Bibliophile

Litsy: A Mash-up of Instagram & Goodreads

Goodreads.com sucks. From it’s hideous brown (tan?) layout, to a mobile app that lacks creativity, coupled with a community that can either be friendly or hostile,  it simply sucks. For years, I’ve struggled to update my list of books, and interact with friends there. 

For the record, Goodreads is a behemoth in the book catalog industry. It’s backed by Amazon and sports one of the largest online communities of book readers. I’ve never been a fan, nor had a say-so in joining them. I’m one of the readers who came along after the acquisition of Shelfari, Amazon’s now defunct version of what Goodreads is today. Shelfari was a wonderful creation, the product of a smaller company who would eventually be gobbled up by a corporate entity.

While I’d like to take a trip down memory lane, and reminisce about the wonderful visual aspects of Shelfari, including an actual virtual bookcase, I’m not against a smaller company (or companies) moving forward and making profit. What I am against is the lack of progress, development, and blatant questionable control over readers opinions.

By simple chance, I stumbled upon a fairly new network one evening, known as Litsy. Owned by LibraryThing, a competitor to Goodreads, the network touts itself as an “Instagram meets Goodreads.” I was intrigued and decided to give it a go and haven’t been disappointed.

The app is what’s advertised. It’s a newsfeed of users pics involving  “book hauls” or  staged cover shoots. The genius in this, is that users can express themselves visually with no limit to their creativity. There’s selfies, cosplay photos of favorite characters, event shoots, even quotes using bold text and imagery. As expected, Litsy has it’s own camera with options to upload or snap a pic with an editor.

I should note, that in personal use of the camera, there’s room for improvement. I found that cropping, results in a “blown up” appearance on photos, and I eventually scrapped cropping altogether within the app. I instead use an external editor on my device.  This by no means, is a deal breaker.

Similar to Goodreads, users have a profile, and a list of books separated by “want to read” or “have read.” The rating system is highly simplified compared to the star ratings on Goodreads.  Users  simply determine a book as a pick, pass, so-so, or a flat-out “I bailed.” Additionally, users can post detailed reviews of 500 characters or less  (that’s what a blog is for should you require more than that), a general blurb or a random status/statement on a book, or a quote.

Social networks however, are only as good as their community. In a short time, I’ve been welcomed by the “Litsy Welcome Wagon” through the use of user-generated tagging. Making friends is not a challenge here as users appear very open to adding new people. Some large names including Powells and the San Francisco Public Library have profiles, along with a number of authors and publishing firms. To test the “friendliness” of the community, I’ve given some poor reviews to recently finished books (which deserved it), and thus far have not received any backlash.

Before you delete your Goodreads account though, keep in mind that Litsy is a closed network. You can share your posts on Facebook or Twitter, but users will only see that one particular post. There’s room for further social integration and perhaps one day we will see public profiles, and widgets. Lists, and recommendations appear to be missing as well, unless a user suggests such items within a post.

One thing is for certain though, Goodreads will be my “widget” friendly network for blogging purposes, but my reviews,  updates, the “go-to” app going forward is Litsy.

Interested in getting a free account? Download the app here, available for both Apple and Android systems respectively. And don’t forget to follow me, user name is Cloudia.

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