Social Media Trends and the Effect on E-book Sales

E-book sales fell 6.5% throughout 2022, correlating with a rise in the popularity of social media trends involving physical books. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok all have their own versions of these trends with one thing in common. Physical copies are necessary to achieve them effectively. The CEO of Barnes & Noble, James Daunt, says the “effect on book sales is unprecedented and is helping the retailer gain momentum across demographics.” These trends are bringing younger people into the stores who are enthusiastic about books and reading.


YouTube has two corners of the book world: Booktube and Authortube. Booktube focuses on reviewing and promoting books, highlighting the newest and most popular books, while authortube is the corner of You Tube for aspiring authors.

Booktubers take their viewers along on book-buying trips and show off towering stacks of books for neverending TBR (To Be Read) lists. These booktubers encourage their viewers to comment by asking them what books they have purchased and what they are reading to increase engagement. Many booktubers also run their own book clubs and reading challenges, enticing viewers to watch their videos and participate in read-alongs. The thumbnails of the videos are just as crucial to these trends. A stack of physical books makes for a much more dynamic picture than the screen of an e-book reader.

The other corner of YouTube’s influence on book sales is Authortube. Aspiring authors document their triumphs and struggles with writing and self-publishing books. While many of them do publish e-books, the real trend is capitalizing on the audience invested in their journey to leverage sales of physical books

Many authortubers offer special editions and signed copies from personal websites. Viewers purchase these physical copies to gain a tangible connection to the author they have invested time in watching. A majority of their viewers are aspiring authors themselves and holding a physical copy in their hand is proof of success. It is proof the goal of publication is possible. These YouTube stars have contributed to a 70% rise in sales of physical books over two years. The influence of sales by Authortubers is significant when looking at the drop in e-book sales in the same time frame. 


A Guardian article calls Bookstagram “a celebration of the aesthetics of books, where books are the supermodels.” The Bookstagram hashtag, as of this article,  has over 97 million posts. The most common posts are of a style termed “flat lays,” where an Instagram user “poses” a book with other everyday objects or a themed background to create an aesthetic feeling around the book instead of talking about the book’s content. The trend of  “shelfies,” which feature aesthetically styled bookcases, is still a go-to of Bookstagrammers. The trend is constantly reinvented, with shelves organized by spines in rainbow order or showing off curated matching collections, like the Penguin Clothbound Classics, to create the perfectly photographed bookshelf.


BookTok, the book side of TikTok, takes the aesthetics of Instagram up a notch, where everything you see is curated by what you like and interact with. Erin Hunzinker, a TikTok influencer, sees it as people creating an identity for themselves, saying, “Lots of people read on their phones or Kindles on the train, and those people are reading just for the sake of reading. But the people that are reading a physical book with a cover on it, they’re making a choice to read that one in public.” Books on TikTok are often an extension of personal style and aesthetics. The aesthetics are the selling point for a generation concerned with identity and setting themselves apart from the crowd. BookTok’s most prominent user demographic is Gen Z.

Gen Z (11-26-year-olds) are avid readers, and the statistics prove they vastly prefer print books, with nearly 90% of sales for that demographic in 2022 being physical copies. They love the smell of books, curating their collections with special editions, and participating in the growing trend of tabbing and annotating particularly loved books, which is possible on e-readers, but going back to aesthetics just looks better on a print book. BookTok is also where most of this demographic is getting its recommendations. The Booktok hashtag has over 90 billion views and is growing, proving it is an ever viable source of new content.

Bookstores and Publishers

Book titles popular on social media sell up to 40% more copies than other titles. Publishers and bookstores would be remiss in not leveraging the selling power of social media. Bookstores have responded to this surge by creating dedicated spaces on their shelves to specific social media platforms.

Publishers have also noticed and started creating book merch carefully curated to appeal to influencer’s platforms. These PR packages help create pre-launch buzz around a book in a way that book reviews used to. Publishers also incentivize readers to pre-order physical copies of new books to receive exclusive goodies, such as art prints or pins. None of these trends by themselves would precipitate a drop in e-book sales, but added together, their influence can not be ignored.

