Libraries are wonderful things. Free to use, warm, and full of slightly yellowing, slightly dog-eared treasures, they are also increasingly seen by councils in the UK as financially unviable entities, ripe for being transformed into multi-purpose space-saving zones of unsurety. Dumbbells now sit where Jilly Cooper novels once languished, and that stack of Artificial Eye DVDs you used to administer an autodidactic crash course into European cinema as a precocious teen has become a soup-dispensing vending machine.
Things are slightly different in America, it seems. Or at least they are in New York. Anyone who managed to sit through all three hours of Fred Wiseman’s recently-released ode to the Big Apple’s vast system of publicly accessible libraries, Ex-Libris will be able to tell you that the city’s appreciation for libraries is something to be cherished. That film also showed that the NYPL is fully aware of the digitisation of pretty much everything. So it makes sense that they’ve teamed up with Mother New York to produce the world’s first Insta Novels.
“Insta…Novels,” you’re saying, spluttering hot black coffee into the previously pristine pages of a first edition copy of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March. “What the Dickens is an Insta Novel?”
Well, in short, the full book, short story, or novella, is uploaded to the social media platform’s “Stories” section, which Mother and the NYPL will hope, “make some of the world’s most classic pieces of literature more accessible to the masses.”
Mother says that. “the Instagram-specific design includes stills and videos that mirror the unique layouts of the original works. The background is a warmer white that’s easy to read on screen, and the font is Georgia, a typeface that pays homage to the history of the written word in both print and digital,” as it was one of the first ever serif fonts designed to make the reading of long-form texts on a screen both pleasing and legible.
Readers use their thumbs to manipulate the digital pages – much like you’d do with one of those dusty things that have been mysteriously sat on a shelf in your room for years that people often refer to as books.
Corinna Falusi, a partner and Chief Creative Officer at Mother in New York says, “ Instagram unknowingly created the perfect bookshelf for this new kind of online novel. From the way you turn the pages, to where you rest your thumb while reading, the
experience is already unmistakably like reading a paperback novel.” She goes on to say that given the threats to the American education system, it is more important than ever to “promote the value of reading.”
The service launches today, with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland being the launch title, and has been designed by self-described “conceptual illustrator and animator” Magoz. The next titles to arrive will be The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman illustrated by Buck and The Metamorphosis, a novella by Franz Kafka illustrated by César Pelizer.
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