Thursday, March 18, 2010

Books and the Digital World

Do a little blog hopping, and you'll find a ton of information about the digital world and its influence on the book industry. What's the future of publishing? is the question on many people's minds.

Well, with all this talk and "advancement" (iPad, Kindle, Vook, etc.) I was shocked to learn that the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired is extremely behind in technology. And, I guess it's a national issue. Did you know that audio books for the Visually Impaired are still on CASSETTE TAPE?! With all of the fancy new digital advances, disabled people are using big heavy cassette players that weigh a ton (okay, maybe not a ton, but they are heavy!), and the players are larger than a shoebox!

The wonderfully nice lady I spoke with at the Talking Books program said that they do have new digital players and they are starting to distribute them, but they have limited quanitites and not very many book choices are available yet. The digital players are about 6"x9"x1/2" (I haven't seen it yet). This is so much more reasonable. At least with this size, my son (16 years old) could take it in his back pack and use headphones to listen to an audio book while at school or at a debate competition. But, we haven't received one yet, and the book choices are limited.

A government worker stopped by yesterday to interview my son to determine his eligibility for the programs offered by the Commisssion. My son is very much into computers and current technology. The government worker said that "Accessible Technology" (technology usable by the disable) is at least six months behind current technology. And, when "AT" becomes available, it often doesn't work with many computers because the computers have already been updated with the newest version of Windows, Vista, or what-not, making the new AT program unusable.

Mitchell was given a computer program that he can use to highlight text on the computer that is too small for him to read easily and the computer program will read it out loud to him. Except for websites. The program can't read HTML. Well, where do most high school kids do research for their classes? On the internet.

We're trying to get Mitch a "504 Accommodation" for school that would provide him with larger print text books, audio books, and such. Resources are limited. Many libraries don't carry large print or audio in the needed titles, and if they do, there's only one copy. It's checked out. Get on the waiting list. Get the item. You only have two weeks to utilize it. If you're a teenager trying to read "To Kill a Mockingbird" for literature class, that's not going to work very well.

Having a child with vision issues makes me look upon books and the digital world in a new light.

Many people in the industry are so focused (pun?) on improving the publishing industry for people who have no problem reading an old fashioned book - - just trying to make it cooler, easier, and more fun to read a book. Why not spend a little bit of that time, energy, and money making a book (digital, audio, or otherwise) that the visually impaired can enjoy as well?


  1. Margo, great blog! I totally agree that the energy in developing tech isn't usually directed at the folks who will benefit the most. In the end, I recognize it as a 'win/win', because once the tech is developed (for whatever reasons) it can be adapted. But I still think it stinks...

    It probably boils down to money. (Who's going to reap more profit for the company developing the tech the average consumer or those with impairments?)

    I'm a tech geek myself, and am totally psyched for all the eBook, iWhatevers, etc. As a writer, I just want to deliver my work to as many people as possible, however that might be achieved.

  2. Margo, Opera has a voice interface -- accepts voice commands, and generates speech from text on web pages.

  3. EJ - Thank, and I agree. :)
    Margaret - Thanks, I told my son about the program and he's checking into it. :)