A post from Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech
Every week our Bookshare team hears from our Members. I am thrilled to get copied on these emails: it reminds me of why we do here at Benetech! I appreciate that so many of our Members take the time to write and thank our team. Changes often inspire Members to write and it is so helpful to hear about what works (and what doesn’t work so we can fix it). The recent upgrades in our Bookshare site and service such as the new audio formats, images, and image descriptions motivated several Members to share their thoughts, and we sought their permission to share those thoughts with you!
For example, new Member Annette Moore wrote:
the fact that Bookshare offers their books in mp3 format is why I decided to become a Member. I don’t have a VR Stream or a Booksense; I just use the NLS digital talking book player. I do have to say the Bookshare TTS voice for the mp3 format is great! I love Christian fiction, and while NLS does have some in that particular genre, Bookshare has so much more! I feel like a kid in a candy store when I go up and look through what Bookshare has to offer.
Another Member, Diane Fazackarley also commented on our new downloadable audio formats. In addition to our ability to download digital text in DAISY and Braille file formats, we recently added DAISY audio and MP3 formats. Because we are creating the audio files from the text on a server, we can use the state-of-the-art Ivona text-to-speech engine. Diane said,
I just wanted to give you some feedback on the new audio downloadable files. I love them. I know they take a bit longer to download, but they are of a very high quality. Considering most of us probably use our screen reader to read the books, this is amazing.
Judy, who asked to be quoted with her first name only, is finding more and more books with images. She told us,
As a sighted but disabled Member, I’m also grateful for and thrilled by the number of publisher quality books that have entered the collection in the last 18 months with the original illustrations intact. I haven’t read a book where I can look at the illustrations for over 20 years. Way to go, Bookshare! I’m psyched about the POET project to get illustrations described. It gives me hope that eventually everyone can have access to both illustrations and good descriptions of the illustrations in the future.
Member Dornetta, also using just her first name, has already discovered that image descriptions in books are very helpful in an unexpected way!
As a child I have always loved to read and enjoyed a good book of any kind so when I lost my sight I felt as though my world ended as I knew it. When a friend told me about Bookshare, I thought that “all was finally right in the world of being blind,” at least from my prospective. Recently in a class that I am taking, I had to evaluate 150 children’s books in 7 different categories. The added descriptions gave me a new respect when doing my evaluations. I also read some of my evaluated books to a class at a child care center. I just wanted you guys to know that I am very grateful and thankful for what you do, making reading accessible for us. I started volunteering so that I can give back to an organization that has touched my life so and can only hope that my volunteer work is as excellent as some of the veterans’ work.
Thanks to Annette, Diane, Judy and Dornetta for agreeing to share your comments with the world. Our staff and volunteer team is dedicated to equality of access, and you remind us very well that we’re making progress on that goal!