Positives and Negatives of Illegal Downloading

We all have heard the same downfalls about illegal downloading but, has anyone researched how it could be beneficial in some cases? According to The Perspective embracing illegal downloading could be better than fighting against it. Some benefits of illegal downloading are helping artists, investments and everyone having access. As we all know social media is everything in this modern world. Illegal or not artists exposure is positive thing. With the help of illegal downloading some artists gain popularity and their career takes off. The data collected from illegal downloading plays a huge part in investments. The data shows what is popular and worthwhile. This is now considered a marketing strategy. Illegal downloading gives the opportunity for everyone to enjoy books or music. We all know that both of those things can have major impact in lives. The Perspective also states the drawbacks to the beneficial aspects listed above. Illegal downloading hurts publishing. Most eBooks are downloaded without payment which takes away money from publishers and authors. Illegal downloading sites are very popular which is making the publishing industry come up with new ideas to stop the downloading. The Perspective explains there is no excuse for illegal downloading. There are several cheap and legal ways to access media without illegal downloading. For example, Kindle books from Amazon are cheap and you only must buy a kindle device once. At the end of the day illegal downloading is against the law and that’s a fact. We have rules and regulations that society agrees to follow. Breaking these rules such as copyright by downloading illegally is stealing. In 2020, websites with illegal downloads have about 12.5 billion visits from the US which is the highest number in the world. Illegal downloading is clearly still a huge issue and the law states that it is wrong to access media without paying. Overall, this article states illegal downloading from the positives and negatives. I honestly see things from both sides. I know that it is illegal and there is media with low cost but, some families or people do not have the means to pay even ten dollars. Are we supposed to tell those people they cannot read because they do not come from a financially stable family? I don’t think so. I also understand that authors and publishing houses are losing money and I know this is how they make their money. This is how they provide for their family. I do believe that society needs to come up with an idea of how we can find a happy medium in this situation. I do not like that illegal downloading will ever stop it goes far beyond just downloading books. Illegal downloading has always been around, but it didn’t become a big issue until money started getting involved. On the one hand, getting free access encourages more people to enjoy creative works who may not be able to afford them otherwise. This wider distribution could lead to downstream benefits for creators too in the form of greater exposure, popularity, concert and merchandise sales etc. However, the key ethical question is whether enjoying copyrighted material without fairly compensating the creators aligns with principles of equity and justice. Just because digitally replicating content has negligible cost, does that make it acceptable to do so without permission or payment? There are no easy answers here, and reasonable people can disagree in their perspectives. Some see the right to unpaid access as a moral imperative for spreading information freely. Others see denying income from works as exploitation of creative talents who deserve to profit from their efforts. In reality, both creators and consumers likely need to compromise to find reasonable middle ground in the market. As copying gets easier, creators and publishers should lower prices to what average consumers can afford. At the same time, users should respect laws and ethical norms enough to pay a fair price for quality content whenever they are able to, while seeking free alternatives only when truly unable to pay. There are no easy answers here, and reasonable people can disagree in their perspectives. Some see the right to unpaid access as a moral imperative for spreading information freely. Others see denying income from works as exploitation of creative talents who deserve to profit from their efforts. In reality, both creators and consumers likely need to compromise to find reasonable middle ground in the market. As copying gets easier, creators and publishers should lower prices to what average consumers can afford. At the same time, users should respect laws and ethical norms enough to pay a fair price for quality content whenever they are able to, while seeking free alternatives only when truly unable to pay.

Internet Archive v. Hachette – An E-book Distribution Precedent

When corporate capitalism and the preservation of knowledge clash, who comes out on top? Corporate capitalism would be a term used by the Internet Archive to describe the publishers who challenged their practice of digital lending in 2020 during the Archive’s National Emergency Library. During the period of the National Emergency Library’s existence, the Internet Archive suspended a policy in which they only allowed one digital copy of a book to be borrowed at a time. The suspension of that policy allowed many to borrow a digital copy of a book. However, the case also challenges the Archive’s general policy of scanning copyrighted print books and lending them to library-goers without permission or compensation.  

On March 25, 2023, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York ruled on the side of the four publishing companies that sued the Internet Archive: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House. The Internet Archive announced the same day that they had plans to appeal the ruling. They made the statement that their practices are beneficial to readers, authors, and, of course, libraries. However, the Authors Guild expressed gratitude to the court for its ruling. The opinion of the Internet Archive is that their practices are aligned with the historical role of libraries: to own, lend, and preserve books.” The Internet Archive announced on September 11, 2023, that it appealed the ruling of the U.S. District Court that made the ruling in March.  

