[Athen] Ray Kurzweil vs. Apple: Round 1; plus Blio ETA?

Ken Petri petri.1 at osu.edu
Mon Jun 21 09:38:23 PDT 2010

If folks don't already know, Blio (when it materializes... waiting....
waiting....) will support EPUB and PDF. But as Pratik pointed out the
primary target format is Microsoft XPS (XML Paper Specification), which is
page-based and aims for precise print-like page fidelity. XPS is an open (or
as open as Microsoft ever gets) format. However, it does not have the
semantic elements that are present in EPUB. And it has no where near the
industry traction that EPUB has.

At a recent forum on access and e-textbooks that Ron and I attended, Michael
Smith of the IDPF, which is the home of the EPUB spec, talked about plans to
enhance EPUB to be more amenable to academic use. What I got out of it was
that in the next version or versions of EPUB (2.1 and 3.0) we will see:

- Rich media and interactivity support
- Enhanced "article" support
- Means to convey page-level layouts
- Enhanced navigation support (NCX TOC)
- Annotation support
- MathML support (comes with EPUB 2.1 "coinciding" with DAISY 3)
- Book specific semantics (glossaries, note reference systems and

And if they can get a version of Blio ported to the iPad, well....These are
great, but of course the e-book readers will have to support them, and it
will take a while for the specification, which isn't even a draft yet, to
become a final recommendation. (You can see a charter for the 2.1 Working
Group here: http://www.idpf.org/idpf_groups.htm.) In the meantime, it may be
that Blio can deliver on a page-faithful format that has high accessibility.
The screen reader and self-voicing demos I have seen are pretty

There were three representatives from Blio at the forum, including the lead
product manager. They demo-ed Blio, and they also heard Michael Smith talk.
You can bet Blio/K-NFB will be closely tracking the EPUB draft process.

About book sales: Blio/K-NFB Reading Technologies is in a partnership with
Baker and Taylor which is the world's largest book distributor. And I would
imagine that K-NFB Reading is also looking for other distributors to partner

In any regard, it is going to be very interesting to watch all of this

Best regards,

On Sun, Jun 20, 2010 at 7:28 AM, Pratik Patel <pratikp1 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Ron,


> With the synchronization and update effort happening with DAISY" and Epub,

> I

> see no reason to create other file types. Kurzweil NFB Tech might have

> focused on making PDF reading experience a little better for blind or

> visually impaired people. But they didn't. They instead focused on

> something entirely new and not, as far as I can tell, open. All my

> conversations with publishers also leads me to believe that they're

> converging on Epub. Creating and supporting something else sets us back.


> Yesterday, I saw an article/video demo that shows Quark Express producing

> BLIO format material (http://bit.ly/dlud91). This just makes me cringe.

> Most publishers appear to have moved away from Quark; and now BLIO is

> trying

> to make Quark relevant again.



> Pratik


> -----Original Message-----

> From: Ron Stewart [mailto:ron at ahead.org]

> Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2010 7:10 AM

> To: Alternate Media

> Subject: RE: [Athen] Ray Kurzweil vs. Apple: Round 1; plus Blio ETA?


> Morning,


> Pratik what format would you support instead of EPUB, given the effort

> currently underway to align EPUB with DIASY. Both EPUB and DAISY are open

> standards and I am not sure what the alternative would be. As far as I am

> aware the major publishers are standardizing on EPUB and working with the

> IDPF for improvements to the specification so that it will better support

> complex structural elements and interactivity.


> Like you I am disappointed that BLIO remains vaporware, the demos I have

> seen were very interesting but one of the issues they are going to have to

> overcome is their lack of support for EPUB, given their current focus in

> the

> trade press, where EPUB is currently the king of the mountain.


> Ron Stewart



> -----Original Message-----

> From: Pratik Patel [mailto:pratikp1 at gmail.com]

> Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2010 6:50 AM

> To: Alternate Media

> Subject: RE: [Athen] Ray Kurzweil vs. Apple: Round 1; plus Blio ETA?


> My comments are below.


> Regards,


> Pratik



> > This is surprising: Blio founder Ray Kurzweil

> > publicly jabs Apple's approach to e-books:


> I think it is very humorous when someone is critical of existing

> technology compared to what they are "developing". Last time I checked,

> the Blio system had a real slick web site and demo version, they have

> missed their software delivery date by a significant margin

> (http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/06/blio-e-reader-software-hands-on/).


> P: BLIO was touting a business model that would deliver more than a million

> books back in October of 2008. Apple's iBooks severely compromised the

> business model-particularly because one of the selling points was going to

> be built-in accessibility. Things got very interesting, at least from

> Kurzweil's perspective, when Apple decided to enter the market. In a

> market

> where Amazon had a firm foothold until now, Apple decided to enter with a

> splash. Where there was one source of competition, now there are two.

> Amazon's stock is down because it is predicted that iBooks will eat into

> Amazon's profits. Kurzweil is trying to enter a market that, all of a

> sudden, seems a bit crowded. Despite his name recognition, Kurzweil has

> not

> been in the book selling business; nor has he had a proven track record of

> working with the publishing industry, which, as we all know from

> experience,

> could be quite tough. The business model relies on making money from book

> sales. Kurzweil has to find ways to keep on making noise so that his

> mythical product doesn't get forgotten or become irrelevant. Let's not

> forget that Google is expected to start selling books through its store

> this

> summer as well.


> There was a significant amount of press back in January and the promise

> was that the software was to be released in mid-February. Maybe this is

> them trying to get back in the news?


> P: The press coverage started in October of last year, promising a delivery

> date of November. Then, at CES, the delivery date moved to February.

> Rumers popped up that a PC version of the software would be available first

> sometime in April and then mobile versions would be made available. Least

> to say, none of this has yet come through.


> > It's interesting but the Bilo's website says

> > nothing about accessibility of the software to

> > the disabled, rather odd given Ray Kurzweil background.


> Good point. Perhaps they are leaving that to the device manufacturers?


> P: Having heard controlled demos, I can say that the PC version of the

> software will be somewhat accessible. Same thing about the iPhone version.

> There were quite a few issues with the iPhone demo. If there are plans to

> make other mobile versions, no one in public knows them yet.


> > The formats supported do not include DAISY either

> > which is again is a curious omission.


> P: Nor does it support epub. This is a proprietary format based on

> Microsoft's XPS. This only makes me go: "what the ----!" I am incredibly

> disappointed (but not surprised) that the NFB is a part of the venture

> which

> has decided to completely throw out years of hard work in favor of

> something

> entirely proprietary and something that hasn't been proven at all. Years

> of

> accessibility work done by many of us has been compromised.


> I read an article awhile back in which Mr. Kurzweil indicated a

> preference to go after major publishers for support. I wonder if this

> is a reflection as to what formats publishers are preferring for content

> delivery. Still, to not include support for this format in the actual

> reader seems a bit odd.


> P: I wouldn't go so far as to presume that publishers are preferring this

> format. If they're going after publishers, then it's a pure and simple

> sell

> job on Kurzweil's part.


> I am *really* hoping we will see this project come to fruition before

> the Fall quarter. If the application meets at least some of the Web

> page "hype" this could still be quite an interesting reader.



> Take care,

> sean







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