December 29, 2009

Blio from Ray Kurzweil : The REAL Game Changer Ebook Reader?

Is it "move-over time" for Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, et. al.? We've hardly gotten used to you ... but there’s a new e-book technology on the block. Meet Blio, the junior competitor that’s poised to take a bite out of your market.

Ray Kurzweil — who is best known for his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near — has worked extensively in areas such as optical character recognition, speech recognition, and text-to-speech synthesis. His company, Kurzweil Technologies, has a joint venture with the National Federation of the Blind called knfb Reading Technology to create reading products for people with disabilities. knfb Reading is the company that has created Blio.

Blio's official debut will be at the Consumer Electronics show on January 7th, the same time Plastic Logic will introduce their new Que. Apple’s long-rumored tablet is not far behind. But amid all the bells and whistles of current gray-scale technology, the bet is that Blio will steal the show.

Here’s why.

Blio actually lays out the “pages” as they are seen on paper, with typography and illustrations copied across. It also supports video and animation. One of Blio’s major advantages over current e-book readers is that the software offers a full color experience. E Ink, which is the black-and-white display used currently in almost all e-readers, works best for text; even then most e-books still look ugly, due to design limitations in the readers.

In some ways, it’s like the interactive magazine applications (also meant for upcoming tablet devices) shown off by the likes of Time Warner, Bonnier, and Conde Nast.

Blio was born out of a strong digital media partnership. Baker and Taylor, a distributor of paper and digital books and entertainment products, will provide K-NFB Reading Technology with digital content for an e-reader platform developed by Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind. As such, it features enhanced text-to-speech capabilities.

In collaboration with Nokia, the reading software is especially designed for their mobile phones to create the smallest text-to-speech reading devices available thus far. But it’s not exclusive to them. Even though it’s a proprietary product of Baker and Taylor, the K-NFB e-reader can run on PC or Mac laptops and desktop computers, as well as netbooks and other mobile phones such as the iPhone, no dedicated device required.

Industry experts such as Mike Shatzkin, CEO of Idea Logical Company and a 40-year publishing veteran thinks Blio has game-changing potential on the business of e-books.

The setup and tool kit for the publishers is without cost; Baker and Taylor plans to make its money on the transactions. They’re wholesaling on whatever the established terms are with that publisher. They will also host and provide e-commerce support to bookstores and publishers who sell direct. There are potential devils in those details but, to start, it is obviously hard for any publisher to resist incremental revenue for no setup cost.

Rest assured you'll see our authors' books on Blio. Kudos are due to Baker and Taylor too!