September 25, 2018

Can “Insta Novels” revive interest in reading?

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There are some folks who complain about kids these days reading their social media timelines instead of reading a good book. Now those whippersnappers can have their cake and eat it, too. 

Introducing Insta Novels, a social media campaign launched by the New York Public Library (NYPL). According to the announcement, which was released this August, the library will be releasing digitized versions of classic novels, novellas, and short stories on their Instagram account, @nypl, through the “Stories” and “Highlights” features. This is in collaboration with the creative agency Mother, whose mission statement is to “tell brand stories and create conversations in culture, whatever the channel.” Illustrations will be provided by well-known designers on Instagram.

The campaign started with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which released with 200 pages distributed over the course of two days. Forthcoming titles include The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

The Insta Novel reading experience is pretty similar to reading an eBook, except for the colorful illustrations that open each Insta Novel and chapter. And, of course, potential candidates for this campaign are limited to works that are available in the public domain. So no, it’s not exactly revolutionary for the art of storytelling, but the presence of classic literature on social media is still pretty huge.

According to a 2017 American Time Use Survey, only about 19% of Americans ages 15 and up read for pleasure. The numbers are basically at an all-time low, and look especially bad compared to the 60% of Instagram users who visit the site at least once a day. But now, those who don’t read on a regular basis will have a much higher chance of stumbling upon a great book – a great free book, we might add. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

Release dates for the next two Insta Novels have not been confirmed, but the New York Public Library promises that they will be up “in the coming months.”

Alyssa Monera is an intern at Melville House.

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