Future of eReading might not be iPad, but Blio

Last June, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind joined a blind Arizona State University student in suing the school for its use of the Kindle in a pilot project, alleging that the device’s inaccessibility to blind students constituted a violation of federal law. The parties settled the lawsuit in January, in part because Amazon said it was working on making its Kindle eReader more accessible for the visually impaired.

Other features of Blio reportedly include the ability to open a book in 3-D “book view” for realistic page-turning, a “text-only” mode for optimal page display on small screens, the ability to display dual pages or tile multiple pages, the ability to enlarge text without distortion, and a high-resolution display.

Blio’s makers say the software will allow users to read eBooks on computers and mobile devices running Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and the iPhone operating system. Supported eBook formats include XPS, PDF, and ePub.

Downloading the software will require a computer running Windows 7, Vista, or XP, Windows Media Player 10 or higher, and at least a gigabyte of system memory. Galloni said a version of the software for Mac users will be available later this spring.

A full list of system requirements can be found here.

eSN.TV: See how Blio works


How it compares

A key advantage of Blio is that it doesn’t tie users to a single proprietary eReading device like the Kindle or any of its competitors. That means schools can use whatever computers or mobile devices they or their students already have to make electronic textbooks available to learners.

Blio also might be a more attractive option than other computer-based eReading software, such as the Amazon Kindle for PC or Stanza Desktop.

Though both the Kindle for PC and Stanza are free, Blio reportedly offers thousands more books than either of these platforms, and it is touch-capable, works with Windows 7, and has read-aloud and translation capabilities—all features lacking in these other programs.

A chart comparing Blio’s features with those of other eReader devices and programs can be found here.

Besides offering multiple study tools that will allow students to interact with their textbooks, Blio includes a library model that will enable students to borrow or rent certain electronic texts for a month or a semester at a time, Galloni said.

“I’ve looked at Blio, specifically in regard to foreign language instruction, and I am really impressed,” said Ryan Layman, an assistant professor in the English Language Program at Kanazawa Institute of Technology in Japan.

“Extensive reading has been widely touted in our field as a means for learners to build their language abilities, and Blio makes [texts] even more accessible to them. Its multimedia features, the vast amount of content, and the fact that it—and much of that content—is free provides … learners with a multi-functional learning tool at no to minimum cost.”

Meris Stansbury

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