Copia, DMC Worldwide’s much anticipated book retail and social networking platform, officially launched yesterday. But while the Copia launch offers consumers an iPad app as well as client software for desktop and laptop computers that will allow consumers to buy and read books as well as connect with like-minded readers, Copia’s debut seems to have raised more questions than it answers.

Copia executives Ben Lowinger and Mike Lundgren held a conference call to kick off the launch of Copia and outlined the potential as well as the functionality of the Copia platform. The Copia app for iPad can be downloaded here and software for Mac and PC desktop and laptop computers can be downloaded here. Copia plans to release more software for more devices.

However, the presentation did not answer questions about the seemingly abrupt departure last week of Copia executive Anthony Antolino, the executive most closely identified with bringing Copia to market. In addition, there is Copia’s seemingly abrupt cancellation of a long planned and aggressively priced line of Copia branded digital readers; and now a lack of specific information on the devices (and when they’ll be available) and the OEM and device manufacturing partners. Copia now says it plans to bundle and place its software.

That said, Copia has about 400,000 print titles for sale (and more than 1 million free e-books) at launch and the Copia iPad and desktop/laptop clients offer an interesting peek at the software’s potential. While Copia executives avoided answering questions about pricing, e-book prices seem to vary widely and Copia management has said in the past that they will accommodate both the agency model and the wholesale pricing model. In concept, Copia combines the ability to connect with like-minded people and discuss books and other things--like Facebook--and to buy both physical and digital titles from within the same platform, like Amazon

Copia has released desktop/laptop clients for PC and Mac and which can used in conjunction with the iPad app to allow consumers to read e-books and synch pages and personal notes no matter which device you’re using. While the Copia software is fairly easy to download, Adobe provides DRM for the e-books and consumers need an Adobe account and password to download and use its e-reader. While journalists like this reporter get a lot of handholding and support (I was assigned an Adobe password) to help us learn the software, I’m not sure the average consumer will find this step easy to do or even clearly understand.

However once a consumer has created a Copia account using the client or iPad App, they will have access to a very graphically-oriented platform that will allow you create a kind of social library—you can easily collect the book jackets of your favorite books in the library section—that others can use to compare against their own. Indeed the site offers opportunities to create a network of “friends” based on the books they like. If you click on a user, the site will give you an animated graphical visualization of which books you have in common. The site offers the ability to easily form groups around topics as well as create discussion forums (essentially online reading clubs) and readers can rate books using a color code and numerical rating systems (community value and community rating), which Lundgren compared to “a wine rating, that’s based on how many people have the book and if its been shared a lot.”

Overall the software (if you can figure out how to get the Adobe password) is relatively easy to use although not always intuitive. It took this reporter a while to figure out how to “friend” someone and create followers. While the site offers free downloads of 7 e-books get to the reader started (W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five among them), if you start on the iPad it can be a bit confusing how to get the books to download. The laptop client for Mac was easier to figure out and I quickly downloaded the titles to my Mac laptop; imported them into the Mac client and synched the whole shebang. Once the e-books are imported into the laptop client, the e-reader is easy to use and offers array of note taking functionality that will synch across all devices. Indeed Copia is hyping the software’s notetaking function as a customization tool for educational institutions that will allow professors and students to circulate their notes among school-generated discussion groups.

Now that the software is available only time will tell whether its distinctive design will lure people away from book-social networking sites like GoodReads or even general social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Right now there’s about 2,300 people using the newly launched site, so it’s got a long way to go.