Last week we brought you news that KNF-B was prepping for a September 28 launch of its Blio e-reader software, and according to our date books, the time has come! The free PC software (Windows XP, Vista and 7 are all supported) can be downloaded now at the source link below; the iPhone app should be hitting the App Store very soon, however. We've been using the program for the last few days to, you know, "read," so before heading over to download it yourself you'll naturally want to hit the break for our impressions of the unique reading application.
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Blio for Windows preview


The Blio experience is closer to that of iBooks than Amazon's Kindle or Barnes & Noble's Nook programs, and that's because it was designed to actually mimic the experience of reading a real book. The entire reading experience, down to opening the cover of a book, is animated to feel like you're actually turning a paper page. We tested the application on a Windows 7 Nav 9 tablet (review of that actual tablet coming soon) and the Core i3-powered ThinkPad Edge 11. We found the application to be relatively snappy, although we noticed some lag in turning pages on the Nav 9 -- that, of course, could be related to the Atom N280 CPU.

Still, we found the PC reading experience to be rather enjoyable -- or as enjoyable as reading on a computer could be. It's easy to turn pages by tapping the arrows or swiping across the screen as well as convert text-to-speech by hitting the play button on the bottom left corner. There's also a handy toggle for jumping to any point in your digital tome. The program isn't only intuitive to use but extremely visually appealing, especially for paging through a colorful children's book. Our only major complaint comes in adjusting the book to take up the full screen -- it refuses to push the Windows Taskbar out of the way and extend to the edges of the display.

Purchasing and downloading content is also fairly simple. There's an area for downloading free content from Google / Feedbooks and another paid bookstore area, which currently only has 10,000 titles from Baker & Taylor. That's significantly less than Amazon or B&N, but our bigger peeve here are the higher prices. Most titles are a few dollars more in Blio's store. Take "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo": in Blio's shop it's $14.95, while in Amazon it's $6.64.

So, should you run and download the program? In all honesty, if you're a Kindle or Nook user, you're probably best sticking with those e-book stores and their associated programs: the book prices are cheaper and both currently have a wider array of apps for taking your content across different devices. However, if you're looking for a full-color, visually appealing e-reader program for a Windows laptop, netbook or tablet, Blio's probably worth a try. Hey, you can't really beat the price.

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K-NFB LAUNCHES FREE E-READER SOFTWARE THAT REVOLUTIONIZES DIGITAL READING EXPERIENCE

Available today at Blio.com, through partnership with Baker & Taylor, Blio features a library of full-color, interactive media content and today's bestsellers

WELLESLEY HILLS, Mass. (Sept. 28, 2010) – K-NFB Reading Technology, creator and developer of the Blio™ e-reading software, today announced the launch of Blio, the most advanced, flexible, interactive and engaging e-reading application available to consumers. The free application can be downloaded immediately to all Windows-based devices at the newly designed blio.com, with applications for iOS, Android and Silverlight platforms available soon.

"Beginning today, readers of all ages will be able to enjoy a digital reading experience that truly harnesses the power of an e-reader," said Ray Kurzweil, inventor of the flatbed scanner and character- and speech-recognition technologies, and founder of K-NFB Reading Technology. "By providing a full-color, flexible, and interactive experience, Blio redefines the boundaries of the e-book, opening up entirely new categories of multimedia content and, as a result, engaging new groups of readers of e-books."

Through its partnership with Baker & Taylor, the world's largest distributor of print and digital books, Blio will offer today's bestsellers as well as interactive rich-media, video, slide-show, and audio enhanced content from more than 100 top publishers, including Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.

"We are so excited to see Blio go live, bringing an immersive e-reading experience to consumers. Blio offers the most engaging way to enjoy e-books," said Tom Morgan, Chairman and CEO of Baker & Taylor.

Blio offers a library of more than 1 million paid and free titles, and is currently adding new publishers and thousands of new titles weekly. Currently, Blio supports English, French and Spanish, with Italian, German and Asian-language options to follow.

With its ability to reproduce the color, layout and original fonts as in the print version of a book, Blio brings to life a large selection of books that are not available with E Ink devices. Categories such as children's books and lifestyle books, encompassing travel guides, cookbooks, and textbooks, finally have an e-reader that can deliver the experience to the reader that was intended by the author.

Blio has a host of functions that make it smart, fun and easy to use. Highlights include:
Blio mimics a book's printed format like no other e-reader, with files presented in XPS format, which allows digital books to stay true to their original print version. Blio also supports the more limited ePub-formatted books.
Blio is powered by the most advanced text-to-speech technology, using the Nuance Vocalizer, which allows readers to download two lifelike voices ("Samantha" and "Tom") for hands-free use. To facilitate reading and learning, Blio provides unique synchronized highlighting of the words being spoken.
Blio's full-media functionality allows users to insert notes into digital pages, highlight sections and even look up references on websites, without leaving their e-book.
Downloaded Blio titles are stored in a personal virtual library, enabling flexible access to content. This library can be accessed easily from numerous devices, allowing users to begin reading their book on a home PC, then pick up where they left off on a netbook or laptop. Future Blio versions will also support tablets and mobile devices and iOS, Android and Silverlight platforms.

Follow Blio and Baker & Taylor on Twitter at @Blioreader and @BakerandTaylor.

About K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc.
A joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind, the principals of K-NFB Reading Technology Inc. (www.knfbreader.com) have propelled reading technology forward for the last 35 years through the invention of omnifont OCR, the flatbed scanner, text-to-speech synthesis, and the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. K-NFB once again is redefining the boundaries of the printed word with Blio, which promises to set the standard for digital reading. This free application works across platforms and presents books as they were intended -- in full color and as laid out by the publisher. K-NFB is headed by CEO Ray Kurzweil, a 30-year innovator and pioneer in assistive technologies. The National Federation of the Blind is the largest, most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States.

About Baker & Taylor
Baker & Taylor Inc. (www.baker-taylor.com) is a global media distribution company and leading provider of digital media services. Baker & Taylor ensures that its more than 30,000 publishing partners get their materials into readers' hands in the format and on their device of choice. Baker & Taylor is especially proud to power Blio, the world's most advanced, flexible and engaging e-reader software application. Based in Charlotte, NC, Baker & Taylor has been in existence for more than 180 years and has developed long-term relationships with major publishers.

Baker & Taylor maintains one of the largest in-stock book inventory in the United States, and services the broadest customer base in the industry. Baker & Taylor is majority-owned by Castle Harlan Partners IV, L.P., an institutional private equity fund managed by Castle Harlan Inc., a leading private equity investment firm. Baker & Taylor and the Baker & Taylor logo are trademarks of Baker & Taylor, Inc. Blio is a trademark of K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc. Other company and product names mentioned for identification purposes may be trademarks of their respective owners.