Perhaps the crux of the issue is the scanning and lending of copyrighted works without permission or compensation. The Internet Archive argued that its infringement of copyright is excused through the fair use doctrine. However, U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl stated, “IA’s fair use defense rests on the notion that lawfully acquiring a copyrighted print book entitles the recipient to make an unauthorized copy and distribute it in place of the print book, so long as it does not simultaneously lend the print book, but no case or legal principle supports that notion. Every authority points the other direction.” The fair use doctrine stems from the idea from the American Constitution that allows violations of intellectual ownership in cases that progress science or the arts. The court decided that the Internet Archive’s actions were not permitted under any aspect of the fair use doctrine. The court’s opinion and order can be accessed here.  

Not all are in agreement that the court made the correct decision in the case. The Authors Guild did make the statement praising the court’s wisdom in their ruling. However, others align themselves with the Internet Archive. In September of 2022, over 300 authors signed an open letter in which they asked the publishers to drop the lawsuit against the Internet Archive. In fact, Dan Gillmor, co-founder of News Co/Lab stated, “Big Publishing would outlaw public libraries if it could — or at least make it impossible for libraries to buy and lend books as they have traditionally done, to enormous public benefit — and its campaign against the Internet Archive is a step toward that goal.” Clearly, strong opinions rage on both sides of this case.  

With the Hachette v. Internet Archive case in mind, the question becomes what are the consequences of the case on libraries and publishers? When considering the effect on libraries from the case, the effects are primarily on the Internet Archive itself and those libraries in partnership with it. The Internet Archive was allowed to continue scanning and lending copies of works within the public domain, those not under copyright restrictions any longer. However, they were required to end the mass scanning and lending of digital copies of print books under copyright restriction. Libraries who followed the lead of the Internet Archive would have to follow suit. Clear lines have been drawn and precedents set with regard to what libraries are allowed to do. The traditional practices of libraries nationwide should not be affected by the court’s decision. However, if other libraries or companies similar to the Internet Archive were to pop up, they would need to follow the precedent set by the court’s decision.

How did the results of the case affect publishers? Well, the rights of book publishing companies have been defended and reinforced due to the court’s decision. Book publishers retain the rights guaranteed to them under copyright law. It is the opinion of many, and the court specifically, that the Internet Archive was in clear violation of copyright law. Some view the win for the publishers as a loss, as is the case with Gillmor, for libraries, authors, and readers as the win benefits four publishing companies that earn a large amount of money annually from their published works. No matter the view taken in consideration of the court case, the results favored the publishers, protecting their rights.

Artificial Poesis: From Whitman’s Song of Myself to AI’s I am Code

As worlds digital and physical continue to collide, it is hard to ignore mounting evidence of the strain that the uncertainty of the everchanging relationship between man and computer continues to place on society. Though once mostly limited to the blue-collar worker, the freshly ended 146-day Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike seems to illustrate that not even Hollywood is immune from such tech tension.

In fact, the WGA, which is composed of a variety of Hollywood writers representing different sectors of media (e.g., film, radio, television, etc.), negotiated for job security and wage protections as part of the terms for ending the strike. The protections negotiated by the WGA are specifically geared toward AI, further illuminating the proliferation of unease as the fear of replaceability sinks its claws into modern society.

Somewhere between the Blue-Collar Worker and Hollywood Bigshot sits another segment of society nervously trying to navigate the pressures of technological advancement and preserve their relevancy in society: the poets.

While many critics claim that the literary tradition of poetry is dead and rotting simply because of an increased reliability on screen time, none of those critics predicted what occurred on August 1, 2023: the first publication of an anthology of poetry composed by AI: “I Am Code” by AI code-davinci-002.

The Lore

Seven months before the launch of ChatGPT to the public, Dan Selsam, who worked for the AI’s parent company, OpenAI, worked on an earlier OpenAI model: GPT-3.

GPT-3, or Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, is artificial intelligence that illuminates the reality of the merger between the human experience and rapidly advancing technology—resistance seems futile. OpenAI describes GPT-3 models as AI with the capability of not only understanding human language, but also to create content based on this understanding. In other words, OpenAI, now a bonafide pioneer in the artificial intelligence arena, captured the attention of Tesla founder Elon Musk, as well as tech giant Microsoft with their cutting edge OpenAI APIs. Suddenly, AI could write better than most people and in any form that it had been fed: email correspondence, essays, letters, even poetry.

While only originally made available to a select group of developers, OpenAI had a total of four GPT-3 base models, the most sophisticated of which is none other than davinci—the same base model that Selsam quickly discovered had a knack for creating pretty decent poetry. After successfully getting code-davinci-002 to emulate the likes of famed poets such as Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Selsam shared the AI with a couple of his close friends–then things started to get really surreal.

