New York Public Library Is Putting Entire Novels Into Instagram Stories

Mother New York's 'Insta Novels' begins with Alice in Wonderland

Books aren't dying. In fact, thanks to the New York Public Library, they're becoming more accessible for the Instagram generation. 

If the Kindle is too old-school for you, now you can read entire novels right within Instagram stories, thanks to a new program from the NYPL and Mother New York. The "Insta Novels" initiative launches today and features whole novels, novellas and short stories expressly designed for the Instagram Stories interface—and illustrated by designers with a significant presence on Instagram. 

The program begins today on the NYPL's Instagram account (@nypl) with a single novel—a newly digitized version of Alice in Wonderland, the 1865 classic by Lewis Carroll. The Insta-version was illustrated by well-known designer Magoz (@magoz). 

Two other works will be released in the coming months: The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story from 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, illustrated by Buck (@buck_design), and The Metamorphosis, the classic novella from 1915 by Franz Kafka, illustrated by César Pelizer (@cesarpelizer).

While it may be challenging to read a whole book on a smartphone, the designs are engaging, with stills and videos, a warmer white background that's easier on the eyes, and type set in the Georgia font. You rest your thumb on the screen to hold the page, and lift to turn the page. Flipping through the screen quickly reveals a flipbook-style animation. The stories use the "Highlights" feature, so you can save the book to read anytime. 

Here's a short video about the program: 

NYPL Insta Novels

Mother tells Muse that the idea came from the absurd amount of posts that are already allowed on Instagram Stories. It got them thinking about how they could get away with using the platform a different way. 

"Instagram unknowingly created the perfect bookshelf for this new kind of online novel," says Corinna Falusi, partner and chief creative officer at Mother New York. "From the way you turn the pages, to where you rest your thumb while reading, the experience is already unmistakably like reading a paperback novel. We have to promote the value of reading, especially with today's threats to American system of education." 

"This project is directly in line with the Library's mission to make the world's knowledge accessible to all," adds Carrie Welch, the New York Public Library's chief of external relations. "It's appropriate that one of the works we're using is The Metamorphosis, because in collaboration with Mother, we are completely transforming the way people look at this popular social media platform, and reimagining the way people access the classics."

The project in part promotes the NYPL's e-reader app SimplyE, which readers can download to access thousands of public domain titles. You can also apply for a digital NYPL card and borrow other titles from its e-book collection.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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