I love to drive my Instagram followers nuts with constant posts about books. I post about what I’m reading, what I liked to read when I was 13, what I recently convinced my mom to read—you get the picture. What if all of my Instagram followers loved books as much as I do, and every post on my feed was literary in nature?
Enter Litsy, a free app that debuted this spring, launched as a bookish take on photo-based social media. It combines Instagram-style photo editing with the informal book reviews found on Goodreads. It is the perfect storm for social media-savvy bookworms like myself.
Litsy is easy to use. After downloading it onto my iPhone—it’s available for Android, too—and creating a basic profile with my name, age, and picture, I was able to start poking around.
There are a few different ways to navigate Litsy. You can scroll through the feed on your homepage, or you can search for posts about specific books, posts with certain hashtags (like #booktober, or #beachreads), or posts from a known Litsy user. I decided to look for White Teeth by Zadie Smith, a book nearly everyone likes. A search for Smith’s debut novel turns up hundreds of posts, many of which feature quotes from the book, or photos of it sitting demurely beside a cup of Yogi tea. Some Litsy users flaunt the fact that they own multiple copies of the book in different colors. One photographed a red White Teeth next to an orange White Teeth with the caption “reading Zadie with the boyfriend.”
Almost as a rule, people don’t include themselves in the photos they post. Instead, they’ll take candid, informal shots of their bookshelves, or of the book sitting on their lap or desk or bedside table. This focus on literature separates Litsy from other social media—and the photo sharing element is exactly what keeps Litsy from becoming a carbon copy of Goodreads.
As for reviews, you won’t find any stars here. Books are rated via a series of Facebook-esque illustrated hands indicating whether the book is a pick, a pan, or merely so-so. A fourth option, “bail,” shows a book tied to a parachute. Eighty-five percent of people who’ve read White Teeth rated it as a “pick,” a status indicated by rock hands. This graphic shorthand makes Litsy reviews more similar to those found on Rotten Tomatoes than Goodreads.
“Pans” and “bails” aside, Litsy is a photo-sharing app free of negativity. There’s no FOMO, jealousy, or inadequacy involved in looking at the pictures users post. Instead, the photos I saw on Litsy inspired me to head for the library. I could see myself using Litsy as a means of sharing my current bookshelf. It offers the artistic advantages of Instagram and remains a bibliophiles-only club like Goodreads. I’d be inclined to post rather than lurk, so that I can gain followers and dig deeper into the online literary community.