Are These Artist-Designed Instagram Novels the Future of Reading? The New York Public Library Says ‘Hear Us Out’

The initiative kicks off with an Insta-optimized version of "Alice in Wonderland."

The New York Public Library Insta Novels. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.
The New York Public Library Insta Novels. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.

The next hot thing coming to Instagram? Books. Specifically, books in the form of Instagram Stories, complete with video and images, courtesy of the New York Public Library and Mother, a New York-based advertising and creative agency.

On Instagram, each page of the book becomes a slide in the story, broadcasting classic literature across a social media platform better known for vapid selfies and vacation photos.

“Instagram unknowingly created the perfect bookshelf for this new kind of online novel,” said Corinna Falusi, Mother’s partner and chief creative officer, in a statement. “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.”

The series kicks off today with the Instagram story release of Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland, with illustrations by designer Magoz (@magoz).

The NYPL's Insta Novel of <em>Alice in Wonderland</em> by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by designer Magoz. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.

The NYPL’s Insta Novel of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by designer Magoz. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.

Next on deck is the haunting short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, illustrated by New York design and production company Buck (@buck_design), followed by Franz Kafka’s famed novella The Metamorphosis, with imagery by César Pelizer (@cesarpelizer).

Dubbed “Insta Novels,” each piece has been chosen for their highly visual nature. To increase the project’s reach, designers and artists with large Instagram followings have been tapped to create these digital novels.

The NYPL's Insta Novel of <em>The Metamorphosis</em> by Franz Kafka with imagery by César Pelizer. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.

The NYPL’s Insta Novel of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka with imagery by César Pelizer. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.

“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,” said NYPL chief of external relations Carrie Welch in a statement.

The books’ type is set in Georgia, as a nod to typographic history. That font was designed by Matthew Carter in 1993 as an elegant-looking font that would be legible on a computer screen, even at small sizes. Readers simply lift their thumb to move on to a new page, or to view animations.

The NYPL's Insta Novel of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, illustrated by New York design and production company Buck. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.

The NYPL’s Insta Novel of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, illustrated by New York design and production company Buck. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Mother.

The NYPL will save each Insta Novel story on its Highlights page, creating a digital bookshelf that its followers can access at any time.

It remains to be seen whether anyone is truly clamoring for real stories on Instagram—the app has been repeatedly criticized for offering unrealistic, glamorized portraits of its users—but it is an ingenious way to try and get people reading.

The Insta Novel has been conceived as thing like a gateway drug for non-Instagram-based reading. The NYPL hopes it will encourage Instagram users to seek out “traditional” e-books, either by accessing thousands of public-domain works on the SimplyE e-reader app, or by applying for a digital NYPL card to borrow other works from the full e-book collection IRL.

See a video from the NYPL below. 


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