Sunday 28 February 2016

Litsy App for iOS - First Thoughts

I've downloaded the new IoS app Litsy ('where books make friends') to try it out as it's currently in beta testing, and thought I'd share some first impressions here. Many thanks to Rachel (@_sectumsemprah) and Caitlin (@CaitLomas) for taking a look at this and giving me feedback!

Thoughts so far

It's currently VERY simple. There are five icons on the menu bar - home, search, add, notifications, and profile.

Your home page shows a feed of people you're following's updates, which as far as I can see is just in reverse chronological order. When you scroll down your home page you can click on a book someone's mentioned and it will show all posts about that book in reverse chronological order. (You can also get the same thing by searching for a book)

When searching, you can look for books by title, author or keyword, and look for people by name or username. Book search is powered by Google and seems reasonably solid although there are some strange results - searching for Harry Potter brings up Jody Revenson's Harry Potter: The Creature Vault and a Harry Potter fun book up before any of the novels, and there are a few books which seem to have multiple editions listed, meaning content can be split across them (it's not duplicated, as far as I can see.)

That said, while I've seen one or two tweets saying people are looking for books that aren't on there, I've tried searching for quite a few that I'd consider to be fairly obscure (including out of print ones and self-published ones) and have only found one that wasn't included so far.

To add your own updates, you just click the + button on the menu bar and choose review, blurb or quote. For reviews, you choose one of four icons - for pick, so-so, pan or bailed. You can (optionally) attach your own photo, and your review is limited to 250 characters max (not including the book's name or author, which you add in by searching for it.) You can tag people in the review (not sure if there's a limit to how many?) and you can mark it as containing a spoiler, in which case the review will be hidden with a spoiler warning when it appears in people's feeds.

Blurb works exactly the same way except for there being no icons, and seems to be being used for anything prior to finishing the book - so people are posting thoughts about how excited they are to read, or updates while reading.

Quote works the same way as blurb does - I've seen people typing the quotes as text, or just uploading them as the picture. Others can comment on your review/quote/blurb, like it, or add a book to one of their two 'stacks' -  either 'to read' or 'read'. Notifications show you when they do any of these things, and when they follow you.

Your profile shows every post you've added, in reverse chronological order. You can also see your followers, who you're following, books you've marked as 'to read' and ones you've marked as 'read' (handily with an icon by them to show if you've reviewed) and your 'Litfluence' score, which is derived from books you've read, total pages you've read, and people who've liked/commented/added books to their own TBR/read via your posts. You can look at the profiles of other users as well, and get the same information.

Things I'd like to see Litsy do next

I think that part of the app's charm is that it's super-simple, and adding in TOO much stuff runs the risk of making it into a 'Goodreads lite' with less of a userbase, so I'm not convinced there need to be many major changes. A few things that, personally, I'd be keen to see. (Disclaimer: Not a programmer so no idea how much work any of this would be.)

1. Sorting the different editions out for books like Looking For Alaska seems an important thing to do.

2. My big hope is that there'll be some way of browsing more - at the moment I'm limited to searching for books, or seeing them appear in friends' updates. I think potentially adding an age range (picture book/MG/YA/adult) and genres, and creating a timeline for each one, would potentially be useful to help readers discover more new books.

3. Tying into this, would be great if there was a way we could mark ourselves as being interested in particular genres/age ranges and that people could use these to search for new users to follow.

4. The reverse chronological timeline when looking at quotes/reviews/blurbs of a book is fine at the moment given how small the site currently is, but as they gain new users it would be great to see an option to allow you to have people you're following's updates at the top.

Have you tried it yet? Or are you planning to? (Version for Android is in the works, I believe.) Would love to know what you think, if you're using it (and your username! I'm yayeahyeah there and it would be great if you added me.)

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