The NYPL takes classic literature to new digital feature: “Insta Novels”


Grace Vespa

The New York Public Library has added a new social media feature to their Instagram account in order to promote reading in a new way. “Insta Novels” breathe new life into classic literature by reimagining iconic novels as Instagram stories. The first Insta Novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, launched on August 22 and was posted on the New York Public Library’s public Instagram account. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a well-known favorite for readers and non-readers alike, and it seems like a suitable choice as the first novel to be brought forth into the digital landscape, as it serves as a timeless adventure in print. The NYPL put a new spin on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with an illustrated cover by Magoz (@magoz). This reimagined version allows for easy readability, due to it’s accessibility via social media. The table of contents also allows readers to follow along without difficulty, and certain pages of the novel are animated by Magoz to bring life into the story.

The Insta Novels initiative is an exciting and contemporary way to engage with a younger generation and encourage support for libraries everywhere. University sophomore, Abby Elliot, said, “I think that libraries are an underutilized resource and as a writer, I appreciate their presence, but some don’t feel this way,” she said. “Using Instagram as a marketing tool for reading, will most likely boost library attendance.”

Public perception is that libraries are irrelevant in a digital age, but libraries are essential for every community. According to the NYPL homepage, a local library serves as a place of information, a community center, and provides free educational resources. At its core, libraries are there to provide information in the best way possible. Libraries even offer computers and informational sections for immigrants and unemployed workers.

University English chairwoman, Professor Erica Johnson, believes the Insta Novel initiative may be “counter intuitive” due to the already accessible and free digitalized versions of classic novels and the idea that the Insta stories do not offer sustained reading for long periods of time. However, she concedes that those novels will find a wider target audience, primarily of younger teens, because the first novel “grabs the reader and takes her down the proverbial and literal rabbit hole.” The combination of animation and classic literature, it seems, will be able to draw in and engage readers on a social platform.

The NYPL’s usage of the Instagram story feature showcases different types of illustrators for each piece of literature. So far, the NYPL has only illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but they plan to illustrate and digitize Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. Kafka’s novella will be illustrated by César Pelizer at @cesarpelizer, and Gilman’s short story will be illustrated by Buck at @buck_design. The success of these stories should highlight modern novels and free verse poetry alongside classic literature.

Reading has fundamentally changed the way people view and interact with the world, and the introduction of Insta Novels seems to bring reading to a whole new light. University junior, Michael Smith, said, “I love to read and books will forever be important.”