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 / 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]