Blio e-reading platform launches today, sort of

The Blio e-reading platform launched today,  promising to deliver the Holy Grail of a rich visual experience and good readability on mobile devices.

Unfortunately, today’s launch was of the Windows version only and this probably explains why, like many commentators, I’m feeling a little underwhelmed and even disappointed by it.

After months of build-up, Blio needed to deliver something special and sadly, by launching in its PC incarnation, it feels like a throwback to just another replica reader with slick graphics and page-turning animations.

My guess is that the marketing department pushed the button too early on this release so they could make a splash at next week’s Frankfurt Book Fair. How else to explain the launch of a major e-reading platform without its presence on a mobile device, given that they have “iPhone, iPad, [and] Android versions coming soon”?

If they’re “coming soon”, I wish Blio had delayed the launch and done it properly. This is what we’re all interested in after all: can Blio deliver a rich e-reading experience on small-screen mobile devices. Unfortunately, we’re no wiser today.

Blio is the brainchild of tech inventor and visionary Ray Kurzweil in partnership with the US National Federation of the Blind and book distributor Baker and Taylor.

It uses the XPS format but will also read ePub formatted ebooks, albeit with some early compatibility issues it seems. Blio will use the Microsoft PlayReady DRM system for its paid commercial ebook service of which about 6000 were available at launch.

Blio offers a conversion service for publishers to get their books into its XPS file format. But publishers will also be able to produce their own Blio editi0ns. Page layout software Quark Express will support export to the Blio format in a future release.

If you want to try Blio on a PC, you can download it from here.

However, I’d recommend holding off and waiting until the real launch to avoid disappointment over what could, indeed, be a promising platform.