It wasn’t too long ago that people thought reading books on a computer could never replace the real, ink-and-paper feel of a good old-fashioned book. And while people continue to appreciate books in their traditional form, sales of Amazon’s Kindles topped $4.5 billion last year, according to research by Morgan Stanley. More telling, though, is how normal it seems to read a book on an electronic device. But scientists and developers haven’t stopped there. New technology continues to challenge our notions of what we read, how we read, and who has access to reading.
Using funding provided by a local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America, New York’s Greenburgh Public Library this spring installed an audio frequency induction loop (AFIL) in its multipurpose room. AFILs enable public address systems and other AV equipment to send audio transmissions directly to hearing aids, eliminating background noise for hearing impaired visitors.
During a visit to Egypt two years ago, George Kerscher, Secretary General of the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, found that the country’s major libraries had only a very small collection of books available for print-disabled patrons. And while staff and volunteers were working to make more books accessible, output was limited to only a handful of titles each year.
Discerning this as an outsider, Kerscher (who is blind himself) realized that it was very much a microcosm of how the process of producing accessible books has traditionally functioned in the United States.
Credo Reference is integrating text-to-speech technology from ReadSpeaker into its Literati full-text reference line of offerings. The text-to-speech functionality is already available for Literati Public and will soon be added to Literati Academic, Literati School, and Literati Student Athlete. The latter two products were launched earlier this year. The move comes as several library organizations are embarking on more focused efforts to address the need for accessibility with digital content.
The Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) this week settled the lawsuit filed against it in May by four blind patrons assisted by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Under the terms of the settlement, FLP has agreed to supplement its collection of more than 60 NOOKs with ten accessible devices, according to a press announcement from the NFB. Within four years, the library will transition to a collection of e-readers that are all accessible to the blind, and will begin incorporating an accessibility requirement into its technology procurement contracts.
The National Federation of the Blind has honored Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 digital media platform with the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations that have “made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.”
The new EPUB 3 distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications will include a wealth of features that can be used to enhance ebook accessibility. But, publishers need to begin incorporating those features into production workflows during the digital publication process, rather than expecting other organizations to retrofit accessibility features, Matt Garrish, chief editor of the EPUB 3 specification and author of Accessible EPUB 3, said during the “Ebooks for Everyone: LIA Project, Accessible Publishing Guidelines, EpubCheck and More” session at BookExpo America held this week in New York City.
The Georgia Public Library Service, known as the initial developers of the open-source integrated library system Evergreen, will use a recently received Institute of Museum and Library Services grant to help plan the development of Loblolly, an open source software project to ease library accessibility for physically impaired patrons.