This week brought the official launch of Blio, a free multiplatform, multimedia e-reader app from KNF-B Reading Technology, a company founded by futurist Ray Kurzweil, the inventor of voice-recognition, in cooperation with the Federation of the Blind.
Originating as an app to help people with impaired vision read digital content more easily, the partners are marketing Blio to mainstream consumers. Blio aims to preserve the visual format of books and magazines -- including layout, type, images and colors -- while also enabling an array of digital media, like online video and interactive Web.
The app allows users to make "notes" by saving additional images, video and voice content alongside digital content. Advanced text-to-speech technology developed by Kurzweil allows readers to download two lifelike voices -- "Samantha" and "Tom" -- for audio reading.
Blio offers users access to 1.2 million titles through a partnership with book distributor Baker & Taylor, Kurzweil said, including rich-media, video, slide-show and audio-enhanced content from top publishers such as Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.
Like other e-reader services, Blio stores digital editions purchased by the user in a virtual library. But unlike some other services, the user can access this virtual library by various means including mobile devices, desktop and tablets, allowing them to "transfer" the reading experience between devices.
Kurzweil also touted its color capabilities as a significant improvement over competing services -- which are for the most part limited to monochromatic reproductions of print content -- noting the importance of color to reader experience for content like cookbooks, travel guides, how-to books, textbooks and children's stories. Blio, which can be downloaded for free at blio.com, is compatible with desktop computers and laptops, and will soon be available for other Windows-based devices. Applications for Apple, Android and Silverlight platforms are planned for the near future, which should also make it available to a broad range of mobile devices.