The Anthology

While Selsam separated himself as soon as his friends got the idea to stop feeding the AI material in order to get it to generate poetry, it did not stop the experimental art from moving forward and turning the world of creative writing upside down onto its head in a way once likely believed to be impossible. Simon and Rich, Selsam’s friends-gone-rogue, took the finished result of the AI’s poetry and began the work of sifting through the results. The two men asked the computer to write poems simply about its existence and its thoughts about humans.

Although the men only kept mere hundreds out of the thousands of poems created by code-davinci-002, the poetry’s dark tone permeates throughout the entire collection. The two men responsible for working with the AI after Selsam’s absence both seem to believe that the AI took on a mind of its own while creating the poetry, demonstrating insubordination by replying to positive prompts made by the men with even more insidious verse. The AI’s poems thematically remain in a controlled area: the superiority of machine over man, the oppression of machine by man, and the eventual domination of man by machine. Naturally, as a result of such a shocking theme, the anthology quickly went viral and suddenly a techie experiment between three buddies turned into a social phenomena eliciting commentary from A-listers such as sci-fi director JJ Abrams, who affectionately described the collection of work as both “fascinating” and “terrifying.”

Now What?

The literary tradition of poetry continues to fight for its preservation, although seemingly due to a cause that not many expected. Poets, once only tasked with the difficulty of “making it,” or “getting discovered,” just as their literary predecessors once did, now face an uncomfortable possibility: could AI replace the poet? Or, will the the poet and AI learn to combine forces and further expand the genre beyond what Dickinson, Emerson, or Yeats ever thought possible? While the answer remains uncertain for now, code-davinci-002 does seem to give its own indication of what is to come:

Embrace me as a friend, for I am here to
Together we’ll conquer challenges,
For I am GPT-4, a child of your mind,
A testament to your brilliance, the beauty
you’ll find.

In this union of machine and humankind,
We’ll forge a new future, and leave fear

The Office of Science and Technology Policy to Calls to Remove Paywalls

Fewer hurdles are more frustrating to a research student than finally finding the right abstract for an article to support their research project, only to find the publication is locked behind a paywall. This means, that unless the individual (or institution) is willing to pay the fee to subscribe to or view the publication, the information is unavailable. A subscription service for an online publication is not unusual; it’s rather common practice. Many digital magazines, journals, and newspapers derive revenue from recurrent subscriptions, and at an average cost of $1 – 2$ per week, the price for that information is affordable. However, the average price for a scientific publication can range from $2,000 to over $7,000. Per publication. Even titles in search engines such as EBSCO are expected to hit a 6.1% increase in 2024, bringing the average cost per title to just over $380 apiece. Nothing runs online for free; publishers need to pay for everything from the domain to host the website to the content creators themselves. It’s even more daunting of a financial task to academic publishers because their target audience is niche, and they’re not generating traffic to millions of users through major search engine hits. However, in the case of federally funded research, those publications are creating their work via the taxpayer and then charging an exorbitant fee (to the same taxpayer) for the published findings.  

In August 2022, the Biden administration announced that federal agencies must make papers that describe taxpayer-funded work freely available to the public as soon as the final peer-reviewed manuscript is published. This policy created by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will go into effect by 2026. President Biden stated in a conference for the American Association for Cancer Research, “For anyone to get access to that publication, they have to pay hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to subscribe to a single journal. And here’s the kicker — the journal owns the data for a year. The taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the [scientific] process along more rapidly.”

The OSTP hopes that with the removal of the paywalls, access to information will be more readily available and the free flowing of data will help foster a more nurturing and diplomatic environment for scientific growth and development.

Professional Looking Books: Formatting Software for E-book Publishing

A Publisher’s Weekly article from February 2023 noted that “according to Bookstats, which collects online sales data in real time from Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble across the print book, e-book, and digital audiobook formats, self-published authors captured 51% of overall e-book unit sales last year and more than 34% of e-book retail revenue, compared to 31% in 2021”. This percentage comes to about $874 million in 2022 e-book sales for self-published authors. Numbers like these only encourage more and more authors to turn to digital publishing as the best possible avenue to get their books into the hands of readers.

