TOM HOBAN is a native Dubliner, booklover and bookseller. Apart from a brief foray into bar-work and what he describes as a “disastrous experience” as a chef, he has worked most of his adult life in bookselling, covering different roles till he eventually became the Commercial Manager of Waterstones UK and Ireland. He was based in Dublin’s oldest and largest bookshop, Hodges Figgis, where he met fellow bookseller and now fiancée Aisling , and “an awkward mooch at the staff Christmas party somehow developed into a happy relationship six years later.”
Tom had been thinking about setting up Litvox for a while and when the pandemics came it gave him the push. Crazy? No, because thanks to his expertise Tom must have had an idea of what is missing in the field and has come up with innovative solutions that tap into what readers really need: handpicked book recommendations from a real bookseller, as you would find in a small indie bookshop, combined with the convenience of online retail. The adventure started in the middle of lockdown: now that it is up and running, Tom handles the day-to-day running of the online retail offer while Aisling looks after the accounts and social media.
“Our mission is simple: getting people to read more”
Litvox is an online retailer selling books, exclusive prints from local artists and cards. It also offers a number of money-saving subscription boxes, with books selected according to the customer taste and specifications. One of the features that make Litvox unique as an online retailer is that it offers free personalised reading advice from a real bookseller (tipping welcome but not obligatory). In larger online retail recommendations are formulated through algorithms and tracking and are usually based on paid promotions. Litvox’s free reading advice, instead, is formulated on the basis on individual readers’ specifications, submitted via an online form and answered promptly by a staff member. Litvox is proudly ad-free and does not accept any form of sponsorship from publishers. The plan is to keep the recommendation service free and to only offer advice that is honest and independent.
Already 4,000 customers have used the service, including 2,000 parents who want to choose the best books for their children. Litvox ships all over the world (Tom informs me that he has just shipped a few boxes to Italy!) and is planning to become the largest online retailer by the end of 2021. If you usually stay away from books because you think they are not your thing, you might want to try it. In an age in which we bombarded by advertising and interested advice Litvox’s philosophy may be the new black.