Copia’s E-Reader Finds Audience in Classrooms After Shift to Edtech

8/27/13Follow @jpruth

As students reluctantly get into back-to-school mode, the likelihood of them finding digital platforms such as e-readers in classrooms is increasing. More companies want in on the education technology (edtech) scene, and Copia Interactive in New York believes lessons it learned from the consumer e-reader market can help it ace this subject.

Taking a device-agnostic approach, the Copia platform can be used to procure, distribute, and read e-books on tablets, laptops, and smartphones. Furthermore, users can take notes in the margins of the e-books, share them with classmates, and pose questions to teachers. Copia has been used in a year-long pilot in 2012 in the Los Angeles Unified School District for K-12 classes, by Stanford University, and abroad in Australia, Brazil, and Spain. The company now hopes to get into New York classrooms via a request for proposals from the New York City Department of Education to bring a district-wide e-bookstore to its schools.

The submission period for proposals will come to a close in mid-September, but it is uncertain when the city’s administration will choose a platform, says Ben Lowinger, founder and executive vice president of Copia.

The city wants a company to provide and maintain a platform to procure and distribute electronic textbooks and education software, but the looming mayoral election makes it a bit unclear what will become of this plan. “We’re coming toward the end of an administration,” Lowinger says. “With so much riding on who the next mayor is, it will be interesting to see.”

Naturally he believes Copia has an edge with its access to content from prominent publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Random House, and Pearson. The platform can be geared for kindergarten through higher education classes. For example, he says the platform can be used by high schoolers to access digital content for their math, history, and English classes while letting teachers post additional material for students.

Given the many fronts of competition in edtech, Lowinger says Copia is not out to take on such companies as Blackboard, which offers schools software to oversee and organize classrooms—including scheduling quizzes and keeping track of grades. “We don’t fashion ourselves to be a [learning management system] provider,” he says.

Copia is available through such partners as Y Combinator alum Clever, which integrates applications that schools use with student data.

Founded by parent firm DMC Worldwide, a consumer and enterprise tech company, Copia debuted in 2010 as a platform that device makers could use to compete with the software used in Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. The consumer version is still available, but Copia pivoted to make the booming education scene its focus.

“We realized that the edtech market could benefit the greatest from what Copia created,” Lowinger says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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