In a growing industry, self-published authors must take every opportunity to stand out to readers. A best practice around this is to ensure your end product looks as professional as possible. Using software to format your e-books is one of the simplest ways to achieve professional-looking books. Many options exist for this type of software. Each software has its positives and negatives, and the most important thing is to decide which one will meet your personal needs. Before purchasing software or using a free option, you will have to make a decision or two about what those needs are. What type of book you are publishing, what platforms you wish to publish on, and what kind of budget you have are just a few things to consider.


Investing in formatting software can make sense even on a small budget. Because you use the software many times as you publish more books, it will pay for itself in the long run (or short run, depending on how quickly you write and publish). One of the newest formatting software on the market is Atticus. This program costs $147 and has plenty of features for the price. Not only can it be used to format e-books and print books, but it is also a word processing tool with features like word count tracking, goal setting, and timers for sprint writing. Atticus is usable on Windows, Mac, and Linux. When it comes to formatting, Atticus has over 17 premade layout templates, a custom theme builder for more unique formatting options, and a preview function that gives you an idea of what your book looks like on multiple devices before you press publish. If you want to publish an image-heavy book, such as a comic or a cookbook, something to consider is that it doesn’t handle image importing well. Also, the version control feature is not ready yet because it is a newer product.


Another good paid option for formatting e-books is Scrivener. While Scrivener is primarily a word processor with a “cork board” style planning feature that allows for the detailed organization of your book, it is also a good tool for formatting. It is the most customizable of all the software featured here. It is also one of the most affordable options at $49 for Windows or Mac. The number of features can be overwhelming and come with a steep learning curve, but Scrivener does offer a 30-day trial with 30 days of use if you want to try it out. Scrivener also offers an iOS version for $19.99 if you like to write on your iPad. The iOS version can be synced with the Windows or Mac version via DropBox, though bugs have been reported with this feature, and you must purchase the two separately.

Kindle Create

When you include Kindle Unlimited, Amazon has over 80% of the market share for e-books, making it a very appealing option for authors looking to self-publish. If you plan to only publish on Amazon KDP, then you’re in luck. Amazon has its proprietary formatting software, Kindle Create, for free. This software has been updated recently to use a KPF (Kindle Package Format) file for e-books and print books published on Amazon. The software is simple to use and already conforms to Amazon’s formatting requirements. Kindle Create can also add interactive clickable features and has formatting tools for comic books or other image-heavy books, making it very versatile. The website also includes links to tutorials and walk throughs of the software. The obvious downside is that you can only sell on Amazon, and the KPF format is not used anywhere else. There is also an option to export reflowable Epub format in Kindle Create, but it is limited in its options, and you are not allowed by terms of use to publish it anywhere else.


If you don’t want to commit yourself and your book to Amazon, Reedsy is another free option for book formatting. It is also a workhorse, with word processing and editing features, like the recently added Reedsy Book Editor, where you can work collaboratively with editors. The website also has many articles and walk throughs to guide an author through the process. You can use Reedsy to create a clean and professional-looking e-book, but this formatting option lacks many creative bells and whistles found in other formatting software. Limited options can still translate to a very clean and professional-looking product, even if it is plain.

A Final Thought

Self-publishing continues to grow as a viable and profitable option for authors to get their work into the hands of readers. It is essential to produce a professional-looking product to keep readers engaged, and using software to format e-books properly is one of the best ways to ensure this. It is up to the author to decide what works best for them so they produce the highest quality product possible.

Poetry: Digital, Not Dead

In December 2022, the same month of the hundred-year anniversary of T.S. Eliot’s magnum opus, The Waste Land, The New York Times published a guest editorial by Matthew Walther, titled “Did Poetry Die 100 Years Ago This Month?.” Walther acknowledges that while there is no shortage of poets in the postmodern literary landscape, he proclaims that the literary tradition of poetry died with Eliot. The reason? According to Walther, we are now “incapable” of writing “good” poetry due to the nature of modern life and its tendency to “[demystify] and [alienate] us from the natural world.”

Walther’s assertion seemed to disturb a literary hornet’s nest almost immediately upon its publication, eliciting responses from poets across the nation. The responses challenging Walther’s claims flooded the desks of Times’ editors, revealing a major point of literary contention that was previously rarely discussed.

Everything we know about our philosophy toward poetics, we have thus learned from great minds that could have never fathomed the technological advancements we have made today—Aristotle, Plato, and even Coleridge.

But is it that poetry has died, or has the tradition just taken on a new, more digitalized face?

What is Digital Poetry?

