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Harper Collins last week launched HarperPlus (see Bookseller coverage here). The site describes itself as “designed to enhance the reading experience”. By entering a page number from the print title where a symbol is displayed, you will get access to a variety of additional content (either video, audio, image, text or game).

The first book on the site is Apache by Ed Macy. It’s easy to see why a book like this works well. There are lots of additional photos, and creating a platform like this is a way to introduce additional value without adding to production charges, while at the same time creating something that readers can interact with.

This is a great strategy by HC. Not just in terms of reader engagement, but more for the benefit of providing the book with free online advertising. Readers get to experience something of the book’s essence outside of just the print title.

Where I think HC’s site falls down is in the levels of interaction possible. Given this is a very glossy-web.2.0-looking site, it’s almost frustrating to find that actually, once you’re on there, it’s all pretty much flat content, with little or no opportunities for the fans to engage on the site. They can read the additional content, listen to the audio and watch the videos, but they have no choice other than to do this on their own. This is missing a trick: while reading is a solitary activity, sites like this should be faciliating dialogue, and letting fans connect. Other than social media bookmarking, you’re on your own on HC Plus. Shame.

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There seems to have been a sudden splurge of online collaboration tools, both within publishing and the wider academic community. After my forage a few weeks ago into the world of ning, I do currently intend to try out some of these others and do some detailed comparisons. But for the time being, here’s some highlights…

First up, the new fresh author talent site from Harper Collins: authonomy. Aiming to bring together new authors along with potential readers and publishers, the site offers a community approach to rating new content. Attractive, nice welcoming tone, lots of user interaction, this site has been well planned and the community has well and truly bought into the concept. It had a good publicity launch followed by a period of BETA testing. It’s a really neat concept and a strong business opportunity – both for the authors getting the profile and the publishers growing a fan base. What is even more interesting is that HC is getting lots of great profile and loyalty, yet the site is open to other agents and publishers to do business too.

Next up is Penguin’s new partnership with match.com. Not so much a social network, rather an online chance to bring together individuals with a shared interest, even though there is membership and the chance to interact. I didn’t want to create a profile so can’t tell you much about its merits, other than to say it’s another great example of how the Penguin brand gets a big profile boost, without this being directly tied to the main Penguin business, or restricting it to being only about Penguin. My only criticism was it was really not easy to find this thing – search results were not great, so I had to search via the Penguin blog to find an entry point. Might just be my incompetence, but SEO needs to be next on the agenda…

Same goes for the new Facebook app from Pan Macmillan, who have launched the ‘Love letters of Great men‘ app to accompany the new book release of the same title. I have to say it took me quite some time to actually locate the app. The fan base is currently quite small, but I haven’t done my homework on what the average uptake of a new app is, or what the likely growth of new apps might be. I decided against downloading this one, but I wanted to include it to show again the kinds of things happening in networks.

I don’t intend to go into detail on some of the following – you can read more about them in Paula J Hane’s article on Information Today, but I will certainly be spending some time getting to know Research1; the American Chemical Society (ACS); the Canadian Medical Association (CMA);  and Indiana University School of Medicine Informatics’ Laboratree, along with the more established 2collab and labmeeting. So much fun to be had…!