Ashlee Vance at the New York Times “Bits” technology blog has a brief article about Ray Kurzweil’s new “Blio” e-book system. It apparently will consist of downloadable software for most desktop and handheld devices, that will enable them to read e-books sold through Kurzweil’s Blio store.
Mr. Kurzweil argued that the existing e-readers and tablets had limitations in the text formats they support and the way they handle the original images and layouts in printed texts. Blio preserves the original formatting, making it particularly attractive to publishers of things like cookbooks, how-to guides, schoolbooks, travel guides and children’s books.
“The publishers will not give things with complex formats to these e-reader makers,” Mr. Kurzweil said. “They destroy the format.”
The article notes Kurzweil has a long history of working with e-book technology, including creating the first scanning text-to-speech systems for the blind. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that he has come out with so many innovations that he is regarded as something of a technology visionary.
The Blio website presents Blio as the greatest thing since sliced bread, talking about staying “true to the book’s original form”, allowing books to be read aloud, scaling well to small screens, and so on. The FAQ says that “For 2010, Blio will run on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile and iPhone operating systems,” and it will support XPS, PDF, and EPUB formats.
Still, I’m a little skeptical. There are lots of competing e-book reader systems that can be read on a variety of devices. Just because Kurzweil has made it big in other technology fields doesn’t mean that he will necessarily be successful in this one—if he wants Blio to be able to compete, it had really better be something special.
Related: Previous TeleRead coverage of Blio.