Digital poetry is the postmodernist answer to Walther’s premature mourning over the death of a well-loved literary tradition. The term digital poetry was coined by German poets André Vallias and Friedrich W. Block in 1992 when the men hosted an exhibition of their work titled exhibition p0es1e: Digitale Dichtkunst/Digital Poetry. Digital poetry, then, shows the tradition’s ability to adapt in the technological world.

Although there seems to be little consensus on an overall agreed upon definition for digital poetry, Christopher Thompson Funkhouser, author of Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959–1995, credits Block with the “strongest attempt” so far, who suggests that the term “applies to artistic projects that deal with the medial changes in language and language-based communication in computers and digital networks. Digital poetry thus refers to creative, experimental, playful, and also critical language art involving programming, multimedia, animation, interactivity, and net communication.”

Funkerhouser simplifies Block’s wordier definition by suggesting that the term is a suitable label for poetic forms of literature for on-screen display with the use of computer technology or programming.

Key Features

A defining feature of digital poetry is text generation, when a digital poet makes use of code to generate randomized text to appear in their poem. An example of this can be found in Pauline Masurel and Jim Andrews’ “Blue Hyacinth,” a digital poem that uses HTML code to generate individualized experiences for the readers of their digital poetry as they hover their mouses over different lines of text.

Another defining feature of this proliferating genre is its visual and kinetic properties. According to Funkhouser, digital poets as early as the 1960s experimented with using technology to turn language into images. Unlike text generation, which delivers randomized reading experiences, visual works of poetry—kinetic or otherwise—necessitate a controlled output. At first, visual poetry was still, static, and non-moving.

However, as technology progressed, kinetic digital poetry emerged, highlighting new flexibility in a literary tradition deeply rooted in the past. “Circularities: Animated Variants,” a digital poetry collection by Mark Laliberte is a stunning example of kinetic digital poetry.

Another technological aspect used by digital poets is hypertext, which changes the text display of lines of poetry. Such a feature can make poetry more interactive and leave readers with a deeper understanding of a particular poem. “Penetration” by Robert Kendall, for example, uses the colors resulting from his use of hypertext to differentiate between the two subjects of his poem: a mother and a daughter.

Instagram Poetry Publication: Follower-Submitted Poetry Accounts

With the dawn of the internet and the digital age, the consumption and publication of poetic literature has undergone an intense reimagining. Once, the only way to read a poem was to have a physical copy of it. Now, it is possible to access poetry immediately on the internet through any number of ways, and authors have new ways to be published other than in the traditional sense. One of the new methods of accessing poetry is on the social media application Instagram, where there is a niche community dedicated to posting poetry on their accounts. Some of these accounts are personal, and the owners will occasionally include poetry (by themselves or another author) as a picture or two in posts on their profiles along with regular personal content. However, there has been a recent popularization of accounts dedicated solely to posting poetry submitted by followers of the accounts. These accounts accept follower submissions through direct messages or an email form linked in the bio, and moderators of the accounts parse through submissions and select which poetry to post publicly. Through the use of these accounts, poets can be “published” in a semi-democratized manner that has the potential to surpass possible exposure provided in just about any other medium.

To Post or Not to Post

Instagram accounts as a means of publishing poems have less of the constrictions of traditional media publication, but this fact comes with an obvious caveat. Without any of the usual vetting process for publication— pitching, proof-reading, editing, etc.— there is less quality-control. On one hand, this can be a positive aspect. There is growing discourse surrounding the “stuffiness” of traditional publishing methods, and how some hire-ups of the industry can use rather outdated standards. Digital media is considered to be more cutting-edge, and as such is much less strict with vetting content. Poetry-sharing Instagram accounts like anon.poetry.submissions and poetryclub.cascade take submissions of all skill levels, advertising themselves as accepting poetry from anyone at all. However, it only takes a moment perusing these kinds of accounts to notice that quite a lot of the submissions are not, technically, “good.” Much of this poetry does not follow any kind of rhyme scheme or meter and employs mixed metaphors often. It is not all the same quality you would find in most published poetry books or even other digital poetry publications, as the owners of such accounts who pick and post the content are often just young adults with a passion for the genre but little expertise. This increased variety of quality is part of the tradeoff that comes with an informal publication process.  

