TOC Keynote, Making the book truly accessible, Jim Fruchterman, Benetech

Jim Fruchterman wants to make the book truly accessible and feels we have a good start, but a long way to go. Bookshare is the largest online library for people with disabilities, they download more than 1 million books per year. His service only serves about 1% of the population, and they turn away so many people who don’t qualify for the free service.  He feels this is an untapped market for publishers.  People with disabilities want to buy books, read books, listen to books, etc.  At bookshare, they do a lot of content conversion to more accessible formats and can offer the content back to the publishers.  Their main product is the digital text, which is not a commercial quality ebook, thus you won’t find them on pirated sites. If Bookshare finds any of their titles on pirated sites, they contact the client, remove content, etc.

Jim described a dueling moral high grounds where the rights of publishers to make money and the civil rights of people with disabilities are in conflict. These shouldn’t be dueling, but rather working together.  He discussed how some publishers are working well with bookshare to deliver necessary content for their clients, and described how bookshare is working directly with schools to supply students with disabilities with the content.  But, there is more room to grow.

There are many issues surrounding the use of images in books, books are becoming much more than text.  He also discussed the possibility of crowd sourcing audio descriptions of book images, but this brings up rights issues.  Jim demonstrated the new iPad app “read to go” ($20) from Bookshare which offers text-to-speech and the ability to follow along the text by highlighting words.

K-12 textbooks – any book published after 2006 has to put their book into XML format in a repository. Bookshare is the biggest user of this repository, transferring the documents into alternative formats for students.  This serves the K-12 market great, but doesn’t offer anything for higher education. He and others are working on a higher education solution.