The New York Public Library Convinced Thousands of People to Read Books in Instagram Stories

oatawa/iStock via Getty Images
oatawa/iStock via Getty Images

Instagram users typically use Stories to share photos of their friends, pets, and vacations, but the New York Public Library (NYPL) had a different idea for the platform in 2018. What if it used Stories to share actual stories? People who associate social media with short attention spans may have had their doubts, but the library proved them wrong. Its project, titled Insta Novels, has attracted more than 300,000 readers, Fast Company reports.

The NYPL first experimented with publishing the full texts of public domain books in August of last year. It knew that simply copying and pasting the words wouldn't be enough to grab its followers' attention. To convince people to tap to the next slide, it had to take advantage of the platform's strengths and create an appealing reading experience.

The result was Insta Novels. Every book shared in the NYPL's Instagram Stories was redesigned especially for the app. The first slide is an exclusive "cover" illustration that entices users to read on. The actual "pages" features words in a pleasant font (Georgia) against a cream-colored background that's easier on the eyes than plain white. There's an even a "thumb rest" in the bottom-right corner of the slide where users can hold the screen until they're ready to move on to the next page. Subtle animations added at the start of new chapters and throughout the text bring the stories to life in a way that conventional ink-and-paper books cannot.

So far, the NYPL has shared Lewis Carroll's Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol through Instagram Stories. The experiment was a success: Throughout the last half of 2018, hundreds of thousands of followers viewed the slides.

The Insta Novels have been absent from the NYPL's Stories in 2019, but the library tells Fast Company that it hopes to continue the project. While you're waiting for more literature in your Instagram feed, check out these apps designed to make your phone time more productive.

[h/t Fast Company]

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J.K. Rowling to Release New Children’s Book The Ickabog for Free Online

J.K. Rowling is helping kids (and adults) pass the time in quarantine with a story about a mysterious creature called the Ickabog.
J.K. Rowling is helping kids (and adults) pass the time in quarantine with a story about a mysterious creature called the Ickabog.
John Phillips/Getty Images

In the middle of writing Harry Potter novels, J.K. Rowling began work on a new book called The Ickabog, which she read to her children in installments as a bedtime story and planned to release once Harry Potter was behind her. Instead, she ended up taking a well-earned hiatus from publishing children’s books that lasted more than a decade.

Today, however, Rowling announced that not only will she publish The Ickabog, but she’s doing it for free as a serialized novel online. The first two chapters have already been posted on The Ickabog website, and you can look forward to a new section each weekday between now and July 10, 2020. The story, which isn’t related to Harry Potter or the Wizarding World, takes place in the fictional kingdom of Cornucopia, where King Fred the Fearless rules with his best friends, Lords Spittleworth and Flapoon, by his side. There, a young boy named Bert Beamish is terrified by the legend of the Ickabog, a mysterious, malevolent creature that allegedly snatches up unsuspecting children all over the countryside. According to Rowling, the story is about “truth and the abuse of power,” and it’s best suited for children up to age 9.

This November, the book will be published in print, e-book, and audiobook formats, and Rowling will donate all author royalties to as-yet-unspecified “groups who’ve been particularly impacted by the pandemic.” She’s also asking readers to enter their illustrations of the story in a competition for a chance to be featured in the print edition this fall. Suggestions of what images the publishers might need for each chapter are listed on the website—the first two chapters, for example, call for pictures of King Fred and his friends, the Ickabog, a map and flag of Cornucopia, Lady Eslanda, and pastries, cheese, sausages, and wine—but it’s made clear that “nobody should feel constrained by these ideas.”

You can find out more about The Ickabog, read the story, and enter the illustration competition here.