Books, Lifestyle

Review: Is “Litsy” the Best New App for Book-Lovers?

As far as social network systems around books go, Goodreads is the best known. However, although I’ve used Goodreads for a number of years, I’m far from considering its app perfect. So when Women Write About Comics lifestyle editor Ginnis Tonik asked me to review new smartphone app, Litsy, I took it on in hopes that it provided a different and better experience than Goodreads.

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The three options available for a status update.

Litsy turned out a different experience, alright. Unlike Goodreads, which has its own website, Litsy is only available via (free) app. Also unlike Goodreads, the app puts more emphasis on the social aspect of reading books—as in, sharing them with book-loving friends. At the very beginning, it offers a number of accounts the user can follow, including bookstores and publishers. However, if the user doesn’t want to follow the first recommended accounts, the app doesn’t offer any other suggestions. Users must also ask their friends for their usernames and manually find them in the search function in order to follow them.

This presents an issue with the app, because Litsy is based on “litfluence” points. Litfluence points are gained through how many books the user has read, how many pages the user has read, how many likes and comments they have received on their posts (which can take the form of either reviewing, blurbing, or quoting a book, preferably while including a picture of it), and how many people add books onto their lists based on the user’s post.

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Status update made by BookRiot. Users have the option to like the status, comment on it, or add the book pictured to their bookshelf.

Currently, I mutually follow fellow WWAC collaborators, Ardo Omer and Angel Cruz, and am followed by two total strangers. I have absolutely no clue how these strangers found me. Maybe from liking posts from Strand Bookstore? Either way, the app presents no clear path for me to find new accounts to follow or gain new followers except through inviting my friends to join the app.

But the followers at this point in my journey are hardly mentionable, because my litfluence points come from my 16 listed books, which I either added from posts made by the few accounts I follow or manually after looking through my Goodreads list. I tired quickly from both processes. I follow so few accounts that there is rarely a relevant book for me to add to my list, and I have much better things to do than add all 1,400 books from my Goodreads account, which I suspect from Litsy’s design is not the goal anyhow.

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How a user rated Judith Butler’s “Bodies That Matter.” A pick means that other readers should look into the book.

Instead, I’m expected to keep my followers updated on my current reading list, and then when I finish, tell them if they should “pick” the book, if I found the book “so-so,” “pan” it, or suggest that my readers “bail” on it if they check it out. These four options make up Litsy’s rating system, which is far less abstract than Goodreads’ five-star grading system. While on Goodreads, one person’s three-stars can mean “good” while another’s can mean “okay,” Litsy mimics the conversation between two book readers and finds a much more direct understanding of one’s opinion on a book.

Several friends of mine who are more involved in the literary world prefer Litsy over Goodreads, and I can see why. It’s a social media network tailored in a way that’s helpful, almost exclusively, to the literary world. Like Facebook or Twitter, a user snaps a quick photo, brags about what book they’re reading, and hits the submit button.

But I’m not a part of the literary world; I’m just a reader. I much prefer the meticulous planning that goes into Goodreads—the joy that I have read 1,400 books at last count, the flicking through recommendations to see what I want to read next, and the tender categorization of my books into several different shelves. Who needs “litfluence” when there’s easier ways to stroke my own bibliophilic ego?