Fresh off a buzz-generating appearance at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the enterprise and consumer electronics firm DMC Worldwide is in New York City showing off Copia, a new Web site offering a reading social network platform and e-commerce that includes a suite of linked digital reading devices set to hit the market this spring. DMC stopped by the Publishers Weekly offices to demo its social reading platform in advance of its presentation at O'Reilly's Tools of Change conference set to open next week.
DMC is a 50-year-old private firm looking to invest in, produce, and market new consumer technologies. DMC Worldwide senior v-p Anthony Antolino said that Copia is the result of the company's long-term examination of "emerging markets, content consumption, and what makes consumers tick." Antolino described Copia as a "social reading platform that combines all kinds of content—books, movies, comics, music—and collaborative tools that let people read and enjoy books together, and, of course, it offers commerce."
The hub of the Copia network/device venture is the social network, a Web-based platform that is free to consumers. It will launch a limited beta in March and a public beta by the summer. Antolino said that Copia offers a distinctive online graphical display as well as a search infrastructure that allows readers to discuss and compare books, but that also attempts to visually recreate book browsing. While Copia offers the usual social networking functionally—connections with like-minded readers; title and subject-focused discussion groups; the ability to compare book lists—the site offers its own nifty and intuitive ways to do so.
The Copia book search engine can offer either a listing of hyperlinks or deliver the results in its "mosaic" mode, a tile effect that displays at a very large size the cover jackets of the most likely books the reader may want and the least likely in descending sizes. This visual search result is very much like browsing the shelves at a store or library and allows consumers to "find what they want and to find stuff they didn't know that they wanted," said Antolino. The site also offers graphs of color-coded reader reviews and a system of composite book rankings that can be compared and linked across larger and smaller, more personal reading groups. The site can also connect and include contacts from other social networks like Twitter and Facebook, Antolino said, and Copia includes a variety of privacy settings to control the use of those contacts.
Antolino said that Copia is in negotiations with both book publishers and educational institutions, and is "developing content arrangements." The Copia site will also include a retail site offering both print books and e-books. Antolino emphasized the importance of textbooks and the education market in Copia's plans, pointing out that Copia will offer "e-books with rich media and multimedia; textbooks; note taking and highlighting. It's easy to see who is reading what and what people are saying."
Copia is "device agnostic," and Antolino said that on the Web it is browser-based and will also be offered as a smartphone application. Although Antolino did not the display the actual devices, the social network platform is embedded in a suite of six e-ink devices, including a color device he said would be available by the end of the year. The Copia e-readers range from six-inch to nine-inch screens, with Wi-Fi/3G and touchscreen capability. The b&w devices will be priced from $200 to $300—easily the most attractive pricing in the latest wave of e-ink devices.
And while Antolino would not give a specific price on the color e-reader, he said it would be priced "aggressively" to compete in a high-end device market that will be taking its cue from the $499 price point set by Apple's forthcoming iPad device. Copia's devices will be available online in April and at general retailers in June, and Copia will launch internationally later in the year.