[bksvol-discuss] Re: our commitment to you: from Jim Fruchterman and Betsy Beaumon

Yeah I wish to help in this department too.
--
"To me, music that breaks your heart is the music that stays with you
forever. It's one thing to be melancholy and one thing to be
sophisticated, but when you get the two of them together in a way
people can relate to, then I think you're on to something. You want
the sophistication to lie in the purity of the sound, the beauty of
the arrangements, and the quality of the performances."-Trumpeter
Chris Botti
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Chela Robles
AIM and E-Mail: cdrobles693@xxxxxxxxx
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I Volunteer for a non-profit organization called Bookshare, to find
out more go to: http://www.bookshare.org
--

On 8/6/2010 11:52 AM, Dan Beaver wrote:
Hi,
 
How can we find out more about the pdf conversions?  I would very much like to participate in this effort if we volunteers out here are allowed to do so.
 
I already have some software that converts pdfs to Word and RTF files.  I suspect it probably isn't as robust as what Bookshare uses in house though.
 
thanks.

Sent: Friday, August 06, 2010 1:46 PM
Subject: [bksvol-discuss] our commitment to you: from Jim Fruchterman and Betsy Beaumon

Jim and Betsy asked me to share their thoughts on Benetech's commitment to its volunteer program.

Dear Bookshare Volunteers,

We wanted to give you some thoughts on the critical importance of volunteers to Bookshare and its mission of getting everybody in the world with a print disability access to the books they need for education, employment and full inclusion in society.  Although there’s been a lot of change in Bookshare, one thing that won’t change is our need for volunteers that share our dedication to that mission. 

Bookshare is the first library for people with print disabilities built primarily by people with print disabilities (as well as book-lovers of all types!).  Our credo has been that if someone thought a book was worth scanning, we thought it was worth sharing.  We knew that people with disabilities had few choices for accessible materials, and that scanning was a frustrating and slow process. 

The volunteers built Bookshare into a potent force for equality: we’ve revolutionized a field that was falling far short of meeting the goal of equality when it comes to access to the printed word.  And you’ve worked with us to revolutionize the quality of our scanned books through meticulous proofreading. Thanks to partnerships with over 60 publishers (especially a handful of huge trade publishers), we have now been able to add thousands of new titles to Bookshare electronically, delighting our users.  Scott and Pavi have shared with us, and our management team, some of the negative impacts this has had on the morale of some of our volunteers.  This is especially true when a publisher-supplied version of a title displaces a volunteer-supplied version of that same title. 

We know some people feel like that’s not respectful of their volunteer time, or that somehow their volunteer time was wasted.  I hope you realize that it has been the potent force of our volunteers creating Bookshare that has brought so many modern publishers to the table, since we can tell them that we already can scan all of their books, but providing it electronically will save us time and the cost of buying a book, chopping it, scanning it and proofreading it. The two things they want in return from us is to publicize their social responsibility and replace our scanned versions with the version they supply.  The replacement issue is pretty much a standard requirement: publishers want to be assured of the quality of their books we’re distributing. For the publishers it’s built into the publishing culture, they do believe their original product is superior and that this requirement implements their contractual responsibilities to the authors, even though most readers will concur that these are also not perfect.  While there are exceptions, the value of having 15-20,000 publisher supplied books over a year to our users is incredibly high. 

These publisher partnerships are a terrific way to help advance our mission, in terms of quality, quantity and uniquely, reach outside the United States.  But, they are not going to replace our need for volunteers.  We have a long way to go to deliver equal access to our users, and the market is going to fail to fill these needs for the foreseeable future (even as we applaud the recent accessibility work of Amazon, Apple and Google). 

Let me give you some ideas of the gaps that still exist:

·       Older books, specialty books, or simply books that aren’t in the top 5% of sales during the years since 2000.  While it makes sense for us to invest the effort of the amazing Robin Seaman, our Publisher Liaison, and our engineering team to support a publisher who can give us 4,000 titles at once, there aren’t very many more of those big name publishers, but there are over 25,000 publishers. 

·       Proofing PDF files. The bulk of publishers in the U.S., and almost all publishers in the developing world, don’t have the modern XML capabilities of the major trade publishers.  We are getting tons of PDF books from these publishers, which need volunteer effort to convert into accessible form.

·       The international challenge: new titles, new publishers, new languages and new communities of Bookshare volunteers in other countries who would benefit from mentoring.  Americans have Bookshare, but the average person with a print disability has nothing.  We have so much more to do globally!

·       Proofing textbooks.  The textbook industry is way behind the technology curve and Carrie is sitting on stacks of hardcopy textbooks sent in by teachers from around the country.

·       Metadata.  Even if we have something, it only helps if the person looking for it finds it.  We can use significant volunteer help cleaning up the information about our information.

·       Quality improvements.  Improving quality on older, lower quality books.

·       Image description.  A huge challenge that our field has barely begun to scratch the surface of.  Our publisher contracts do allow us to add them to the publisher-supplied books and we   recently received a major award over five years from the Department of Ed for the DIAGRAM Center, to research and then develop technology to reduce the cost of doing image descriptions. The centerpiece is developing tools for better and faster volunteer image description. Stay tuned!

The list goes on.  While the need for volunteer work on major trade books of the last five years is going down as these come in directly from publishers, these other needs are acute. 

Our responsibility is to get better at communicating with volunteers about our needs, and about what’s going to be happening.  Our technology roadmap has numerous improvements planned around improving visibility on these issues so that you can avoid doing those books that are likely to come in directly in from the publisher.  But, there are and will be thousands of opportunities for volunteer tasks that are unlikely to ever be done any other way than through volunteer efforts.  We really want to create systems where having volunteer work displaced quickly by publisher supplied content is a rarity. 

We hope you’ll find personally rewarding volunteer opportunities now, and in the future, with Benetech.  For those of you who aren’t excited about the changes, we understand.  But, please be 100% clear:  Bookshare volunteers have been the primary force for revolutionary change in accessibility of books.  There are many thousands of students and adults with disabilities that have far greater access to the printed word thanks to your past efforts.  But, the revolution is far from finished: we’re serving 100,000 people today and there are over 100,000,000 who need Bookshare on the planet.  We hope you’ll continue to volunteer your time in helping realize the vision we all share of equal access for everyone who needs it!

Jim Fruchterman & Betsy Beaumon


Nicole Gnutzman
Director, Literacy Operations


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