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Litsy is a book-focused social network that goes beyond reviews

TechCrunch TechCrunch 7/04/2016 Anthony Ha

If you’re a book lover, Litsy might be the social app for you.

The startup was founded by Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc, who previously launched the book-themed clothing company Out of Print. Lawton told me the idea for Litsy came from connecting with Out of Print fans at events like book festivals and comic book conventions.

“We realized that there’s a really passionate conversation that happens face-to-face with readers that wasn’t necessarily captured digitally,” Lawton said.

At first, that struck me as a strange thing say when Goodreads exists, and when there are so many different places where you can post your opinion of a book. But as Lawton pointed out, there’s more to the conversation, and to building a community, than posting reviews: “What we wanted to do was take the best, the most fun aspects of other social media platforms and back it with an amazing book database.”

So on Litsy, each post can take a number of different forms — a blurb (basically any short comment), a quote or a review. Even if you’re writing a review, you have to be concise, since everything’s limited to 300 characters. You can also include a image, whether it’s a photo of your copy of the book or something else that’s related.

You can browse Litsy content by following different accounts, but all those updates are also tied to a specific book. So you can bring up a book’s profile, read what everyone has said about it (Lawton described it as seeing “the world’s collective marginalia”) and if it seems interesting, add it to your to-read list.

Other cool features include the ability to mark something as a spoiler, so it’s hidden from other users until they opt in to see your comment. You’ve also got a “Litfluence” score, which helps you identify the most influential people on the app and see how you stack up against them.

The app (currently iOS-only) is free, and LeBlanc told me the team is more focused on building a community than making money, at least for now, though he also acknowledged, “We do know we eventually need a business model” — in this case it’ll probably involve some form of advertising.

While the Litsy team is only starting to promote the app publicly, they’ve already brought on some high-profile users, including authors like Joe Hill, bookstores like The Strand and publishers like Penguin Random House and Harper Perennial.

And to be clear, Litsy is a separate company from Out of Print, although Lawton and LeBlanc are still running both, and Lawton acknowledged that in some ways, “They definitely go hand-in-hand.”

“We started out with T-shirts never thinking this is going to be a T-shirt company — we wanted to make an emotional connection,” he said. “Now we want to continue making that connection.”

You can download Litsy here.

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