300,000 People Are Reading Books on Instagram

In August 2018, Instagram followers of the New York Public Library were tapping through their Insta Stories when something unexpected showed up: the full text of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, designed for a small screen, with small animations that brought the story to life as you flipped.

The project, known as Insta Novels, is part of the NYPL’s goal to reach beyond its walls and convince 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 the design agency Mother New York, Insta Novels is the winner of Fast Company‘s 2019 Innovation by Design Awards in the Apps & Games category. Since launching in August 2018, more than 300,000 people have read the 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 aim, the NYPL is more excited—and surprised—that people actually read the books that it published on Instagram.

Instagram is an unlikely platform for reading full novels. As Mother partner and chief creative officer Corinna Falusi puts it: “Instagram is a platform built to share visuals, and we are sharing words.”

So Falusi and her team focused on ensuring that each story was highly legible in terms of text size (not too small, but not so big that each story would take too many screens to complete), background color (a warmer cream to make reading easier on the eyes), and font (the team picked Georgia). They also took 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, since they likely expect sleek visuals on Instagram. Finally, they commissioned a different designer to illustrate the equivalent of a book cover that a reader first sees when they open up the Story, taking advantage of Instagram’s focus on visuals to create compelling animations that would convince people to give the story a shot.

To move between pages, the designers realized they could take advantage of Instagram’s interface, where users tap on the right side of the screen to go to the next image or video, to mimic the act of flipping pages. To help guide people, each story has a little animated icon where users are meant to rest their thumb. Then, they can tap every time they want to turn the page. For A Christmas Carol, the icon is a burning candle that slowly burns down as you tap, almost like a digital flip book.

Why its hot

This is a brilliant idea taking full advantage of Instagram’s UX and putting books in front of more people, which is never a bad thing.