Copia, ebooks, and Social Reading

No one has exactly figured out the magic formula (assuming there is one) for getting social reading to that level of critical mass. Copia has an approach that looks promising — most noteworthy is in allowing readers to interact with the same ebook in the form of sharing notes, highlights — to facilitate that shared reading experience.

Gizmodo (“The Copia eBook Platform and Hardware Get Social With eReading”) calls Copia’s social platform, “like Goodreads on steroids, and it’s paired with two new lines of eBook readers.”

“First, the platform. Copia is a social networking platform that lets you set up a profile, rate and buy books, and share recommendations with your friends. You can also form and join discussion groups, both public and private, and gives you personalized recommendations based on what your friends have been reading.”

You can visit the Copia website and see what you think for yourself. If Copia’s community-based approach were to evolve into a more refined version of Amazon Kindle’s Public Notes idea, I could see this as something of potential good use. Especially for educational users of all kinds.

The Deals section caught my attention — primarily because social book shopping and social book reading go hand and hand. Granted, this part of the Copia website appears to be far from a finished product, so two of the big questions are those of:

a) content curation (i.e., a solid selection of editor’s picks; or other community-minded approaches, such as book club selections) and

b) what sorts of compelling content Copia comes up with for their bookstore. It’s tough to compete with the likes of Amazon and Barnes & Nobles directly, so the oblique approach with creative marketing is indispensable. BookPerk had one of the more creative approaches I’ve seen thus far.

At least to me, annotated ebooks from authors or experts could be a uniquely compelling idea. Nice to see that’s exactly what Copia has experimented with recently. Here’s a link to the press release, testing out this approach with an annotated Pride and Prejudice ebook —

“Anyone using Copia’s free eReader will be able to enjoy new entries that appear in the margins of each eBook, side-by-side with the original text …

Pride and Prejudice (Copia Editions) contains 150 entertaining and enlightening annotations by Professor Fraiman that celebrate and clarify the Austen classic and demonstrates a wholly new way for students to learn and professors to teach.”

For the higher education market, Copia could be an excellent solution. To that end, it looks like the University of Arkansas Bookstore has partnered with Copia. What remains to be seen, from the pedagogical side of things, is what amount of control there is for who sees what within those shared ebooks. Having a group of 30 students working on the same text is an excellent approach in theory, but in practice, access control will inevitably be something any professor is going to wonder about, so that those certain few students aren’t treating that shared-reading as their own personal Cliffs Notes. We’ll see about that.

You can check out the Annotated Pride and Prejudice ebook for free. One complaint: you will need to download the Copia Reader application to read the books (how many more ereader softwares do I need??) and an Adobe Digital Editions account. (and the Copia desktop software doesn’t seem to work all that well.)

That issue notwithstanding, their multiplatform approach looks sound, so Copia is worth taking a look at. Social reading is a bit of an experiment — nobody knows what it is that will tip it towards mass adoption yet. Copia has some good ideas, coupled with what seems to be a good start to an online community. Is it a community that others will want to join? A lot of that is going to depend on what else Copia does.

You can check out more on how Copia works here:


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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