At the New York Times, Ashlee Vance recently reported on Ray Kurzweil’s efforts to bring the Blio platform to market.
Kurzweil attacks the e-reading space from a predictable perspective (existing e-readers have failed to maintain presentation formats), and that’s puzzling. I’d expect a well-financed inventor who sees a day when “We will transcend all of the limitations of our biology” would also see a day when we use each medium in ways that recognize its strength.
“Format as brand” is not new: companies like LibreDigital and Adobe have been hard at work trying to replicate the physical word in the emerging digital one. But as I wrote last fall, these efforts are built on a fundamentally flawed premise:
Readers want to address a need or solve a problem, not replicate the reading experience of a broadsheet, or an 8-3/8 x 10-7/8 magazine or a 6 x 9 book. New formats provide new opportunities, and defining the brand in terms of what worked in print certainly leaves the door wide open for disruption.
Existing content and companion e-readers fail to take full advantage of the potential value of the new medium, but a new viewer that better emulates the physical product is just as wrong. Kurzweil may provide a soothing option at a turbulent time, and on that basis Blio may succeed as a publisher-driven option. But it’s an interim option, not a solution.