Description: BitLit is a new app and service that’s currently in Beta for Android and essentially allows you to get either a free or heavily discounted eBook version of a book that’s already sitting on your shelf. These days, we love to read on our smartphones and tablets, but our favorite books are often on our shelf and we don’t want one more thing to carry around with us. This is where BitLit comes in. It asks you to take a ‘shelfie’ which is a picture of your book shelf and see which of your favorite books are eligible for either a free or heavily discounted eBook. The idea here is that keen readers can finally get access to their favorite books no matter where they are. BitLit has deals with over 200 publishers including HarperCollins, O’Reilly, Packt, Elsevier, Chicago Review, Osprey, Morgan James, Angry Robot, and Sourcebooks to get users either heavily discounted eBook upgrades or free copies. In many cases, the eBook upgrade is completely free and you’re able to download the ePub to read on whatever device you want (including your Android smartphone or tablet). So, is BitLit the solution that owners of hundreds of books have been waiting for? Read on as we find out.
How it Works: As with other apps on Android, the best place to start is by downloading BitLit from the Play Store. The best way of explaining how BitLit works in a nutshell is to simply watch the below YouTube video, from the developers themselves, this does an excellent job of showing exactly what the aim with BitLit is.
Once you’ve downloaded BitLit from the Play Store, you’ll be introduced into just what BitLit has to offer you, and you can go ahead and get started.
I’m not sure if this was needed or not, but BitLit asked me to sign in with my Google account, and that was a lot easier than needing to sign in with some other network that I simply don’t use.
The UI of BitLit is fairly straightforward and easy to use and I was pretty impressed with how easy it is to get around. There are essentially two steps involved to get eBook versions of your physical books through BitLit. The first step is to check which of the hundreds (if you’re a reader like me) of the books on your shelf are eligible. You do this by performing a ‘shelfie’, which is outlined nicely by the app.
Taking your shelfie is nice and easy and there are easy to follow guidelines while taking your photo. Once you’ve done that, there’s a short wait (about 20 minutes when we tested it) while the server processes all of the info from your beloved bookcase.
Once the shelfie has finished processing you’re presented with a list of all the books on your shelf (and a cool graphic that describes what kind of a reader you are – more on that later) and a list of books that are eligible for free or discounted eBook upgrades. The second step is to claim an eligible book as yours: choose “Claim a book” from the main menu.
Claiming a book is really quite a neat idea, all you need to do is write your name on the copyright page of a book to prove that you own this book.
Once you’ve taken a photo of the cover of the book as well as the copyright page with your name on it, the machines will get to work again working to find you a free eBook copy of the book.
Once your name has been recognized you get an email with a download link to the ePub, mobi, and PDF file which you can then sideload and read on whatever device you’d like.
Another cool feature that I mentioned earlier was the shelfie graphic that describes what kind of a reader you are based on the books that get recognized from your bookshelf.
Opinion: I have a Kindle Paperwhite, and I love it. I’m not ashamed to say that, either as my Kindle is far, far more convenient than the limited space I have for books. Having said that though, I’ve been a keen reader since my early teens and while studying English Literature at school in the UK, I read more than I ever have in my adult life. As such, I have massive amount of books in a few bookcases throughout the house. These include the excellent Dark Tower series by Stephen King himself (as you can tell from my shelfie picture above), my all time favorite set of works. I refuse to pay for them again as I’m a little stingy like that, and besides other books I have in these cases just aren’t available from Amazon’s Kindle store or Google’s Play Books store. With BitLit however, I am able to rediscover the works that I love the most in a format that works for me. As Managing Editor of a tech site, I have a number of devices lying around and while I am a little oldfashioned in a number of ways, books isn’t one of them. I expect to be able to read whatever I want, wherever I want and thanks to BitLit for Android, I can now do that. With BitLit, I am able to rediscover my favorite reads without paying through the nose for it and let’s face it, taking a ‘shelfie’ is far more appealing than adding to the deluge of ‘selfies’ out that. It’s fun to use, really works and can bring back some of the best reads of your life, BitLit is great for those that truly care about what they’re reading.
- Speed (4/5) – Runs nice and quickly, BitLit is a speedy app, I would have just liked the machines to work a little faster processing my shelfies.
- Features (4/5) – The concept here is brilliant and the way it asks users to prove they own their books, with shelfies and by writing their name, is great as it also celebrates our love for the book.
- Theme (4/5) – No complaints about the app’s look and feel, with an easy to use UI and it’s nice and easy to get to grips with.
- Overall (4/5) – A solid concept and app that works well, BitLit is currently in Beta and there are some cracks here and there, but overall this is genius.
- Great way of getting rid of no longer needed paper copies without having to purchase the book at full price digitally.
- The ‘shelfie’ is a nice celebration of our book collections as well as pop culture, this is clever marketing at work here.
- Writing our names in the copyright pages is something else that we’re accustomed to doing while reading as well.
- With a ratio of say 70 to 30 of heavily discounted to free books (the developer tells Android Headlines that the average discount is over 80% off the digital list price you’d pay on Kindle/Nook), this is one of the better ways to get your hands on a digital copy without having to pay through the nose for it.
- While there are deals with many publishers, a good deal of my books weren’t available yet.
- Search is a little obtuse, with no feedback given if the book isn’t found, just a blank page.
Conclusion: What we need to remember about BitLit is that it’s in Beta and regardless of that fact, getting book publishers onboard with eBooks still isn’t that easy. After all, in a market where Amazon dominates and calls the shots, it’s no wonder that publishers are wary of stepping into the modern world of eBooks. Still, there are many publishers at work here and a lot of your books might even be free to download digitally, if not they’re often over 80% off the digital list price, which is still only a small price to pay compared to the full Kindle price. Overall, BitLit is in beta and it’s a tough industry to crack, so this sort of thing is going to take time, but it’s nice to see someone like BitLit trying it out at the very least.