A version of this article originally appeared in Publishers Weekly.
Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc, cofounders of Out of Print, an apparel and gift company that offers T-shirts and totes featuring vintage book covers, have expanded into app development. Launched in April, Litsy is an iOS app that aims to displace Instagram and Twitter as the go-to platform for short-form mobile social media conversations about books.
“We feel that readers experience a book through a number of different moments,” Lawton said. “So, we have sought to create a platform that reflects that experience. Litsy is all about spontaneity and fun with books.” Users on Litsy can choose from three different types of posts: a quick blurb, a quote, or a review, all of which are limited to 300 characters. They can “like” books, add photos and emojis, and create personal book “stacks.”
Title data is supplied by Google and Ingram, and every post on Litsy must reference a book. “We always want to return the conversation back to books,” Lawton said, “and using Litsy should be like walking into a great bookstore and seeing the wall with the staff picks and the shelf talkers. That is what we were trying to translate in a digital sense.”
Since its official launch this spring, the app has attracted 20,000 users, including a wide variety of publishers, bookstores, and authors who are using the platform as an extension of their social media marketing. Author Joe Hill used Litsy for pre-publication promotion of his new novel,The Fireman, and the book garnered 101 individual posts—including 17 reviews, 18 quotes, 66 blurbs—as well as 2,274 likes and 250 comments; it was added to 798 individual book stacks.
Jocelyn Shratter, who runs the website and IT for Bookshop Santa Cruz, said she likes Litsy’s focus on books. “While specific aspects are familiar from other social media apps, Litsy is unique in its book-centricity—which is why it’s so great. Litsy lets us get back to the heart of the Bookshop—sharing books we love with our customers and community, and helping people discover, share, and talk about books they love in a safe and creative environment,” Shratter said.
Future plans for Litsy include launching an Android version of the app this summer and adding new features. At present, the business model is based around advertising, though Lawton said there are other revenue models in the works.
“We see Litsy as an extension of Out of Print’s mission to get people talking about books and starting conversations,” Lawton said. “I think we may be the first apparel company that has transitioned into becoming a tech startup. At Out of Print, we’ve sold more than two million products in just six years of business, so I give us a pretty good shot at success.”