New York Public Library and Mother turn Instagram into digital bookshelf

“Insta novels” function allows Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to be read on the platform, which is combining animations with text from the entire novel.

The New York Public library has used Instagram to bring digital versions of classic books to a wider audience.

Creative consultancy Mother has helped bring the Insta Novels project to life through the social media platform’s “Stories” function, which shows images for a limited time before they disappear and the next image pops up.

Corinna Falusi, Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Mother in New York says Instagram has “unknowingly created the perfect bookshelf” for digital novels.

The first book to be brought to the platform is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was uploaded to the library’s Instagram (@nypl) account on 22 August. It is uploaded in two parts.

“Highlights” feature means entire book can be read

Making use of Instagram’s “Highlights” feature, the digital book will remain on the library’s page for a prolonged time and will not disappear after 24 hours as other Instagram stories do.

As more books are uploaded to the Instagram account over time, the project aims to turn the “Highlights” row into a digital bookshelf, allowing users to access books at any time.

The design of the digitised Alice Through the Looking Glass upload aims to mirror the “unique layouts” of the original book, with the addition of new stills, graphics and videos.

The text in the book is presented on a warm white background in a Georgia font. The typeface was chosen to “pay homage to the written word in both print and digital” according to the library, as it was one the first fonts used to make longer pieces of writing easier to read on digital screens.

Magoz worked on animation and illustration

New illustrations and animations have been added to the digital book, which were created by designer Magoz, who Mother say was chosen partly for their “significant presence” on Instagram. The @Magoz Instagram account has more than 57,000 followers.

The book begins with an animated graphic video which features an abstract image of Alice made up of circular blocks of colour to represent her blue dress and yellow hair.

The character, who is seen from the back, is walking in front of a swirling, psychedelic background.

Concentric circles and other shapes including hearts, diamonds and clubs zoom out towards her, giving the impression of her moving through a hole. The first page of each chapter includes a still from this animation.

Page turner function added

A stylised page turner has also been added. While reading, users can hold their thumb on the corner of their screen to hold a page and let go to turn the page.

The spot for thumbs to be placed in the bottom-right corner of the screen is marked with an image of a blue dot that transforms on each page, like a flip book. What begins as a dot morphs into a keyhole, an eye, a clock and more as the book continues.

The colour palette includes blue, red, pale yellow, light orange, red and black.

Throughout the book there are animated elements, such as when riddles appear in the text. A page pops up which tells the reader in red writing: “Animated page, lift thumb to play.”

The Metamorphosis by Kafka is next

Books the library intends to add to the platform in the near future include The Metamorphosis, a novella by Franz Kafka illustrated by César Pelizer (@cesarpelizer).

This was a fitting book choice, according to the library, as the project was “completely transforming” the way people looked at Instagram.

The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman illustrated by Buck (@buck_design) will also be uploaded soon.

Commenting on why the social media platform was a good fit for eBooks, Falusi, says: “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.”

She adds that it is important promote reading “especially with today’s threats to American system of education.”

The project is in line with NYPL’s aims to “make the world’s knowledge accessible to all”, according to the library.


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