Hello, Todd, and welcome to A Literary Vacation! I have to say that I was very excited when the offer to interview you came my way. I absolutely love your company Out of Print and am so excited to learn more about your newest venture, the social app Litsy. So thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
First off, can you tell us a little about Out of Print? What prompted you to start the company and to donate a book to a community in need for every product sold?
|L-R: Todd Lawton & Jeff LeBlanc|
My best friend from the second grade, Jeff LeBlanc, and I started Out of Print six years ago. We love to talk about the books that are important to us and felt there was an opportunity to bring more people into the discussion about books through merchandise. Essentially, we set off to become the band tee for the literary set. Soon it became clear that Out of Print could be much more than a book tee company. In addition to selling shirts and accessories to support reading, we reserve a portion of our sales to help improve access to books and fund reading programs around the world. To date, we have donated over 1.7 million books to communities in need.
I happen to love your T-shirts, totes, and notebooks but there are so many more great things to buy. Where do you come up with the ideas for the wonderful merchandise and select which books you’ll highlight?
Early on, before we had customers, it was all on Jeff and me to come up with the collection. Soon after we sold our first shirt, requests for new titles from our customers came flooding in. Now, we primarily refer to our customer requests--and which books we can properly license, but that's a whole other conversation.
Has the company changed at all since it’s grown and become more popular?
Not significantly. We're still focused on making reading fun and shareable. Each year, we look back and are in awe of what we accomplished and how many readers we have reached. To hear that we've been spotted in some store or other random place still gets us so excited. We like being the little guy making waves in a big industry.
Now tell us about Litsy. What prompted you to start this wonderful social community for bookish people like us? Was there a gap in what was currently out there that you saw needed to be filled?
With Out of Print, the goal was always to encourage conversations around books. The idea of Litsy felt like a natural extension of our mission—to support this important dialogue around the authors and titles we love. We found that readers were using several different places to have these conversations—reviews in one place, photos of book covers on another, quotes somewhere else—so we set out to create a central space offering these functionalities for all things book related.
I’ve been playing around with the app a little bit and I think what I love most is the fact that it seems to be this great combination of Goodreads (bringing readers and authors together to share reviews and recommendations), Twitter (limit of 300 characters per post), and Instagram (the lovely pictures!). How did you come up with this great format? Are there any other features I haven’t discovered yet? Are you looking to add any other features?
There's magic and joy in talking about books. We wanted the experience on Litsy to capture that. We're focused on conversation, connection and organization. We believe that limiting posts to 300 characters or less will lend itself to a more casual, streaming dialogue. Being mobile gives readers an outlet for all their bookish moments, whenever and wherever they have them.
A really useful feature, in our opinion, are the Stacks. With Stacks, users can create lists of what they’re currently reading, what they’ve read, as well as what they want to read next. Users can add books to their stacks by using the Search function (one can search for a title or author, read a summary of the book, and see what other users are saying about it), or a user can Stack directly from somebody else’s post. Your own Stacks can be accessed right on your profile, and it can be really interesting to view what others are reading next!
As we continue to grow the community and the conversations continue to happen, we will create more ways to showcase trending books and connect readers based on reading preferences.
Something else I find really interesting is the Litfluence score each person who uses the app gets, which shows their “bookprint” in the world. Can you tell us more about this and how the score is calculated?
We are nerds for stats on this end, so we thought Litfluence would be a fun tool for readers. A Litfluence score comprises a combination of likes on a post, the number of comments received, and how many books other users have stacked from a post—it’s a representation of user engagement. This page also shows users how many books and pages they’ve read.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about Litsy?
We have a long queue of ideas, additional features, and future models, so what you see now is only the beginning. We are developing more every day, and can’t wait to show the world what’s next!
Thank you so much, Todd, for answering my questions!
Everyone, if you haven't checked out Out of Print yet, you really need to do so! There collection of shirts, totes, and accessory is wonderful and the fact that each product purchased results in a book being donated to a community in need makes it that much more satisfying. So it's really a win-win!
I am also very excited to share with you all their newest venture, the social media app Litsy. I've been having so much fun interacting with other bookish people and starting to add books to my stacks. The app is currently only available for iOS but they are working on expanding out to other operating systems. If you do have an Apple product download it today and come follow me at candc320. I'll follow you back and we can get our own corner of this newest bookish community building!