Like many people I have been waiting with anticipation the launch of the new Blio ereading platform. Finally, it seemed, there was a solution being offered for illustration titles. Finally it appeared publishers with children’s books, cookbooks or in fact any illustrated titles could rest easy knowing that their original layouts and formatting would be preserved.
Up until now ebook reading was isolated to either straight text ebooks on dedicated ereaders, laptops or reading applications OR for those that could experiment with iPhone or iPad applications. The iPhone or iPad applications required development and a considered approach with your desired outcomes for the app. What if you didn’t have the time or resources to put into that and just wanted a platform for your illustrated titles?
Today I received the email telling me that it had finally launched. Big excitement! Something new! Something delivering what no one else has to date?! Maybe I’m spoilt, and maybe it’s just a letdown. Yes I can and have downloaded the Blio software onto my laptop – but frankly that’s not where I read these days! I read 99.999999% of my digital content on my iPad and previous to that it was onmy iPhone. Although it has been known to happen, the laptop is primarily used during business hours or for work and as the mother of two toddlers my opportunity to read is currently a small portion of time before I doze off. My laptop is just not that cozy in bed!
Imagine my disappointment then on reading the Blio website to discover two things that are currently impacting my enjoyment of the new platform.
1. This is only available on Window-based devices.
What? We surely ALL know that mobile phones are used to access the internet, ebooks and a variety of other tasks and I can’t even access it on my iPhone? I’ve been reading on my iPhone for years! No doubt they will, as they say, have it available soon for iOS, Android and Silverlight – but when? How can I really know what the advantage of Blio when I can’t read how I want to read – on my device of choice!
2. I can’t purchase any books!
When you download the software it comes loaded with a couple of ‘Featured Books’ – two illustrated children’s titles. These do really show how this is going to be a boon for illustrated publishers and the free titles give further indication. But seriously – I can’t believe that they have launched this and only made purchasing available to the US, Canada and Mexico ONLY! We live in a digital world and apart from the pesky issue of territorial rights we in Australia (early adopters as we are!) don’t like it when we’re not included, let alone our friends in the UK and other parts of Europe.
I’m sure these issues will be solved in time, but launching with these two major flaws is colouring my initial impressions of Blio.
I’ve just logged onto twitter to see if Blio have responded to my query about these points and seen that Martin Taylor, the Director of the New Zealand Digital Publishing forum has written on his blog about the first point. He seems to think that they were rushing to get to launch for Frankfurt Book Fair and that makes total sense but I agree with him that launching without phone or iPad reading options is not an ideal solution.
I’ve downloaded a few of their free titles to test how the app works for me. One is a straight text title and frankly the usability just doesn’t cut it for me. I can’t imagine going to them for text titles at all.
There are a few things I DO like about the app so far. I like the highlight and making notes if I want to and a list of urls in the notes. I like the numerous functions for how I view the page. I guess the 3-D book view is a novelty but can’t imagine ever using it. I like the fact that WHEN I can access on different devices I will be able to synch on up to five devices. I like the way that you can ‘read aloud’ the titles – although it’s somewhat ironic that the two illustrated titles that came loaded in my library the publisher had not given rights for text-to-speech! And frankly, the robotic sound of the read-aloud would soon turn me off anyway! And in particular I like the fact that I’m given a list of websites to look up a reference and can see the great benefit of this.
So all up? I think Blio shows promise and I’ll be standing by to see further developments – when I can purchase and read on my iPad! Until then I’ve satisfied my curiosity but won’t be using it any further.