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December 16, 2012

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Anna, thanks for sharing my story! Here's things I gleaned about this in answer to your question:

Technology is definitely going to revolutionize what's available. Already there are more text-to-speech books available via eReaders than there were, and though there have been issues with that in the early days of eReaders, it's getting better. Allan Adler, of the American Association of Publishers (not pro-treaty), explained to me that standardizing eBooks into open formats, like ePub3 and HTML5 is going to make a big, big difference. The further we get from proprietary digital formats, everyone seems to agree, the more accessible books will become.

Melanie Brunson at the American Council of the Blind said people who convert books try to do make sure "It's not all Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts." But there's always a lag.

Brunson and other said many VIP (visually impaired) libraries have a hard time keeping up with the number of non-English-first speakers who need reading assistance. And of course books published abroad can't be brought in VIP here, unless the treaty is passed or someone here negotiates an exception with the publisher abroad.

Braille books are actually a minority of the books read by the visually impaired; Braille literacy in the US isn't actually very high. More people are reading with audiobooks -- some even with commercially available audio books, and accessibility to them is about purchasing power (and ease on the Internet, etc). But lots of people still prefer DAISY books, a special format of audio book for the visually impaired that helps them navigate sections of text, describes illustrations and diagrams, etc.

One really interesting kicker: Bookshare, a terrific online library for the visually impaired, can use volunteer labor from book lovers, who proof the text files from which Bookshare's audio books are produced. If you're willing to read and proof at the same time, drop them a note!

Oh my gosh, this is amazing and thorough. Thank you!!

For what it's worth, here are 10 of the "most popular" books on Bookshare:

To Kill a Mockingbird
The Hunger Games
Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1
The Outsiders
The Giver
Of Mice and Men
Hatchet (!!)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid #3
Catching Fire (2nd in Hunger Games trilogy)
The Hobbit

I guess it's not really surprising that nearly all these books target young people.

I will say, as I work with Dyslexic children- I know that many children (and probably adults, too) with reading or attention disabilities also use Bookshare, I think the current reading trends has more to do with this population than the vision-impaired. It is a great resource for all, though!

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