If you're a serious reader—especially an e-reader—who pines for a Facebook alternative on which to talk about and share books, you might be interested in Copia. The venture, which combines an e-bookstore with a host of community and networking features, launched today with beta apps for iPad, PCs, and Mac computers. Launches for further platforms, including the Android OS, are promised before year's end.
Copia offers more than 400,000 e-books for sale, along with 1.5 million free titles, in Adobe PDF and EPUB—both fairly widely used formats. You can also import e-books in those formats that you've bought elsewhere into the Copia app.
Once an e-book is in Copia, you can highlight and share passages, much as you can on the Amazon Kindles and (as of the new firmware update expected this week) Barnes & Noble Nooks. You share with other friends who also use Copia, and you can choose to see their comments on the book or those of all other Copia users. Copia also allows you to capture and organize your own highlights, comments, and notes, whether you share them or not.
Copia also offers what appear to me (and I'm no expert on social networking around books, admittedly) more sophisticated ways to access and manage book discussions than on such book-focused Facebook apps as Visual Bookshelf. For example, you can search within only Copia for topics, rather than across all of Facebook, which can make it easier to drill down to what you're looking for.
Also, your discussion comments can be enhanced with book-friendly features, such as a spoiler alerts to other readers before they look at a comment. And Copia's look and navigation is richer and more inviting than the plain-Jane Facebook interface.
For all its plusses, though, I’m not sure how many bookworms will want to hightail it over to Copia—at least anytime soon. For one, beyond the iPad, it's unclear how many of the key specialized e-reading devices you'll be able to use Copia on. The market-dominating Kindles look to be a long shot, given their black-and-white E Ink screens and lack of a sophisticated operating system to support such an app. The Nooks, at least, use the Android OS, but it seems doubtful that Barnes & Noble (or Amazon with the Kindles, for that matter) would want to add an app that bundles a competing bookstore.
You can join Copia and use it simply as a platform on which to list and discuss the books (both digital and physical) you're reading. It's possible, I guess, that some serious readers will want to do that. But for the moment, Copia seems most like a supplement to Facebook for people who e-read on an iPad—and are serious enough about books to be willing to use a second social-networking platform to talk about and share passages from them.