Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blio E-reader update

Blio e-reader from Ray Kurzweil caused a lot of buzz before it has been released. It still is not here, though their own website is up and you can sign up for alerts and to be told when it's available. Blio is platform-neutral software that will allow you to read e-books in PDF format on any internet accessible electronic device from your I-pod or cell phone or PDA to your computer or netbook. Because it downloads the books in PDF format, it retains the look of the print book, including graphics and full color. Blio is free to download, and many of the texts you get are free as well, depending on the copyright situation. Millions of titles are available right now, and more are becoming available, from cookbooks to bestsellers to childrend's books to certain school textbooks (not law books as far as I can tell right now).

More interestingly, you can page through the book and retain the pagination. You can insert highlighting and marginal notes. You can even insert videos and hyperlinks if you want. Blio offers a very high quality read-aloud feature, though apparently not for all books. The read-aloud co-ordinates with highlighting certain words, which would be very helpful for those learning to read or learning a language, for instance. Ray Kurzweil has been working for quite a while with the visually disabled community, so this audio feature is something he cares about and has accommodated very well. According to the Blio website

Blio’s active reading tools deepen comprehension, adding dimensionality to your reading. Highlighting, underlining, and annotating help emphasize information in your mind and let you review important points later:

* Create a personalized list of reference websites, for one-touch look-up of highlighted phrases.
* Adjust reading speed and font size.
* Translate to or from English in an imbedded translation window.
* Insert text, drawing, voice, image or video notes directly into your content. These are saved, and can be exported to create lists or study materials.
This same webpage also includes a detailed comparison between a wide variety of e-readers. Of course, it's set up by the Blio people, but it does compare many features that are worth thinking about, from cost, to display features, to variety of platforms, storage, titles available, read-aloud, page-turning, how many pages displayed at once, tiled views, video capability, interactive, and the "study aids" noted above.

Blio is not the only free e-reader, as I noted in my earlier post. I know about Kobo, another platform-independent, free e-reader with free or low-cost books. The free books are those out of copyright, mostly, but also include some newer books that appear to have been released for use by the copyright holder. Other titles cost $9.99. These seem to be best-sellers, self-help, mystery, and other categories. They have a bookstore you can browse by category. But as far as I can tell, from a law librarian's point of view, Kobo lacks the useful tools that Blio offers a law student or scholar for highlighting, knowing what page you are on, making notes in the text, and seeing the graphics as they appear in the original text. Kobo also does not appear to have any audio feature.

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