[bksvol-discuss] FW: Bookshare.org for Education Update

  • From: <Jim@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Oct 2007 11:09:08 -0700

Bookshare.org for Education

An update on changes at Bookshare.org

October 4, 2007


A new and improved Bookshare.org is coming!  We're happy to share some
of the initial details of this exciting plan with our volunteer and user


As many of you have heard, we recently were awarded $32 million over
five years to provide Bookshare.org services to schools and students in
the U.S.  Many of these changes in Bookshare.org are as a result of the
acceptance of our proposal.  The abstract of our proposal is at the end
of this update, and the full request for proposals (RFP) is located at
the Department of Ed website
html> .  Of course, this was a rare moment when the requirements of the
RFP meshed very closely for our dreams for Bookshare.org.  Our challenge
is now to implement those dreams. 


1.      The Speed of Change

In our proposal, we had anticipated starting to provide no cost
memberships to U.S. schools and students on January 1, 2008, with three
months of preparatory work.  After the award, we learned that the moment
we started work, we had to stop charging fees to meet the requirement of
the contract.  So, as of October 1, 2007, we stopped charging fees to
students and schools in the U.S., and started developing Bookshare.org
for Education (basically, version 2 of Bookshare.org).  We have
extensive plans for improvements that we will roll out steadily over the
next few years.


2.      Who is eligible for free services?

Students in the U.S. with qualifying disabilities at the K-12,
post-secondary and graduate levels.  We are working with the Department
of Education to understand this in greater detail and how it applies to
particular cases.  In essence, they are paying us to deliver a
Bookshare.org service to students that would normally cost $75 per
student the first year.  We would like to extend this benefit to as many
students as possible, consistent with the legal constraints that the
department operates within.  Our impression has been that the Department
of Education funding is limited to those students who are less than 26
years of age, but we are confirming this.  


3.      What about everybody else?

The Bookshare.org service will continue as usual for people with
qualifying print disabilities who are not students or schools in the
United States. These members will continue to pay for their
subscription, have the option of adding their own scanned books and also
have access to the additional materials and usability improvements that
the Bookshare.org team will be adding through the Department of
Education award.


4.      Book Quality

Bookshare.org is committed to and has been steadily improving the
quality of our books.  In recent years, we've increased our minimum
requirements for book quality, especially for textbooks, in an effort to
improve the overall quality of our collection.  These trends will
continue as part of Bookshare.org version 2.  We expect to add at least
one new quality rating above Excellent that reflects publisher quality


5.      User choice on quality

Some of our users are worried that our quality push will move away from
sharing of scanned books.  We need to balance these needs against the
need for students and other members to receive top quality accessible
materials. Our plan is to add a user setting on content filtering based
on quality, so that users can control what quality content will be
visible to them.  We also plan to set the default to view Excellent or
better content, which represents around 80% of our current content.
This will ensure that casual and first-time users will see only high
quality content, but allow sophisticated users who are happy to get a
Good quality scan, rather than rescanning a book, to see additional
titles if they choose.


6.      Textbook quality

We understand that textbooks need to be of top quality to meet the
equity needs of students with a variety of print disabilities.  We are
committed to the new publisher-supplied NIMAS format textbooks as the
primary source of these quality books. We expect to offer student-ready
DAISY (and Braille) versions of NIMAS books very quickly: our goal is
within a week by the end of 2008.  We then plan to enhance these books
by adding images into the DAISY versions, and text-based image
descriptions into the DAISY for textbooks over time.  We expect to use
volunteers for some of this work, in addition to Bookshare.org staff and
subject experts.  


7.      Book Quantity

We will add more than 100,000 educational titles over the next five
years.  The bulk of these will be trade books and literature.  Of
course, many of them will be textbooks.  To give you some idea of our
current scale, in 2006 we added over 5,500 titles.  So, we will
quadruple our annual output while increasing our quality.  We will be
piloting a book request program for postsecondary students, teachers and
schools and expect to expand this to serve broader requests throughout
the next few years. Of course, we will continue to support our user
requirements and the books you choose to share with the community as


8.      Duplication of effort reduction

One of the key priorities of the RFP was to work to reduce duplicative
efforts.  That's a good thing, because Bookshare.org was founded to
reduce the need for people to scan the same books over and over again.
Our goal is to fill important gaps in educational material access
provision, provide content in alternative formats to serve a variety of
needs and provide an infrastructure for legal sharing of content.  


9.      Publicity

We've not yet done any formal publicity for this new direction, beyond
sending an email to you, our Bookshare.org volunteer and member
communities.  We are working with the Department of Education on a joint
press release.  However, we don't consider any of this a secret, either.
I'm happy to share this with you!


