2004 Conference Proceedings

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Larry Skutchan
American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
Email: lskutchan@aph.org

For many years, it was impossible for a blind student or professional to keep a large amount of information with him. If attending college, the student could easily fill an office with braille (when it was available) and recorded text books. To add to the problem, finding the specific material among the hundreds of tapes and braille volumes was time-consuming. Further, taking the study material with him was not even considered. Even if he could carry the several cassettes, the student or professional also had to take a machine on which to play the material. If a subject was a professional requiring access to large amounts of information, the problems were even more pronounced.

The Book Port changes all that. Now, with its ability to use digital formats to store hundreds of books in electronic format, its ability to send a DAISY Digital Talking Book to the small device, and its ability to quickly navigate through the structure of a book, Book Port makes access to massive amounts of information in a portable format a reality.

Under development for several years, the Book Port is the culmination of several research projects and the combination of a number of technology projects. The solution combines an impressive set of hardware and a suite of applications that run on the user's PC. This approach keeps the most changing parts of the system on the user's PC where they are easy to keep updated while standards change. Once the user sends the information to the portable device, he disconnects the unit and takes it with him wherever he wishes. There are no external CD drives or other devices to contend with.

While the DAISY format has already seen multiple changes, the software developed at APH to interpret this information recognizes both the 2.X versions of the format as is used by Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, and the NISO z3986 (DAISY 3.0) format as is used by Bookshare.org and the National Library Service (NLS). In addition, this software knows about both digital audio and electronic text components of these formats, and it converts and sends this material to the device without interaction on the user's part.

For the first time, the student or professional has access to tens of thousands of literary and technical works through advanced legislation and organizations like American Printing House for the Blind (APH), RFBD, and Bookshare.org, and now, with the aid of Book Port, that information can go with the user wherever he wishes.

This presentation begins with an overview that outlines the problems and issues with access to reading material. It then covers some of the exciting new legislation and technical barriers that have been lifted in recent years. After that, the attendees see how to locate and download electronic books, and they see how to send those downloaded files to Book Port. Finally, the presentation shows the attendees how to use Book Port's advanced features to move from page to page and chapter to chapter in a DAISY digital audio talking book.

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