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July 15, 2005

Getting Ripped to Read

SF Gate has an excellent article on, well I'm not exactly sure what you'd call it. The functional name is Bookshare. I could call it a web site, a volunteer service, a non-profit or something else and none of those would do it justice. Bookshare is in short to me a revolutionary way for people who are blind to read. Short of publishers making electronic versions of all books not only available but also accessible, Bookshare is to me the greatest way for people who are blind to access books today.

The article goes into greater detail but the basic concept behind Bookshare is that if one person who's blind scans a book then that book can be shared with others who are blind so they don't have to go to the trouble of scanning the same book. Optical character recognition technology has come a long way in the more than 20 years I've been using it. Today I can read pretty much any book I want with about four hours of work to scan the book. Still there's no reason that effort needs to be duplicated and I'm thrilled that Bookshare was created.

I read probably three books a week on average and lately the power of a community working to make books accessible is really showing itself in Bookshare. Roughly 50% of what I want to read has already been scanned and it is nice to be able to just grab a book for reading without having to turn the pages on a scanner. It is equally nice to know that the time I still do spend scanning printed books, which is a rather tedious experience, will benefit others.

Posted by Kelly at July 15, 2005 5:46 PM