The impact of Instagrammed selfies on publishing


In the run up to BookMachine Week (23 – 27th February), we have been thinking about images and publishing.

On a typical day you probably gaze over hundreds, perhaps thousands of images. It’s pretty standard to start the day by watching TV, reading a paper or switching on a phone – images are everywhere. They are used to entertain us and inform us, meanwhile clever advertisers use them to turn our intentions into actions which result in purchases.

Did people used to see so many new images? I don’t think so. They would have watched TV, seen printed out photographs, leaflets and billboards. After visiting a gallery they might have bought a printed book as a souvenir; if they had wanted to access the images from an archive, it would have been a hassle to do so.

Now it is so easy. Around 12.9 billion Google searches are made each month. Of those, 40% return images in the results. If you want to find an image of your favourite pop star, TV show or family occasion, it’s normally sat in the palm of your hands. As a result, publishers have had to try harder to make their images stand out. In a world of click, swipe and delete the challenge is how to stay relevant and how to make an impact whilst the rest of the world are self-publishing, posting selfies and tagging images alongside articles.

Amateur photos would once have taken 7-10 days to be developed and then delivered. They are now deleted directly from devices before anyone else sees them. Everyone can now post their photos on the web. The result? People have become accustomed to a poorer quality of image and are are not judging them as harshly.

Publishers have had to do more to stand out as readers are seeing a wider variety of images. Simultaneously, perhaps it is easier to ‘get away’ with a poorer quality image. Hence the popularity of home-grown Vine’s, animated-gifs and selfies, particularly in marketing material. Publishers may have found ways to attract new readers to their content, but to the expert-eye has the quality disappeared?

So where does this leave high-quality visuals on the Web? Is there a future for illustrated books in digital formats, as the Web evolves? As once-were-readers choose Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram before they open a book, what strategies have forward-thinking publishers developed to stay relevant?

At BookMachine week, professional publishers, writers, technologists and agencies with an interest in the future of illustrated books will be discussing this topic. In each city, speakers have been invited to share their thoughts, including:

What has been the influence of digital technology on illustrated books?

How to thrive amid shrinking bookstore space?

How to stay relevant as social media, and Youtube grow in popularity?

What is the impact of self-publishing?

To summarise the findings and pull together the discussions, we will be running an open Twitter discussion (3pm Friday 27th February) to discuss.

If you’re interested in this topic, then join us next week at BookMachine Week. All the information you need is here.

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