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Building an eBook Community
Sun 19 Jun 2011
Cassandra Neace, blogger at Indie Reader Houston, writes about how ebooks have promoted active participation in reading and explains how Copia, an eBook community, is promoting that very principle.

Building an eBook Community

By Cassandra Neace

The digital age has made the world a smaller place. It was not all that long ago that a reader who wanted to reach out to an author had to do so by writing a letter, sending it to the publisher, and hoping that it would eventually get read. These days, anyone who has a question can send an email or Tweet, if not at the author directly, then his editor or publicist or neighbor. The options are endless, and the odds are increasingly good that said reader will get a response. Reading is no longer a solitary act.

A new community has emerged, and as with any community, the key to making sure that everyone benefits is active participation. The author who interacts with his audience gains readers. He earns their loyalty. They will keep coming back because they feel connected to him and what he is writing. For the author whose works are available as eBooks, there exists the opportunity to benefit even further.

Copia (www.thecopia.com) is a site that is devoted to building a community of eBook readers. It does so by offering readers of eBooks a forum for discussion. The difference between what they offer, however, and something like Goodreads, is that the eBook is actually a part of the discussion.

Seth Kaufman, VP of Marketing & Merchandising, describes Copia as “a new, more interactive way to read a book. It is a big step in the evolution of what an eBook can be.”

The social networking experience offered by Copia is more complete than that of similar sites. Copia sells eBooks, which can be read on the Copia Reader or any of the Copia Apps. Readers can make notes as they read, then share those notes with other readers.

Authors can also take advantage of this feature and share annotated texts, giving them a chance to share what they were really thinking when they wrote a particularly difficult passage or what they would have liked to have said instead, had the editor not convinced them to make the change.

The best part, for many readers, is that they finally have an answer to the question “What was he thinking?” Recently, Unbridled Books offered a free version of their Spring 2011 release Miss Entropia and the Adam Bomb by George Rabasa. This edition, exclusive to Copia, was annotated by the author. While he included the expected notes on plot, there were also notes on hypothermia and a mini-history of malls, information that brought added satisfaction to the reader. Better still, readers are able to discuss their reactions to both the book and the annotations in the online forum.

As a result of this community, the book becomes a living document, one where the text remains intact but is enriched by the flow of new ideas, commentary, and collaboration. Kaufman describes it as “almost like building a wiki” and sees endless possibilities for non-fiction works: “With cookbooks, someone can make the note to substitute this or share their grandmother’s version of the recipe, because, of course, she did it better. In travel guides, people can comment or make corrections. The text is kept up to date, and the author gets a head start on updating the text for later editions.”

For authors, the possibilities are endless. Instead of hearing the standard “I loved your book, especially the part where…” or “I don’t think this was one of your best…,” they get detailed feedback on the work they produce – and the chance to make it better.

It has been said that no piece of writing is ever really done. It just gets to the point where it can be published. Copia allows authors to keep tweaking the text and sharing it with their readers long after the publication date. Books no longer have to sit on shelf and get dusty. They can find new life online.

Bio: Cassandra Neace lives happily in Houston, Texas, where she writes about books - reading them, writing them, buying them, and sharing them with others. She blogs at Indie Reader Houston.

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