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Designing a New Way to Read: Interactive and Insta Novels

As an avid reader, I’m fascinated by the increasing number of people who read books on mobile devices. In China, for example, serialized e-books have become an explosive trend; the company China Literature has grown bigger than Amazon Kindle.

Some designers have observed the success of e-books and are incorporating interactivity and illustrations into stories for phones.

For example, social media is being used to tell literary stories. The New York Public Library uses Instagram Stories to present classic literature like Alice in Wonderland as “Insta Novels.” The project features animated covers, illustrations, and several paragraphs of text per screen. AIGA’s Eye on Design blog pointed out that putting books on social media networks has the power to reach more people who might not otherwise read, even though Alice in Wonderland is in the public domain.The New York Public Library Insta Novels - Alice in Wonderland cover

Another downloadable book for your phone, Breathe, is an interactive ghost story. It’s not a static text. You may have to draw on the screen or deal with a ghost who’s taken over your phone for a bit. The book also uses your phone’s data to insert your current location, time, and other information into the story, as if the narrator knows all about you.

Although these projects use technology in innovative ways, something is lost when shortened attention spans limit people’s ability to read full-length novels. Animated graphics, short chunks of text, and interactive elements cannot replace the experience of reading well-crafted, lengthy prose printed and bound in a physical book.


  1. ycao21 wrote:

    I believe that the future of reading is online, most people I know around me are ditching hard copies. Not only the digital copies save trees also they are much easier to carry. a lot of people have very short attention spans, shorter online article could be the best solutions for younger generations.

    Friday, October 26, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  2. galakeel wrote:

    Interesting article. I also sometimes read on my phone, but just because I forget to bring a book with me, or I do not want to carry one with me. But sometimes it is cheaper to buy e-books than hardcover or paperback books, and I believe that is why some people would read e-books.

    Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  3. jcarlos wrote:

    Digital reading and advancing technology is a huge example of the double-edged sword that innovation is becoming. Humans are evolving in different spheres of life and society. We can see a huge increase in human innovation through human literacy in history. The digitization of literature makes me fear the future quite a bit.

    Sunday, October 28, 2018 at 2:08 pm | Permalink