[Athen] Blio launched today for Windows
petri.1 at osu.edu
Wed Sep 29 00:08:43 PDT 2010
I have been playing around quite a lot with Blio for PC over the past few
hours, reading through the manual, trying out reading features, downloading
and searching for books, and so I thought I'd relay my experiences and
My overall opinion is that this present release of Blio, while it is a
promising effort, leaves quite a lot to be desired. Like most of you, I have
been waiting for Blio for about a year and tracking all of the missed
release dates--February, April, June, July. Thus, that it delivers so far
short on so many counts is very very disappointing.
People on this list have been waiting, especially, for accessibility
features. We have been expecting usable and complete keyboard navigation and
screen reader accessibility. Well, we're going to have to wait a while
longer for those promised "features." As Sean pointed out, Blio is saying
there won't be screen reader accessibility until October (let's hope they
actually deliver on that date (fat chance??)). And I'm assuming (but
definitely not holding my breath) that that "accessible" release will
include better (full?) keyboard support--keyboard support is definitely *not
good* right now.
Unlike some others in this thread, I did not run into any installation
problems. But I also have a newer Windows 7 laptop. Even with my laptop and
hardware acceleration for graphics, I have noticed pretty clunky animation
transitions in various reading views and when moving between panels in the
bookstore. (More on that later.)
It is clear that the current Blio for PC needs a fairly powerful machine to
run smoothly. During installation, if you don't have at least .NET framework
version 3.5 you will be prompted to update. Win 7 or Vista users won't hit
this snag (Win 7 shipped with .NET 4.0). You may also be prompted to install
PlayReady, a Microsoft DRM software package. This isn't a big deal and goes
smoothly--though I did not try installing while running a screen reader....
So as not to drag out my review, I'm going to enumerate what I found good
and not so good with the current product.
What is good:
- Has ability to *highlight text* in various colors.
- Can make *text notes* on any passage in a book--you select text and
associate a note with that text.
- Can *look up words or phrases* via user-configurable services. For
example, you can lookup a word at dictionary.reference.com or
thesaurus.reference.com or a phrase or name via wikipedia, all while
remaining in Blio. Blio has a built in web browser and when you highlight a
word or phrase, it allows you to select a reference and perform a search on
that reference with the results appearing in the browser that pops up as a
full-screen overlay over the book you are currently reading. While this does
not feel as "integrated" as the lookup in iBooks, it is certainly
serviceable and is more flexible, since you can add any number of lookup
- Allows you to read *both XPS and ePub books* (but not PDF, even though
PDF was promised). XPS books look like their print counterparts--page
fidelity is maintained. However, you can also have XPS books "reflow." And
you can set a number of different page layouts, including double page (side
by side), single page, 3-D book view with animated page turning, and,
perhaps most interesting, a "ReadLogic" view, which animates your movement
through the book by drawing a box around a portion of a page and then
zooming that portion with a (not always very smooth) animation.
- *ReadAloud functionality*: You can "play" a book by clicking a play
button or, in certain views, by double-clicking a word on a page. Blio will
read aloud, using your Windows installed voices, and highlight each word as
it reads. It would be nice to have more sophisticated highlighting. For
example, highlighting a whole sentence and then using a secondary highlight
to read word by word through that sentence. Such highlighting options are
available in Read and Write Gold and other text-reading assitive
technologies. But, for a first release, the word by word highlighting will
probably prove very useful for people with reading disabilities. It reads
aloud with your installed voices. If you have only Microsoft Anna (or
worse), then the experience won't be that great. Getting a couple of good
SAPI 5 voices would be a good idea for Blio users. You can set the reading
speed and choose the voice inside of Blio's settings menus.
- *Keyboard navigation through pages* of a book and through ReadLogic
"zoomed" portions of a page. The latter is the most interesting way to read:
As you press Enter (Shift-Enter to go backwards), you progress from viewing
a full page and then animate to a zoomed view of a portion of the page.
Press Enter again and you animate to the next zoomed portion of a page. This
is a pretty compelling reading experience. (Note the caveat in the section
below, regarding using ReadLogic and ReadAloud simultaneously.)
- Ability to *download both free and purchased books*. At present, a user
can purchase (a limited number of) books from the Baker and Taylor catalog.
But you can also download free epub books from FeedBooks and Google Books,
without having to leave Blio.
What is not good:
- *Using ReadLogic and ReadAloud simultaneously is problematic. *In other
views, when you use the ReadAloud function, highlighting remains
visible--the page will scroll or you will move to another page as it
continues to read and highlight. In ReadLogic zoomed mode, however, the
highlighting may disappear below the currently visible area, forcing you to
hit the Enter key to zoom to the next ReadLogic portion--but doing so, stops
the read aloud. To restart read aloud you have to select some text and click
the play button at the bottom of the Blio window.
- Unlike Kindle for PC, there is *no way to search on text
phrases*within a book.
- *ReadLogic and some other animations are jerky*, even on my relatively
high-powered laptop (2.4 GHz, Intel Core i5 with 4GB of RAM).
