capsule review

Blio eReader for Windows Vista and 7

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Blio eReader for Windows Vista and 7

K-NFB Reading Technology's Blio e-book reader software for PCs not only recreates graphic elements of traditional printed books that e-book readers have largely ignored, but can effortlessly deliver related content such as multimedia. I found Blio an intriguing alternative for complex book content, if not (at this point) a serious substitute for portable devices.

Blio launches into its Library view, which shows all your Blio content as book covers on shelves. The interface is extremely polished and intuitive. You can also find out what others have thought of the book because Blio has partnered with social media site GoodReads.

You can buy commercial Blio content through the Blio store, and can acquire free e-books from Google; both are easily accessible via the Library view screen. K-NFB has partnered with wholesaler Baker & Taylor to fill its store with volumes from major publishers, but I was unable to find most of the top ten books on the week's New York Times fiction best-seller list (all of which were available for Kindle and most of which I could buy as e-books from Borders).

When you first purchase a book from the Blio store, the software presents you with a form for setting up an account and providing a credit, debit, or gift card. After that, purchasing a book is as easy as buying a track on iTunes. I purchased Gordon Ramsay's Cooking for Friends, which cost $18.60 on Blio (vs. $23.10 for the hardcover and $16.99 for the Kindle edition).

There are six main views in Blio: double-page, single-page, thumbnails, text-reflow, ReadLogic, and 3D book view. Blio also has a text-to-speech feature. One nice touch is that as the text is read, the software highlights the words as they are spoken, which could be useful for learning a language or expanding one's vocabulary.

Blio's navigation tools include a pop-up list of contents that link to their location in the book. You can also move to specific pages using a slider at the bottom of the Book View screen. By default it graphically shows your approximate location in the book as represented by a row of dots, but clicking that row produces the slider button as well as a pop up showing the exact page number. As you drag the slider, the page numbers flash by so you can stop at a specific page. I found this approach more user-friendly than the Kindle's location numbers, which often get into several thousands and aren't very helpful for returning to a specific location.

In any view, a Notes tab brings up a column for note-taking that you can opt to pin to the display. Blio also provides easy access to additional annotation and lookup functions via a text toolbar that pops up when you right-click a word or phrase. You can apply highlighting, write a note, or look up the selection in Bing, Google, Wikipedia, TheFreeDictionary.com, or Thesaurus.com. You have to be online for lookups to work.

When you add a new note, a window pops up showing the selected text and its location. You can type your note, or you can also insert an image or a Web site link by clicking icons at the bottom of the window. This interactivity distinguishes Blio from Zinio and other platforms that can reproduce print.

As promising as Blio looks, your content remains locked to your PC, at least until the Android and iOS versions become available. Blio's handsome interface is capable of handling complex visual material, and for that, you may want to give it a try--if you can find the content you seek. But for those who just want to trade in stacks of hardcover or paperback books for a single, handy, easy-to-use digital device, Blio is largely irrelevant for now.

Note: This file is for PCs running Windows Vista and 7. If you are running Windows XP, please download the version for XP instead.

--Denny Arar

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Blio eReader for Windows Vista and 7

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