagram, inspiration and differing versions of the same exist. Book based Instagram accounts are not a new phenomenon but a successful model to follow and embrace. The iteration process is far more important than Nook Covers initially anticipated. To repeat a process means to be consistent in branding your image. Nook Covers is branded as a creative book guide, for readers and those wanting to read more. The creative element offers something eclectic, similar to Kate Gavino’s page mentioned above.

Screenshot from ‘Her Bodies & Other Parties’ recent post

Book culture is growing more contemporary as it fights to prove it is not dead but very much alive (Murray 2019, p. 2). Media contributes to the assumption that reading habits are both valuable yet extinct. Interestingly, eBook sales have not killed the print medium (Murray 2018, p. 1). The comparison can be made with the emergence of television, radio remained significant. Multiple platforms allow for limited saturation across the various platforms. Literary culture – typically consumed in print form – is undergoing a transition as mediums continue to modernise. The practise of reading continues to change with the shifting of internet culture. Readers have choices when it comes to reading as mediums compete to be the final decision. Collins (2010) acknowledges the new tools and how each exhibit the product, thus how the readers consume (p. 4). Social media works perfectly with book club culture, presenting a community for readers wanting to engage, learn and socialise. To become a part of the community, posts must include related hashtags to appear within the algorithm (Leaver et al. 2020, p. 12). The tool Ingramer proposes timeless methods to accumulate hashtags that are relevant and recent. Since posting the suggested hashtags, non-followers have been liking single posts or going through Nook Covers as a whole. As discussed in the Beta presentation, Nook Covers’ followers do not reflect the like and comment ratio. The previous page was inactive for quite some time and with differing content to share, this pushes users to disassociate from the page. While following is important, the content must be prioritised.   

Nook Covers uses official posts, as well as Instagram’s Stories to communicate a variety of content as this format increases to engage users. The success of Stories comes with the limiting time to view, users only have a twenty four hour window to engage with exclusive material from the page, an idea borrowed by Snapchat  (Leaver et al. 2020, p. 17). A clever tactic in forcing users to soak up all the content they possibly can. Nook Covers uses Stories for generating inspiration as well as book recommendations. During the course of this project, I have been prioritising following accounts to get Nook Covers out there as a brand itself. However, I have learnt that as much as this is an important factor, it is more vital to publish content.

Recently, Nook Covers posed a question via Instagram Stories in regard to a particular genre. It asked users what their favourite romance novel was, following The Bronze Horseman post. Disappointingly, users did not reply a single response within the poll. This was a noteworthy lesson in not flipping roles within the creator and user. Followers do not want to recommend books to me, they want to be receiving them. This is where Nook Covers needs to focus. The conversation between follower and creator in this occasion involves a question and answer. The persona for Nook Covers combines “Popular readers” and the “Young and the restless” to make up to thirty per cent of readers (Kelly et al. 2018, p. 290). The mixture of both “clusters” will anticipate female readers to be Nook Covers’ ideal followers, within the eighteen to twenty-four and twenty-five to thirty-four age range (Kelly et al. 2018, p. 280). Women aspire to create new connections, meanings and relationships through their literary behaviours (Long 2003, p. 184). Middlebrow readers are conscious of the arts, yet cannot be categorised above or below on the scale. The middlebrow culture relates to the contemporary world and its effect on literary works. For instance, a reader absorbing Austen through television adaptations as well as original books (Driscoll 2014, p. 5).Understanding audience preferences allows Nook Covers to familiarise content to suit its desired audiences of users. After all, Nook Covers aims to be a creative answer to readers. For reference, here is a starter pack to show the persona:

Persona

In the continuing development of Nook Covers there is hope to educate and reintroduce a book culture into a modern audience. By creatively altering the literal covers of both classic and stylised novels, Nook Covers reintroduces stories with a new edge. The shift between simple designs to intricate illustrations, allows for a complete remix to the covers. Further, contributing to the conversation. The cover designs vary based on the book and its content. The ability for readers to socialise through “book talk” will be attainable to a certain extent (Murray 2018, p. 1). The visual interpretation of each book is seen through each cover design, a graphic blurb some would say. Recently, the content has varied from just book covers, to book stacks and quotes pulled from the piece of work chosen. For example, the most recent triptych of posts includes a cover design, an author illustration and a digitally written quote. This diversification of posts allows for a greater level of engagement. From the Beta pitch, this was the plan to gage what followers want to see. The following post shows a stack of books, no covers to be seen. I created this image at home, moving books to face the opposite way on purpose. So far, this has been the most liked post of Nook Covers.

Screenshot of popular ‘aesthetic’ post

Which supports the notion that users engage for both aesthetic reasons as well as practical motivations. To conclude, Nook Covers continues to develop its content and curation. Funnily enough the process has only just begun. The main concern for engagement is the consistency of posting and creating of material. A key lesson following this project is that planning is crucial, especially with social media. However, there is a fine line between stunting the process of posting for the sake of what feels to be the ideal. Consistency is a challenge on Instagram at times but it must be maintained. As mentioned, the four step process is a great basis for Nook Covers to follow. An Instagram portfolio of creative works must be adaptable to what is trending with online book culture. Although, Nook Covers aims to retain its unique style for remixing book cover designs. To blend what is expected with what is not.

P.S See below for a sneak peak of what’s to come:

Coming Soon content

References:

Collins, J., 2010, Bring on the Books for Everyday: How Literary Culture Became Popular Culture, Duke University Press, pp. 39 – 80.

Driscoll, B, 2014, The New Literary Middlebrow: Tastemakers and Readings in the Twenty-First Century, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1 – 180.

Flath, C, Friesike, S. et al (2017)Copy, transform, combine: exploring the remix as a form of innovation, Journal of Information Technology, 32, pp. 306–325.

Fuller, D & Rehberg Sedo, D., 2013, Reading Beyond the Book: The Social Practices of Contemporary Literary Culture, Routledge, pp. 40 – 89.  

Kelly, M, Gayo, M & Carter, D. (2018) Rare books? The divided field of reading and book culture in contemporary Australia, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 282 – 295.

Leaver, T, Highfield, T & Abidin, C (2020) Instagram: Visual Social Media Cultures, Wiley, pp. 7 – 46.

Long, E., 2003, Book Clubs: Women and the Uses of Reading in Everyday Life, University of Chicago Press, p. 184.

Machado, C.M 2019, Her Body & Other Parties, Profile Books Ltd, London.

Murray, S, 2018, The Digital Literary Sphere: Reading, Writing, and Selling Books in the Internet Era, John Hopkins University Press, p. 1 – 169.

Murray, S, 2019, Secret agents: Algorithmic culture, Goodreads and datafication of the contemporary book world, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Monash University, pp. 1 – 12.

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