[fcb-l] An exciting read about new Library book readingaccessability!
john R. Vaughn
jrvaughn44 at comcast.net
Sat Mar 5 14:37:44 GMT 2011
save to disability issues
and use link for software
From: fcb-l-bounces at acb.org [mailto:fcb-l-bounces at acb.org] On Behalf Of Kirk
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2011 11:08 PM
To: NFB of Florida Internet Mailing List; fcb-l at acb.org
Cc: BattingTheBreeze at yahoogroups.com; FRG-BVA at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [fcb-l] An exciting read about new Library book
Hello all my friends , This is a bit of a long read, but well worth it! It
is a review from NFB President Mark Mauer, however the information and new
BLIO development for our access is really exciting for all of us! I hope
you, after reading about this, will get as excited as I did! If you don't
vcheck this out by reading it, your really going to be disappointed with
yourself.Happy reading, Your friend in the cause, Kirk Harmon
Subject: [blindlgbtpride] a new technology that blind people can read
I'm sending this to a bunch of you. It is about a new software to enable
the blind to download and read tons of books that are currently inaccessible
if you can't read print or need large print. This technology is also for
everyone - blind or not - to download books. It is called Blio and the
website is www.blio.com . Because this is a work in progress, it isn't yet
available on small devices like iPhones and the like. Not sure if it can
work on the Nook or the Kindle or not.
The article is long, but very facinating! It is in the latest issue of The
Braille Monitor. Enjoy!
Blio: A Formative Technology of the Twenty-First Century
by Marc Maurer
As members of the National Federation of the Blind know, I serve as
president of the organization and as a member of the board of directors of
K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., an organization created by Ray Kurzweil and
his associates and the National Federation of the Blind. Their original
purpose was to build a portable reading machine for the blind. The first
version appeared in 2006, and the technology is now software that operates
on a cell phone.
The K-NFB Reading Technology company subsequently developed an e-book
reader which it calls Blio. This is an innovative technology used to find,
acquire, and read books in print and audio.
I began hearing about Blio some time ago. Electronic books may well
become the primary method for distributing publishable work, so the Blio
became for me a matter of fascination. I wanted to know what this new
technology would do, how it worked, what books I could read with it, what
machines (computers, cell phones, and the like) would let me run the
program, how much it would cost, and how soon I could get it. In discussing
Blio with K-NFB Reading Technology board members and staff, I learned that
what I had suspected about digital books was accurate. In the 1990s we in
the National Federation of the Blind had been working on documents produced
in PDF (Portable Document Format) or prepared through a publishing program
called Quark. Transforming these documents into forms that could be read
nonvisually was either difficult or impossible. The print form of the book
could be made readable through optical character recognition programs such
as those created by Ray Kurzweil, but a simple and easily usable program to
give access to these documents didn't exist.
Eventually the programs were modified so that a number of PDF
documents today are accessible, but the inaccessible kind still exist. Blio
was being created so that books read with this eReader could be viewed
visually or presented nonvisually. In designing this technology, a
mechanism had to be created that would make it practical to alter books
automatically and quickly for presentation. The task of converting
inaccessible digital information into accessible form was tremendously
During its development I was able to experiment with Blio from time
to time. Visual presentation of digital books and nonvisual were being
constructed simultaneously. Occasionally developments in the visual
presentation interfered with the operation of the nonvisual. Occasionally
the nonvisual portions appeared to exceed the visual presentation in
simplicity and ease of use.
In September of 2010 the company announced the debut of the Blio.
Apparently an early release date had been selected for the first public,
widespread distribution even though the Blio did not yet work nonvisually,
which caused disappointment and substantial negative comment from people in
the blind community.
The second public release of Blio occurred on January 31, 2011. Jim
Gashel, vice president of K-NFB Reading Technology and a longtime leader of
the National Federation of the Blind, now serving as secretary of the
corporation, demonstrated Blio at the NFB's 2011 Washington Seminar. He
said that this new reading technology, available without charge, would give
the blind access to sixty-three-thousand books for sale, along with a
library of free books estimated at three million titles. The number of
books offered through the bookstore and the online library increases by
about a thousand books every day.
I loaded Blio on my computer and bought a book called The Informant
that had been recommended to me by Dan Goldstein, a lawyer often used by
the National Federation of the Blind. I also bought a second book, Portrait
of a Lady, by Henry James. I had wanted to read this book for some time,
and I had not found it in an accessible form on the Internet before
Shortly after the public release of Blio in January, I traveled to
New York on a train with Jim Gashel. I recommended a book to him that I had
previously found in recorded form on Audible.com. While riding on the
train, he looked for the book in the Blio bookstore, and, when he found it,
he bought it and began to read. He, a blind person, now has instant access
The original, inaccessible release of Blio caused negative comment
and doubt among the blind. However, I am now impressed with the current
release, so I thought I would learn what my colleagues thought about it. I
have asked Jim Gashel and Anne Taylor, director of access technology for
the National Federation of the Blind, for their comments. Much of what
follows is what they told me. Jim Gashel describes how to use the Blio in
more detail than I could offer. However, when my own experience gives
illustrative detail, I have added that.
Several e-book readers are currently on the market. Amazon makes the
Kindle; Barnes and Noble makes the Nook; and Sony offers the eReader. Blio
is accessible to the blind, but the others are not. Amazon has made a
halfhearted attempt to build accessibility into the Kindle, but, if this is
the best that Amazon's engineers can do, they are in need of serious help.
Apple has an accessible e-book reader on a number of its products. So far I
have been most impressed with Blio.
According to the United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), 275,232 new books were published in the U.S. in
2008, the most recent information available. A survey of major audio and
Braille book producers indicates that only about 16 percent (or an
estimated 45,000) new books are made accessible for the blind annually. The
remaining 84 percent of books, about 230,000, are not accessible.
How do you find a particular book that might be interesting or
useful? If you can find the book, is it available in a format that meets
your needs? The books from the library for the blind are generally
accessible to blind people, though some blind people cannot read Braille
well enough to make this medium useful, and some blind people have
sufficiently limited vision that large print titles are of no use. Then too
deaf-blind people can easily use only the Braille versions. Even with
adequate funding and the best efforts of the professional staff at the
libraries for the blind, only a small number of books are available to us.
Because the libraries have done such yeoman service, because they have
often been the only substantial source of reading matter, and because they
respond to our needs and welcome our thoughts, they have been the most
vital source of reading matter for the blind for the past eighty years.
Now comes Blio, which brings to one place the processes of finding,
browsing, choosing, obtaining, and reading books. All that is required is a
personal computer or other device able to work with Blio. More about
platforms, present and future, in a moment.
Blio is much more than software; it is software and access to well
over three million books and growing each day. Blio can make more books
immediately and conveniently available than may be had at even a very large
bookstore or public library. Although Blio is still quite new in the
emerging e-book industry, its growing popularity and public use as a
mainstream e-book reader assure that books are likely to be promptly
available. The price for the blind and the sighted is identical. When Blio
makes books available for the sighted, they are available for the blind,
and the blind have the same content. This is the access standard we have
dreamed would come true--same book, same time, same price.
Notice the use of the term "mainstream." In the past all books
prepared for the blind were special, hence rare. Manufacturing techniques
for books for the blind did not take advantage of mainstream technology.
With Blio this has changed.
Once published only in print, a growing number of popular books are
now being published in one or more digital formats. In 2010 it is estimated
that 10 percent of all books published were produced in electronic
editions. This number is expected to grow to 50 percent by as early as
2014. Meanwhile the capacity of personal computers and other portable
handheld devices is growing to meet the expected demand.
While the demand for conventional printed books will almost certainly
remain, both publishers and book sellers also have strong incentives to go
digital. Printing, binding, shipping, and warehousing costs can be saved
with digital publishing--not to mention the costs from copies not sold.
Digital books, consisting of bits and bytes, can be updated easily and at
low cost--saving much of the expense of producing new editions and
discarding the old. Digital editions can include direct links to
references, resources, and supplemental content.
Enter Blio, an e-book technology designed to be both flexible and
accessible--attractive to the sighted and the blind. For readers who want
electronic books to look like the printed version, Blio offers a double-
page view and a 3-D view, incorporating pictures, graphics, and other
visual characteristics such as pages that flip and curve inward at the
spine to separate the page on the left from the page on the right. Blio
offers large print, very large print, or exceedingly large print. The two-
page layout can be changed to show just one.
Blio is mainstream technology designed for everyone to use, and the
software itself is absolutely free. Those using JAWS as a screen reader
have instant access to every book available with Blio. Blind people who use
other screen readers such as Window-Eyes, System Access, and NVDA will soon
have the same access. Braille access for users of refreshable Braille
displays can also be expected, making it possible for every book to be a
Same book, same time, same price--that's been our dream, and the
dream is coming true. Bookstores connected with Blio are accessible from
the largest urban area to the smallest rural community. Buying a book using
Blio is an experience available to everybody, because with this technology
being blind is not a limitation.
What about books for free? Coming soon, the local public library will
have the opportunity to purchase and offer books for time-limited use with
Blio. The free books section, which is part of Blio itself, provides the
opportunity to find and read a vast collection of free books, estimated to
consist of more than three million, assembled by Google through a
partnership with the world's largest academic and research libraries.
Those who need to know more about robotics for a science class
project can check out the Blio bookstore. Robotic Micro-assembly by Michael
Gauthier and Stephane Regnier, Killer Robots by Armin Krishman, Wired for
War by P.W. Singer, or perhaps Gearheads, by Brad Stone are all available.
Here are just a few of the books offered in Blio's free books section
dealing with the founding of the United States: Readings In American
History by David Seville Muzzey, Original Narratives of Early American
History by John Franklin Jameson, The Critical Period of American History,
1783-1789, by John Fiske, or Great Debates in American History: Civil
Rights, Part 1 or Foreign Relations, Part 2, both by Marion Mills Miller.
Sounds good, you say, but how does Blio work? No problem. Access to
Blio is available right now by using a desktop, laptop, notebook, or
Netbook, running with Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7. Coming soon Blio is
expected to be available on even smaller, more portable devices starting
with the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, iPod Touch, and the Apple iPad as well.
New computers from Toshiba, Dell, and HP are even being sold with the free
Blio software installed, along with a convenient desktop icon. Otherwise,
to use Blio on your Windows-based computer, just visit Blio.com and
download the software free. The installation options are presented with the
standard Windows interface and use standard keyboard commands such as Tab,
Shift-Tab, Space, or Enter to complete the process quickly.
After installation you can launch Blio from the icon on your desktop
and wait a few seconds as the program opens. A customary software licensing
agreement, including options to read, accept, or decline, appears the first
time you start Blio. Other options, including read, buy books, account
setup, or sign-in are offered on the next screen presented. Note that this
second screen, called the welcome screen, also includes an accessibility
checkbox so Blio will work optimally with the JAWS screen reader, along
with another checkbox telling Blio to bypass the welcome screen and open
directly in your library in the future.
Aside from getting started as described, the actual Blio experience
begins with your library. This is where the names of books you have chosen
will always appear, whether the book was purchased in the Blio bookstore or
downloaded from the free books section. While your library is empty the
first time you start Blio, a few sample books provided free immediately
appear in your library books list as soon as you establish your Blio user
account by entering an email address and selecting a password. Billing
information needed to purchase books is filled in at the time of your first
purchase only and is not required for your user account to be active.
A menu available by pressing the alt key anywhere within Blio
provides options to go immediately to any of the major views-library, free
books, reading view (provided a book is open), and store view, which shows
books available for sale. An application submenu includes options to enter
or change account information, change your password, or review and modify
other settings like page layout, speaking rate, sources used for reference
lookup, etc. All options and controls can be accessed with simple-to-learn
keyboard commands, and a list of keystroke shortcuts is available.
The names of all books you can read are listed in your library and
can be sorted alphabetically by author or title. The option "press enter to
download" will be offered for any book just purchased or chosen from the
free books section. Otherwise, the option will change to "press enter to
read" once any book has been downloaded to your computer. While the length
of time for downloading varies according to the size of the book, an
average book of about four-hundred pages takes only a few seconds. Free
books take somewhat longer since the text is converted to the Blio format
during the download process.
Press Enter on the name of any downloaded book in your library and
within a few seconds the name of the book will be spoken by your screen
reader as the open book displays on your computer screen. Press Page Down
and notice that the page advances forward through the book. Press Insert
plus Page Down to hear the page number. Page Up moves page by page toward
the front of the book. Press Control plus t to get the table of contents,
Down Arrow and Up Arrow to locate the chapters or sections presented, and
Enter to jump to the chapter or section you want. Arrow keys have their
traditional functions and allow reading by character and word in either
direction, adding the Control key to read by word, using the Alt key and
the up- or down-arrow keys to read by sentence, and the Control with Up- or
Down-Arrow to move and read by paragraph. Use Control plus c to jump
forward to the next chapter or Control plus Shift plus c to jump to the
previous chapter. Press Control plus j followed by a specific page number
and press Enter to go to the beginning of the page chosen. If you use JAWS
and press Insert plus Down Arrow, the text will be read continuously from
the cursor; it is stopped by pressing the Control key.
Although many books can be read aloud with an internal read-aloud
function available within Blio, use of this feature may be restricted by
the publisher. However, the speech provided by your screen reader will
always work on any book you choose without restriction. Done reading? Just
press Alt with the F4 key to close Blio altogether or press Alt followed by
Right or Left Arrow to cycle through the options on the menu, including
close the book and go back to your library or just go directly back to the
library, the free books, or the bookstore, while the book you have been
reading still remains open in the background.
Regardless of what you do, you can be certain that Blio will remember
your most recent reading position in any book you have opened, and your
reading can begin from that point the next time you return. Need to use a
different computer? No problem. The books remain in your personal book
vault and are always yours to keep. Your books can be used on up to five
separate devices at any time. Just run Blio on any other computer you need
to use and sign in with your email address and password. Then any book in
your personal book vault can be downloaded again because the book belongs
For blind people Blio means having the opportunity to join the
mainstream of book consumers with libraries of our own, not to be simply
beneficiaries of specialty services. This is the power of the Blio
experience, and the power can be yours right now on a computer near you.
President & CEO
Florida Disabled Citizens
Jacksonville, FL 32236
Cell: (407) 473-2176
" TURNING HOPE INTO REALITY"
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