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 community. 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 <http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/announcements/2007-3/080307b. 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 content. 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 well. 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 effort. 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 communities. 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 proposal] 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.