In August 2018, New York Public Library Instagram followers were tapping on their Insta Stories when something unexpected popped up: the full text of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlanddesigned for a small screen, with small animations that bring the story to life when you flip it.
The project, known as Insta romances, is part of NYPL’s goal to reach beyond its walls and get more people to read books. In pursuit of this mission, the institution has turned to one of the largest social media platforms in the world, bringing classic literature to Instagram’s 400 million daily active users.
Designed by design agency Mother New YorkInsta Novels is the winner of fast business‘s Innovation by Design Awards 2019 in the Apps & Games category. Since its launch in August 2018, more than 300,000 people have read NYPL’s Insta novels, and the NYPL’s Instagram account has gained 130,000 followers. While gaining more followers was definitely part of the project’s goal, NYPL is more excited — and surprised — that people are actually reading the books it posted on Instagram.
There have been many attempts to update books for the digital age: beyond e-readers like the Kindle and Nook, designers have tried to take advantage of the visual and contextual nature of the internet to make reading more interactive. A project called Ambient Literature publishes stories that contain details about your location, time of day, and weather for a story you can only read on a smartphone. Others have redesigned the digital reading experience for the browser, making it more enjoyable to read a book on your computer.
For NYPL, anything that helps people find stories is a great idea, so why not put them in the library stories?
“Wherever people want to read, that’s fine with us,” says Richert Schnorr, director of digital media at NYPL. “We are happy to meet people where they are.” Schnorr called on NYPL librarians to decide which public domain titles to include. In the same way Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandthe highlights section of the library’s Instagram page also features Story versions by Charlotte Perkins Gilman yellow wallpaperby Edgar Allen Poe the Ravenby Franz Kafka Metamorphosisand Charles Dickens A Christmas Carolwhich slowly became available over the last six months of 2018.
But Instagram is an unlikely platform for reading full-length novels. As Mother Partner and Creative Director Corinna Falusi says, “Instagram is a platform for sharing visuals, and we share words.”
Falusi and his team therefore focused on the readability of each story in terms of text size (not too small, but not too large that each story would take up too many screens), background color (a cream warmer to make it easier to read on the eyes) and the police (the team chose Georgia). They’ve also taken advantage of the unique nature of the platform by sprinkling small animations on chapter pages and throughout the books to continually pique the reader’s interest, as they’re probably expecting sleek visuals on Instagram. . Finally, they commissioned another designer to illustrate the equivalent of a book cover that a reader first sees when they open the story, taking advantage of Instagram’s emphasis on visuals to create captivating animations that would convince people to try the story.
To move between pages, designers realized they could take advantage of Instagram’s interface, where users tap on the right side of the screen to move to the next image or video, to mimic the act of leafing through the pages. To help guide people, each story has a small animated icon where users are supposed to rest their thumb. Then they can type whenever they want to turn the page. For A Christmas Carolthe icon is a lit candle that burns slowly when tapped, almost like a digital flipbook.
“Every part of the design was designed to make the story the most entertaining, to make it the easiest to use, and to make it the most natural in the Instagram environment,” says Falusi.
Ultimately, Mother and the NYPL hope this is a work in progress, whether the library itself posts more books via Instagram or others pick up the slack and start experimenting themselves. . “This is just the beginning of using a platform in a way that has never been used before,” says Falusi.