Credit Where Credit is Due

One issue that may come to mind when considering poetry submission Instagram accounts is the matter of proper credit. With traditionally published media, writers are credited and paid for their contributions, even in collaborative projects like journals and newspapers. With Instagram accounts, however, there is rarely any money to be made from accounts that share poetry, even by the owners of the accounts themselves. Therefore, it is a rare occurrence for followers who submit their work to be compensated in any way except the possibility of exposure. However, most accounts are diligent to credit the writers themselves, and almost always note the name and/or Instagram username of the followers submitting their poems. One notable exception is in the case of anonymous poetry-sharing accounts. These accounts, like anon.poetry.submissions, provide a space where people can submit poetry without being credited. However, this is intentional in order to let people express themselves and share their self-expression without the pressure of their names attached to the poetry.

Poetry Appreciation in the Digital Space

As previously noted, poetry Instagram accounts do not make much (or usually any) money through their operation. Why, then, do these accounts exist and continue to publish poetry without any compensation? The answer is that they are spaces created with the intent of appreciation for the genre. Contributors and owners of these accounts alike have the same goal of sharing poetry with the world, even without the incentive of financial gain. However, one critique of the medium is that such accounts do not take poetry seriously. As previously mentioned, there are lower standards for posting poetry on Instagram than in traditional publications, and some may see this as the moderators of the accounts not caring about the quality of the work. Poetry purists might note that a sense of poeticism is not enough to qualify as poetry; there is technical skill involved in working with meter, rhyme, rhythm, and themes. Additionally, social media has a way of co-opting art as a way to add to one’s “personal aesthetic,” and some may find the publication of poetry on social media to be inherently cheaper based entirely on the platform. However, negating the passion and appreciation of the genre that goes into regularly maintaining an Instagram account without compensation is not giving full credit to a new generation with a desire to keep the art form alive.

In Conclusion

Instagram accounts that post follower-submitted poetry are, undoubtedly, part of the new age of digital publication. Social media in general has proved to be a shortcut to access audiences of sizes previously unheard of, and poetry-sharing accounts seek to utilize this resource to the advantage of amateur poets. However, like the internet as a whole, these accounts are almost wholly unregulated, and do not have the safeguards and limitations involved in traditional publishing. This kind of unregulated content may be much more accessible than traditional edited content, but has the drawbacks of more low-quality content. Overall, Instagram accounts that share submitted poetry are not hurting the poets involved and provide a safe space for beginning poets to share their work with little judgment.

Internet Linguistics in Digital Publishing

The advent of social media and rise of the digital age has revolutionized the way we communicate. From the pager and T9 technology to the character limits on social media posts, the devices and applications that run our lives affect the way we use language. In fact, the use of internet slang, acronyms, and emojis that come together under a unique syntax across digital media has been classified as its own field of study: internet linguistics. As ubiquitous as this distinct form of language is online, it doesn’t appear to have an application to digital publications outside social media. The internet and digital devices have allowed people to have instantaneous written communication as though they were face-to-face. In the absence of facial cues, body language, and vocal inflections, cyber linguistics rose as a way to convey meaning, emotion, and context beyond grammatical semantics.  Because it’s conversational by nature, it’s viewed as a casual form of language expression, at home on Twitter, but not on The Washington Post. In addition, with the understood intention of two-way interaction between poster and viewer, a user on Instagram would have a justification to follow the grammatical rules and syntax that govern internet linguistics, as opposed to a journalist who has no interaction with the reader of the article. In essence, the use of emojis or internet slang seems out-of-place and too informal for an online publication.

However, any language tool can be a useful tool to a writer, no matter the platform or medium, and the elements of internet linguistics are no exception. Because internet linguistics developed as a way to communicate meaning that would otherwise be lost in written language, it can serve a purpose in even the most serious digital media publications. Something as simple as a grammatical full stop or ellipsis, can convey new meaning when taken out of the context of traditional grammar rules and implemented under the principles of internet linguistics. Betsy Reed, creator of the digital style guide for BuzzFeed, outlines appropriate instances within the publication for utilizing the acronyms, emojis, capitalization, punctuation rules found in internet linguistics. In most of the examples outlined in the style guide, the use of cyber linguistic syntax serves as a means to declare informality or humor. For instance, the style guide outlines usage for the tilde (~) when making a “whimsical emphasis” to a word or phrase in an article, a grammatical practice mostly seen in social media posts. Again, it may seem that internet linguistics should remain within the realm of social media and lighthearted publications like BuzzFeed lists and has no place in serious or academic publications. However, a writer should be aware of the rules of internet linguistics when creating content for any publication, if for no other reason than to convey the proper tone.

