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ReadHowYouWant: Increasing Content Available to Visually Impaired Readers And Other Readers with Disabilities

by Peyton Stafford, Director of Global Library Services, ReadHowYouWant

ReadHowYouWant is a new technology company that partners with publishers to convert trade books into large print, braille and DAISYi editions. The Australian company’s goal is to make all books accessible to all readers.

Through its website at www.readhowyouwant.com, the online book retailer has nearly 2,000 titles available in accessible formats and is continually adding new titles at all reading levels through partnerships with publishers including Simon & Schuster Australia, New World Library, Career Press, Gareth Stevens and Rosen. Within the next year alone, ReadHowYouWant expects to add several thousand titles for libraries to choose from.

Historically, the number of large print and braille books has been small (about 2%) compared to the number of conventional titles. The high cost of re-typesetting books or of brailling them, combined with the relatively small market, made production of large print and Braille books cost prohibitive for general publishers. Large print specialty publishers produced mostly highly popular and genre titles. Libraries and volunteer organizations produced braille editions of a few titles. The lag time between publication of a new trade title and its re-publication in large print or braille kept visually impaired readers from staying current with new books.

ReadHowYouWant uses several new technologies and a new business model to improve this situation. Their award-winning technology is a proprietary XML-based system for converting books into accessible formats. Books are re-typeset into any of the ReadHowYouWant EasyRead™ print formats. These range in size from 11 to 24 points. All are optimized for ease of reading by adjusting the spacing between letters, words and lines. The large print sizes (16 pt and larger) are printed in TiresiasLP, a font developed by Royal National Institute for the Blind for use by visually impaired persons. The process is fast, so for instance, ReadHowYouWant released their EasyRead editions of John Wiley’s Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage for Dummies simultaneously with the publisher’s edition in October. Their braille and DAISY editions went up for sale about two weeks after the print books.

Print on demand (POD) technology allows ReadHowYouWant to publish titles that may not sell in the quantities that would justify an offset print run. Since there is no printing cost until a library or consumer orders a book, this eliminates the prohibitive risk of printing in multiple formats and then warehousing stock in hopes of an eventual sale.

For computer users, refreshable braille displays and DAISY technologies allow blind readers to get content without the expense of embossing on paper. The DAISY format is also good for dyslexics since it provides a synthetic speech audio of a book while showing the text on the screen as it is read aloud. It also works for physically disabled readers who cannot hold a book in their hands. ReadHowYouWant produces electronic Braille files (BRF) meeting the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) standard as well as  DAISY editions. ReadHowYouWant plans to modify their software system so they can produce BRF files that meet the NLS’s standard, which is significantly different from BANA’s.

ReadHowYouWant’s business model is based on revenue sharing with publishers and on global long-tail sales. By selling globally to visually impaired readers and special libraries around the world, ReadHowYouWant can generate enough sales to make a profit even though sales of any one title in any one country may be quite low. Since publishers understand that they incur no risk and will make an incremental profit in this model, they are eager to provide content.

By developing the optimized EasyRead™ formats and the XML technology for data conversion and by creating a new business model to support this new technology, ReadHowYouWant is now rapidly increasing the amount of content available in accessible formats for visually impaired and physically handicapped readers. Please contact Peyton Stafford for more information.

i DAISY is a new electronic book format. The text appears simultaneously on the screen while the computer is reading it aloud. See www.daisy.org for more information.

 

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