Amazon and OverDrive both made announcements today talking about library users being able to borrow Kindle eBooks for reading on the multitude of Kindle platforms Amazon has out in the marketplace. The Amazon press release says in part:
Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.
OverDrive’s release goes into a bit more detail with the gist being that things will work like other OverDrive experiences with the Kindle being a new platform for library patrons. There’s not a lot of detail out yet though as you can expect.
As an avid book reader, supporter of public libraries and fan of technology, these announcements were met with great interest by me today. I’m left to think accessibility here is a big mystery though that I’m hoping won’t turn into a tearjerker.
Supposedly the latest versions of the physical Kindle support enough accessibility that people who are blind can use the devices with complete independence. I’ve not verified this directly. That said, I have tried the free Kindle reading apps on multiple platforms and so far none have worked with the screen reading solutions on those platforms. Blog readers can feel free to correct me on this point. I’d love to be uninformed or wrong in this case. As it stands now, I’m left to wonder what Amazon, OverDrive or the public libraries intending to use this solution are going to do about accessibility.
At least one library took a stand saying they’d quit investing in an inaccessible eBook platform when Adobe’s Digital Editions had accessibility issues. Will libraries stand up here and tell Amazon and OverDrive, “Figure out the accessibility and then talk to us about spending public tax dollars?” Or will public money be spent without considering accessibility implications yet again?
Some may contend libraries spend millions of dollars already on print books that have the same accessibility challenges. I argue that the situation is different here because it has been shown numerous times that software can be made accessible if the right attention and effort is put forth. As we use more electronic solutions, especially when public money is being spent, I believe we have obligations to maximize accessibility with that spending. So, Amazon, OverDrive and public libraries, it is time now to do the right thing and figure out accessibility. Library patrons, I urge you to make your wishes known and ask your library the accessibility questions now before any contracts are signed. You can bet Amazon and OverDrive will be giving the hard sell for these programs.
I’m sure I’m definitely a Johnny-come-lately to the table when it comes to podiobooks. I know a friend of mine has been after me to experience the world for more time than I care to remember. I dabbled a bit a few months ago and then the computer I was using to gather books crashed and well, I wouldn’t be a Johnny-come-lately if I jumped right back in now would I?
The basic premise as I understand it behind the podiobooks world is this: There are loads of authors who have stories to tell that today’s mainstream publishing world just won’t publish. Based on my own experience it has little to do with the quality of the writing or nature of the books. I’m sure it is more a reflection of the homerun or nothing mentality of the publishing industry as anything else.
Some of these authors have decided to use technology to solve the problem of getting their stories out and one of the leading web sites for this is Podiobooks.com. There you can download for whatever donation you choose to make, hundreds of books in audio form, mostly read by the authors.
I won’t claim to be any sort of expert in the area. My understanding is that several of the authors have garnered book deals with publishing houses as a result of their success in this new arena. What I will say is that I’ve found another good source of reading material. My sleep might not like the result, but the reader in me has been enjoying the new discoveries I’m making in the podiobooks world. And a big thanks to the friend who persisted in telling me I’d enjoy this source of listening material.
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.