For the millions of people who use their smartphones more than they do laptop or desktop computers, a major and popular smartphone-specific – and useful in practically all smartphones – app aimed directly at books is growing on the scene.
It is free, and easy enough to use that I started posting on it within five minutes of downloading and installing.
It’s called Litsy, and it feels like a mashup of ideas other apps and websites have made popular.
It draws from Twitter its simplicity, an emphasis on short messages and limitations on what you can do there; but it does include extensive searching and hashtag capabilities. It gets from Goodreads an exclusive focus on books, but is even more tightly aimed: While you can follow other people and authors there, the site is organized primarily around specific books, not authors.
Like Instagram it is biased toward including pictures and other artwork alongside the words; Litsy is highly visual. Someone at Instagram several years back had the idea of appealing to book readers, and set up #bookstagram, a widely used hashtag on Instagram. Bookstagram emphasizes images relating to books, and like Instagram it is easy to use on smartphones. However, a librarian who reviewed it and compared to Litsy noted an important limitation: “Litsy saw the issue with bookstagram, and that was that you would see a book you thought was interesting. And then have to go and look it up on GoodReads separately. But with this app, you just click on the title in the picture and you can read a synopsis, see posts aka what other people think, and add it to a “to read” list. Something that Instagram lacks.”
The emphasis on individual book titles may provide some help to new authors who might have only one title available. In many other book-related sites focusing more on authors, those with many titles under their belts tend to stand out more prominently.
Other services may be added over time. In their new-signup welcome email, Todd and Jeff (no last names given) said, “Litsy is in its infancy. There are bugs to be squashed and features to add. So it goes. What we have today will evolve, and the way you use Litsy helps pave the way forward.”
The app is available through the iTunes Apple store and the Android Playstore (where I obtained it for my smartphone).
Signup is quick and painless. I established my account using my Facebook information; approached that way, the signup forms were only three lines lines. You can also sign in with email address, and that was only about twice as long.
There’s no cost. The site’s revenue stream eventually may come from advertising.
Once inside, you encounter a feed something akin to Twitter or Facebook, but all book-oriented. The feed including plenty of images, short reviews of and quotes from various books,
Your options for engagement are limited but powerful. You can follow other users (and get lists of others).
A review on Bookriot said, “You can basically do only three things to add content to your page: quote from a book you’re reading, blurb a book you’re reading, and review a book you’re reading. Litsy forces you to tag a book title for every post, so this keeps the community focused on reading in a really satisfying way. Each one of these posts can be a picture, or text, or both.”
Bookriot also advised: “No privileged author space. There’s nothing stopping authors from joining the community and posting their books, but it’s set up to be reader-focused first. I would probably stop following someone who only ever posted about their own work, and then I’d never have to see their posts if I didn’t seek them out.”
That would also be good advice when marketing through any kind of social media. The lack of division between authors and readers can be an advantage in personal communications.
Litsy also uses algorithms to measure books and users. Its site suggested, “Measure Litfluence to discover your ‘bookprint’ in the world. Explore recommendations from readers, not algorithms.”
In March 2014 we wrote about four apps useful for writers which worked on smartphones. Those, however, were more useful for people in the early stages of researching or writing a book (or something else), rather than authors with a finished product.
WriteChain concerned, and still does, the “WriteChain challenge” to write every day, using a smart phone app to help keep track of word counts. The TextExpander offers custom keyboard shortcuts, which are more easily put to use on computers and tablets than on smartphones. Those apps can be used on most smartphones, but the other two appear to be available for Apple only. These are the mind-mapping app iBlueSky, useful for writers but also other users, and Wikipanion, which provides short cuts for people using Wikipedia.
Many book-related smartphone apps are available for services or retailers based primarily in the computer world. Goodreads and Amazon, iTunes and Barnes and Noble, among many others, have developed apps for smartphones to offer easy use of their conventional websites.
Litsy, by contrast, points itself directly to people who interact with their smart phones more than any other devices, may be well positioned to capture a significant market. Indie authors would be well positioned to pay attention.