Abstract from Proposal


Abstract Bookshare.org for Education 

CFDA Number: 84.327K 

Bookshare.org will provide national free access to high-quality
educational materials and supporting assistive technology to all
qualified students who are visually impaired or print disabled. We
believe it is time for every student with a print disability to have
access to the materials they need for success in the classroom and
beyond. Bookshare.org is an Internet library where people with print
disabilities are able to find over 34,000 books, magazines and
newspapers in accessible formats that they can read. It is a place where
the efforts of hundreds of virtual volunteers, equally committed to our
mission of providing equality of access to information, can join forces
to efficiently share books. Further, the alternative book formats
provided by Bookshare.org mean that students can read in the environment
that best meets their needs; enlarged text, Braille, synthesized speech
or a combination for a multisensory experience. 

Bookshare.org will fully deliver on the promise of the Absolute
Priority: Technology and Media Services for Individuals with
Disabilities - Educational Materials in Accessible Formats for Students
with Visual Impairments and Other Print Disabilities. By leveraging our
technology-based model, Bookshare.org will deliver far more accessible
material, to a greater number of students, offer increased flexibility,
all at a lower cost than traditional solutions. Because our books and
the assistive technology (AT) are delivered digitally, we are able to
benefit from efficiencies through scaling our service, and we do not
incur warehouse or shipping costs. Our model for Bookshare.org is
similar to Amazon.com or Google, rather than a traditional print
library. The immediate access, flexibility in reading options and high
quality of our digital content mean that Bookshare.org is able to serve
a broad range of students with a variety of print disabilities. 

Beginning in January 2008, Bookshare.org will ensure that the following
proposed outcomes are achieved, meeting all Award requirements (RFP-a)
through (RFP-l): 

Every U.S. student with a qualifying print disability will have free
access to high quality accessible educational material, including all
NIMAC content, through his or her educational institution. 

Every such student will have access to a free, downloadable assistive
technology solution that can read Bookshare.org books aloud and display
them visually. 

Any SEA, LEA or postsecondary staff person will be able to register his
or her qualified students easily and access books on their behalf. 

All postsecondary students and LEA designated K-12 students will have
direct access to Bookshare.org's accessible book collection, where they
can download books themselves and begin reading immediately. 

These books will work smoothly with all specialized assistive technology
products used by students for access with synthetic speech, large print
and/or Braille based on our collaboration with leading AT vendors. 

Volunteers, publishers, educational agencies, schools and accessible
media producers will have a place where their efforts to provide
accessible books will have the maximum reach with minimal duplication of

Bookshare.org will directly support SEAs, LEAs, post-secondary and
graduate educational institutions in serving their qualified students in
the most cost effective manner. We expect to serve all Section 121
qualified students in the United States and Outlying Areas, those
students who have a visual, physical or learning disability that
significantly impairs their ability to use regular print books. We
expect to serve all such students, from pre-school through graduate
school, and our main focus will be on addressing unmet needs, rather
than duplicating existing efforts. Bookshare.org is especially excited
to offer these capabilities to students and jurisdictions that have
traditionally lacked access, especially rural and low-income

Benetech, the parent nonprofit of Bookshare.org, is a highly qualified
national organization with an excellent track record of providing
accessible digital audio and Braille formats, and assistive technology
to the visually impaired and print disabled. Bookshare.org staff have
played leading roles in the NIMAS and NIMAC advisory committees, and we
have existing partnerships with many of the key stakeholders in the
disability access field, including SEAs, LEAs, post-secondary
institutions and systems, consumer groups, assistive technology vendors,
publishers and accessible media producers. Our team is led by Jim
Fruchterman, an internationally recognized expert in assistive
technology and a recent MacArthur Fellowship winner. He is supported by
a strong and experienced team of managers and expert advisors. In
addition, Bookshare.org has a thriving volunteer community, with over 85
percent of volunteers being people with print disabilities, which will
continue to add significant value to our service. As the most
consumer-driven national accessible media producer, our connection to
real users and their needs is well established and makes our service a
reliable and effective solution to scale to meet the significant needs
of the entire U.S. student population with print disabilities. 

Bookshare.org was built on a system intended to revolutionize the
accessibility of books, to reduce the wasteful duplication of efforts of
thousands of individuals and agencies scanning the same books over and
over again. Our proposal to deliver more than 100,000 new educational
titles, more than three million book downloads and the supporting AT to
benefit hundreds of thousands of students will have a dramatic impact on
the daily lives of disabled students. 

[Paragraph deleted for tasks that weren't funded as part of core

Our country's students with print disabilities must have the fundamental
prerequisite to education: equal access to the same printed material
that is available to students without disabilities in a timely manner.
Let's work together to ensure that those who need this access get it
when they need it. 


Other related posts: