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(Credit: NYPL Instagram)

The argument about whether physical or electronic books are better might just go on forever. Instagram and the New York Public Library aren't here to argue about it anymore. Their goal is just to engage more people in reading.

New York Public Library's new project Insta Novels reimagines classic novels as Instagram stories. NYPL has partnered with creative agency Mother New York and launched Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll in Insta Novel format on Instagram last month. The duo's seamless teamwork will allow three novels to launch in 2018.

Inspired by Instagram, Mother wanted to see how far it could push the application of an incredibly popular platform. The program is exclusive to NYPL.

"Mother approached the Library with the idea of transforming Instagram's popular Stories feature into a place where one can access actual stories," Angela Montefinise, public relations director for NYPL told Download.com. "As the Library is always looking for new and creative ways to bring books and reading to the public, this idea made perfect sense: meet potential readers where they are."

The result was a short animation sequence created by handpicked artist, Magoz, serving as a digital book cover and a specially designed layout for the story itself. The cream color of the pages, the Georgia font, and the spot to rest your thumb all contribute to making the Insta Novel feel like a real book.

All the design elements came from Mother's team. The company noted the animation in the corner where the reader's thumb can rest, creating a flip-book.

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If you're familiar with Instagram stories, reading an Insta Novel will be easy. Once in the Instagram app, on mobile or web, go NYPL's account. You'll find the Insta Novels underneath NYPL's bio section. At the time this story is being published, there's Alice in Wonderland, divided into two parts.

Tap the story, and then continue to tap until you get to page one. To stay on a page, you have to keep your thumb down. If you're a particularly fast reader, you might be able to leave your finger off. If you're reading on the web, hold the left mouse button down. There are prompts to walk you through it, but it can be a little confusing.

A downside to Insta Novels might be reading for extended periods of time on a phone screen, even if the colors are easier on the eyes. Reading it on a desktop might take some of the magic out of it, but it would be a larger screen for longer durations. Reading the web version on a tablet might also be a better alternative.

Another question raised is keeping your place. I would be surprised if someone read the entire first half of a novel in one sitting on their phone. Having the opportunity to save your place and come back to read more would be helpful.

Nevertheless, Montefinise said the Alice in Wonderland Insta Novel has been a huge hit. Part one's animated cover became NYPL's most successful Instagram Story ever with more than 45,000 impressions. Part two topped it with more than 47,000 impressions.

Since the August 22 launch, NYPL's Instagram gained more than 82,000 followers.

NYPL plans to launch Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Charlotte Perkins' The Yellow Wallpaper over the next few months. All the texts are public domain, which might give users a hint of what other texts they might hope to see in the future--mostly classics. The three books also share a transformation theme.

The three books are also available on the library's free e-reader, SimplyE (Android, iOS), albeit without the flashy animations. With a NYPL library card, more than 300,000 ebooks are available in the app.

Montefinise told Download.com that Insta Novels isn't in competition with SimplyE or any other e-reader. She said Insta Novels isn't technically an e-reader, although users can obviously read the books on a device.

"The books are highly designed pieces of art, which means the selection will be small--by the end of this initial launch, there will only be three titles. The goal of Insta Novels is to catch people's attention on a popular platform, encourage them to get lost in a good book, and help them discover / rediscover a love of reading," Montefinise said.

Montefinise said SimplyE downloads increased after Insta Novel's release and NYPL is glad users want to keep reading.

NYPL recognized Mother's work and specific design skills to create Insta Novels, since the project was designed specifically for NYPL to use on the Instagram Stories platform.

"In theory, other designers could make a book like this, and we do hope to inspire other institutions to explore Instagram Stories as a place where reading and learning can take place," Montefinise said.

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Takeaways

  1. Insta Novels, a creation of New York Public Library and creative agency Mother, launched last month and lets users read classic literature in the format of an Instagram Story.
  2. The project's goal is to get people to read by bringing books to where many people spend so much time: social media.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.