iOS book app Litsy, a social networking tool for avid readers, was created last year by Out of Print apparel founders Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc, continuing the duo's mission of generating literary conversations and cultivating connections among readers. (Out of Print specializes in T-shirts, tote bags and other accessories that feature classic book covers, and has a philanthropic side that includes donations of books to Books for Africa.)
With Litsy, Lawton said, "We wanted to replicate the idea of the shelf talker." It's no surprise then that some of the most-followed accounts are indie bookstores, who are using the platform to share recommendations from their staffs and connect with readers in a highly interactive digital way.
"It's a community of just book lovers," said Whitney Hu, communications director at the Strand Bookstore in New York City. "That's really refreshing because we can get specific, we can get literary, and we can be nerdy freely."
Litsy allows users to tap on a post and immediately learn more about a title. One of the Strand's favorite features is the to-be-read pile. "I love seeing us post a book and then seeing 100 people add it to their piles," Hu said. "We know this might be mentally happening on Instagram, but there's a real power to seeing actual quantitative data via Litsy."
In contrast to many other social networks and forums with a book focus, Litsy aims to engage readers in the moment, within the experience of reading, rather than emphasizing formal reviews. "We're seeing the most response from the community on non-review posts," said Lawton, referring to the app's Blurb and Quote features. Posts may even be marked as "Contains Spoiler," with content that remains hidden until followers elect to read it.
Litsy aims to reach a range of readers, from the casual reader to the celebrity author to the professional critic, allowing them to engage with each other at any point along the way of their literary experiences, from, for example, finding out what inspired an author's latest book to cultivating a strong, loyal following for their own tastes. In keeping with its motto, "Where books make friends," Litsy has also become a place where some readers are meeting for the first time through the newsfeed, by finding a book they like and reading other users' posts about it.
The app has expanded its reach 117 countries, with a community approaching 20,000 people. A Twitter search for @getlitsy shows a lot of discussion of the app, which the company hopes to release in an Android version this summer.
"The more we talk about books, the better it's going to be for everyone," Lawton said. --Dave Wheeler