Remember way back last year when I said "Screw Kindle, give me a good e-textbook app"? Well, if you don't, I did. And guess what? Someone did! The one highlight of Steve Ballmer’s keynote was his announcement of the new Blio software from Ray Kurzweil, the mind behind Kurzweil Educational Systems and their range of assistive technology. While Blio could certainly have implications in the assistive tech realm, this could finally be the application that brings rich, interactive e-textbooks to a variety of devices.
According to the Seattle Times,
Unlike the software on devices from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, the Blio reader shows books in full color and takes the interactivity beyond navigating pages and shopping for books.
Blio can incorporate interactive graphics, such as, say, a quiz in an anatomy book diagram, as Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer demonstrated on stage in his keynote on Wednesday night.
Looking back on my post regarding a textbook app, I said
I always have a laptop with me. So does every college student on the planet. Worst case, I have a BlackBerry or iPod Touch. Netbooks are now making laptop computing available to public schools in huge numbers at nominal prices. Can anyone find a way to justify adding another device to students’ backpacks?
Give me my textbooks (or whatever books) in some standardized format (PDF is fine, but I’m sure the industry could come up with some open, slick XML-based format) and display them on my netbook. Let me make annotations or interact with the touch screen on a tablet (or Apple’s upcoming tablet-ish giant iPhone if the rumors are to be believed). One device, textbooks, note-taking, web browsing, productivity software, and access to the cloud.
Blio truly looks like it will be able to deliver. No pricing has appeared, but according to Inkmesh,
From initial reports, it appears that Blio ebooks will be PDF files with a new DRM scheme. The software will offer rich multimedia capabilities, making it a good choice for ereading on laptops and tablets but rendering it incompatible with eink devices like the Kindle
Even if the software ends up being somewhat pricey, its ability to work on a variety of devices could make it cost effective; it certainly appears to add value and serious capabilities to the e-book space without adding another device. I can take or leave the Slate running Windows 7, but Blio is on my shortlist of software to evaluate when it becomes more widely available.