The BitLit App Helps You Switch Over to E-Books, but How Well Does It Work? I Tried It For Myself

If you're someone who'd love to unload you library of hardcopy books and go totally digital, but doesn't want to lose access to all the titles you love to re-read, you might be in luck. There's a new app called BitLit that promises to tell you which of the books on your bookshelf you can get for free or on sale as an e-book, just by submitting a few photographs. That's pretty useful for anyone looking to swap formats.

I've always been a fan of paper books, but if I were going to switch over, I would do it because e-books cause way fewer headaches (and backaches) when you're moving. My roommate and I just got another bookshelf to accommodate our libraries, and I can already picture it filling up by the end of the year — unless, of course, we have to pack up all these stupid books and move before then. So even though I maintain that my attachment to these volumes I've been lugging from apartment to apartment for years is true affection and not some form of Stockholm syndrome, I sympathize with anyone looking for a lightweight, digital bookshelf as an alternative.

And in that spirit, I decided to try out the BitLit app for you. You're welcome!

Because I'm visiting my parents for New Year's, the only bookshelf I have access to is the one I was busily filling up in high school, which provided an excellent opportunity to remember what great taste in books younger me had — and to remember that I need to get the rest of my Harry Potter books back from my sister.

I decided to test the app out on my top shelf.

I should really re-read some of those...

Using the app is pretty easy. You just take a few up close "shelfies" and let the app get to work identifying your books. But even though I was trying to follow their guidelines, it took me a few tries before the app was able to make sense of any of my photos. The first attempt looked a little like this:

Yeah... let's maybe try that again. Because even though I love both Meg Cabot and e e cummings, they are really not the same person. Also, none of my books are in German.

In the end, I had to take three "shelfies" before I really got the hang of it. Once I got better at it, though, the results looked more like this:

Now that's better. Not only is everything in English, but all the titles match up.

Once the app had my titles figured out, it was time to see which ones it found in e-book form for free or at a discount. So could I convert my real shelf to an e-book shelf for cheap?

Bummer. Well, I guess it's good that I'm happy with my old-fashioned books. And that my parents haven't forced me to clear off my old bookshelves yet.

If you're luckier than I am and your bookshelves are stocked full of books that BitLit can sell you cheap or get you for free, you're supposed to instead get a screen that looks something like this:

After which, you can select which books you want and have BitLit email you an e-book version that you can read on any of your devices.

So if you're looking to convert your library, hopefully you'll have better luck than I did and can move on to a more compact, lighter library without going broke. Best of luck, fellow book nerds!

Image: Pietro Bellini/flickr