- *Limited keyboard shortcuts/accessibility*. Blio is not operable solely
via keyboard--very far from it, in fact. Current keyboard shortcuts allow
only for zooming pages, moving by pages/ReadLogic zoom levels within a book,
navigating the library, and moving through books in the download area. It is
possible to move through a book word by word and highlight via the keyboard,
but only if you first click on a word in the text--you can't get there by
keyboard alone. And most of the menu and other options and settings cannot
be accessed by keyboard alone.
- *No shortcuts for starting, stopping, and advancing ReadAloud playback*.
Until there are reliable shortcut keys for stopping and starting the read
aloud functionality, the only worthwhile settings options seems be choosing
Continuous" as the ReadAloud mode (keeps reading until you click the page or
hit pause) or setting the mode to "Self-paced" and the unit to "Page." At
least in the XPS and epub books I experimented with, it is clear Blio does
not really understand what a paragraph is: if you set reading "Units" to
"Paragraph," it will stop reading every couple of lines, rather than at the
end of a paragraph.
- *No way to adjust ReadAloud speed via keyboard shortcuts*. The only way
to adjust read-aloud speed is via the settings menu outside of the book
view. It would be nicer to have keyboard shortcuts for adjusting speed of
playback on the fly.
- There is *no means to search via highlight color or
highlights*(regardless of color). However, selecting or editing a note
in the notes
panel moves you to that place in the book--*but* once there, how to I get
back to my current reading position? There is *no "back" button, nor can
you enter a page number and jump to it, nor bookmark a page. *You can
navigate by page thumbnail, via the table of contents, and via simple page
turns. Adding jumping by page number, highlight, and bookmark would
dramatically improve book navigation.
No contrast settings, no Windows high-contrast mode. In comparison,
white/gray on black and light gray on sepia are available on Kindle
on PC. Blio
also does not adopt Windows high-contrast settings.
There is no true full-screen mode, unlike Kindle for PC which can go
*Compared to iBooks, the *graphics for turning a page and the gradient
that represents the shadow* for the left hand page when in double-page
layout mode do not render smoothly. Parts of Blio look "unpolished" and
- *Blio Store collection of books limited at present*. The Baker and
Taylor collection of books available to Blio is a start, but is not even in
the same ballpark as Amazon's bookstore for Kindle. (Try searching for
Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, or Dashiell Hammett in both Kindle and
Blio and you will see instantly what I mean.) It will be nice when they
start to add more books. Also, the Blio store doesn't have things Amazon
shoppers have come to expect, like the ability to preview chapters in a book
and read extensive reviews and/or rankings. Prices seem higher than Amazon
or Kobo, as well. Also, the *Google + Feedbooks search didn't always
return books from both repositories*--usually, Feedbooks came back alone,
without stuff from the Google catalog.
- The user's Library is easy to get around in and can be viewed many
different ways, but it has some quirks. For example, Blio "ships" with three
downloadable XPS formatted books--two childrens books and a book on
Woodstock. It's hard to imagine most people wanting to keep these books, and
yet there appeared *no way to delete them from the library*. You can
"filter" on books that are actually resident on the local computer and this
will filter out those junk books. However they remain "ready for download."
Why can't I remove all reference to them?
- *No means to organize books*. There should be a way to organize books
in the Library into user-created folders or "bookcases" (or some other such
metaphor). This would be a necessity for a student trying to organize
textbooks by class or subject, for example.
Program Director, OSU Web Accessibility Center
102D Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43210
Email: petri.1 at osu.edu
On Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 5:31 PM, Jeffrey Dell <jeffreydell99 at gmail.com>wrote:
> I was able to install, open, Create my user, and read a book with the
> Read Outloud feature. I also downloaded The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
> and started to read it. The navigation features did not seem to work
> well with JAWS yet.
> Access with JAWS was poor so the warning is true. JAWS would not read
> many radio buttons and would not read the text of the book itself. My
> install was on a Win 7 64 bit PC. When I had MAGic on with inverse
> contrast the contrast of the text in the book was not very sharp.
> At the moment I am more impressed with iBooks. It does have the
> accessibility of the Kindel and Barnes and Noble ebook softwares
> beaten (which did not take much).
> On 9/28/10, Kelmer, Susan M. <SKelmer at stlcc.edu> wrote:
> > Well, I'm not having any luck either. It also made me update my .NET
> > framework, which I am always reluctant to do because it can break other
> > things. When I try to run it, I get an error and it wants to send it to
> > Microsoft. Not very helpful. I'm going to try a reboot and see if that
> > helps.
> > Susan Kelmer
> > Lab Coordinator/AT Specialist
> > St. Louis Community College @ Meramec
> > 314-984-7951
> > _______________________________________________
> > Athen mailing list
> > Athen at athenpro.org
> > http://athenpro.org/mailman/listinfo/athen_athenpro.org
> Athen mailing list
> Athen at athenpro.org
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