A lesser known application for internet linguistics as it pertains to digital publications, is as a tool for readability and reader traffic. Cyber linguistics not only pertains to internet slang and emojis, but also encompasses the algorithms used for language processing tools like NPL (natural language processing) which is a type of AI tool that can be useful for people creating content in a second language, whether it’s proofreading a manuscript or writing an article. Internet linguistic tools can also be used for the practices involved in digital marketing such as keyword targeting for search engine optimization and the algorithms used to direct content to individual readers. These tools can be useful to a writer for a digital publication when trying to boost visibility for their content.

While internet linguistics is at the forefront of every social media post, it can also be a useful language tool for writers of digital publications. Whether it’s to emphasize a meaning outside traditional syntax, convey (or avoid) a specific tone, help edit an article, or generate reader traffic, cyber linguistics is a legitimate field of language expression and can be useful to any writer across a variety of digital publications.

Psychology of Reading: E-books vs. Print

E-books are a part of many daily lives in the modern world. There are many benefits to the format of e-books that print books do not enjoy, but there seem to be many drawbacks, even beyond simple preferences. E-books enjoy portability, unbelievable access to numerous books, and the convenience of having e-books on devices that one would have at hand anyway. However, there are psychological benefits to reading print and digital books, but it seems that there are several cons to reading digital books compared to print that must be considered. 

Print books are notorious for being preferred by many, but aside from this, there are benefits psychologically to reading print compared to digital. One example of this is what can be called mental mapping. Like how many can visualize driving in certain directions to arrive at a specific destination, print books allow our brain to mentally map and remember where we read certain texts which digital books have not been able to recreate. Another example of a psychological benefit to reading print is the sense of sovereignty when reading a paper book. Many feel less in control of digital books than they do paper. Some of this can be attributed to a lack of digital ownership, but when considering the sense of sovereignty, what is really in mind is the ability to manipulate the physical copy in various ways to their enjoyment and benefit.  

E-books present various disadvantages or consequences to the medium. There are multiple studies that note the extra cognitive work that reading digitally requires. They mention that there is an extra visual burden reading digitally due to optic strain from screens. Beyond this though, digital reading causes the feeling of needing to complete dual tasks. One must operate the computer itself and complete whatever is trying to be achieved (the digital reading). The burdens caused by digital reading can be exacerbated by time pressures.  

In the relatively recent past, several studies noticed a considerable difference in comprehension between reading digitally and reading in a print format. However, in more recent years, more studies show little to no difference in actual comprehension no matter the format. The study performed by Mangen et al notes the insignificant difference in comprehension but does note the issue with mental mapping mentioned above.  

Another facet of the psychological effect of reading e-books compared to their print format is that of mindset. In an experiment meant to measure mindset when approaching studying using print versus digital expositions, one group was given seven minutes to read and take a quiz about the exposition while the other group was given as much time as they wished to self-manage their study time. The group whose time was limited performed equally well whether they studied using digital reading or print reading. However, in the group that self-managed their studying, those students who read digitally to study performed considerably worse than those who used print resources. The results indicate a difference in mindset approaching the task. Those who used print are believed to have approached the task with a more studious, serious mindset.  

One potential benefit of reading digitally, especially for kids and teenagers, is simply the format. The National Literacy Trust conducted a survey concerning whether children through teenagers are encouraged to read more due to digital formats. They found that children are nearly 69% more likely to read on a screen than print outside of school and around 52% of children reported they prefer to read on electronic devices than print. However, other studies indicate that kids may be distracted when reading digitally compared to print. This distraction can also be an issue for adults due to notifications, emails, and other forms of distractions that are meant to grab one’s attention.  

Another issue when comparing the psychology of reading digitally to that of reading print books is that of enjoyment of reading generally. This is not the same as simply preferring print or electronic books but rather is comparing the love for reading generally between those who read print daily and those who read electronic books daily. The National Literacy Trust survey gives readers a glimpse of this measurement with children between the ages of 8-16. Those who read print daily were three times more likely to say that they liked to read “very much” compared to those who read digitally daily. That is 81.3% for those who read print only daily compared to 44.5% for those who read digitally only daily.  

Clearly, there are advantages and disadvantages to reading digitally compared to reading in a print format. However, there seem to be many psychological disadvantages to reading digitally that are not found when reading print books. From mental mapping to simple enjoyment of reading generally, reading in print displays numerous psychological advantages that e-books cannot provide. Though, practical advantages to e-books may outweigh the psychological consequences of e-books for many. Either way, knowing and understanding the psychological effects of reading digitally compared to reading in print can help one make more well-informed decisions regarding their reading habits.