LAS VEGAS — Another company is vying to make an e-reader, but it is taking the software route. 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.
In a demonstration today, Blio representatives also showed off how the technology would showcase graphic-intense books such as cookbooks and children’s books, which get short shrift in the e-readers on the market like Kindle. With children’s books, the Blio integrates audio narrations that some publishers provide so the words on screen are highlighted as each word is read aloud in the narration.
“We have research showing [highlighting] helps build reading skills,” said Ray Kurzweil of KNFB, a company that started out building reader solutions for people with disabilities. He said the company is talking to retailers to offer devices branded as “powered by Blio.”
“People don’t want separate devices for everything,” Kurzweil said.
The software works on PCs running Windows 7, XP and Vista; Web browsers with Microsoft Silverlight software; and the iPhone. It is scheduled to become available in February with 1.2 million books. One million will be free and the company will charge for the other 200,000.
The software was developed by a joint venture in Wellesley Hills, Mass, between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation for the Blind.
Blio put together a comparison chart of how it stacks up in costs and features against other e-readers, including Amazon’s Kindle. Here is the chart.