[bksvol-discuss] Something of interest

  • From: "Chela Robles" <cdrobles693@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 10:30:35 -0800

The Internet Archive: An Untapped Resource for the Blind
by Daniel B. Frye

Today blind people can and do access record amounts of written information 
through the emergence of scanning and digitization and assistive technology. We 
read newspaper articles, books, and other written materials using NFB NEWSLINE 
for the Blind®, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically 
Handicapped (NLS), Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Bookshare, and 
Audible.com among other resources. Even when something is not available in an 
accessible format, current technology allows relatively easy access to printed 
texts. Because of the rapid evolution of access to information, some may even 
feel overwhelmed by the array of accessible reading options now available.

The Braille Monitor has recently learned of another Internet-based resource 
that makes more than 1.8 million digital books and other material freely 
available to everyone with access to the Internet. Founded by Brewster Kahle in 
1996, the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library based in San Francisco, 
California, promotes universal access to knowledge. Although the Internet 
Archive management team did not have the needs of blind people in mind 
originally, they have been receptive to suggestions for making their vast 
content accessible to blind computer users. Toward this end the Internet 
Archive is exploring a partnership with the National Federation of the Blind to 
digitize and preserve our audio and video files through a grant application to 
the Institute for Museum and Library Services, a federal agency. The Archive is 
also negotiating with the NLS to use its disability-verification system so they 
can provide accessible formats of copyrighted materials to eligible blind and 
print-disabled people in the United States. Moreover the Internet Archive has 
already been producing its downloadable collection of books (most older and in 
the public domain) in the internationally recognized DAISY format.

According to Linda Frueh, the Internet Archive's regional director for 
Washington, D.C., Kahle and his wife established a foundation and launched the 
Internet Archive with the goal of recording the entire Internet. Frueh said 
that Kahle reasoned, "Here's an enormous, new technology changing from day to 
day, and nobody's recording it." Using Web-harvesting technology, a specially 
designed computer program that copies and saves Web pages, the organization has 
been preserving the evolving Internet. Kahle began by conducting a bimonthly 
Internet crawl. "We have one hundred and fifty billion Web pages archived since 
1996," Frueh said. She explained further, "The way people access old Web pages 
is through the Wayback Machine, a search engine for all of the old Web pages 
archived at <www.archive.org>. On the results page you'll get a timeline of the 
various versions of the Web pages for which you are looking." Historians 
interested in the NFB, for instance, could use the Wayback Machine to review 
the evolution of our Internet site for the last fourteen years.

Having launched the Internet archiving project, the organization expanded its 
goals to digitize other media. Its online library now posts digital books, 
music, audio recordings, films, software collections, and more from its 
Website. Everything is made available free of charge. "We never have charged 
and never will charge for any of our content. Our goal is to make as much 
information as possible available to everyone who wants it; we're not invested 
in whether we provide information under our own name or as the 
behind-the-scenes resource for other Internet services," Frueh said.

Though much of this additional content may be of interest to blind people, the 
greatest benefit to the blind will be the large digital book collection it has 
already assembled. The most effective way to access these digital books from 
the Internet Archive is to visit its dedicated digital book Website 
<www.openlibrary.org>. Though visitors can reach the collection through the 
main Internet Archive Website, Frueh advises that both blind and sighted users 
who are interested only in downloading books will find it easier to go directly 
to the dedicated digital Website. The NFB is working with the Internet Archive 
to help evaluate and maximize the accessibility of its several Websites. These 
are clearly growing in popularity with a reported three million people a day 
visiting <www.archive.org> and two hundred and fifty thousand visiting 

The Internet Archive's book collection reflects its history of working with 
academic institutions, libraries, and government agencies. It has 3,324 books 
in its children's collection at <http://www.archive.org/detail/iacl>. For 
examples of scientific literature scanned by the Archive from the Biodiversity 
Heritage Library, visit <http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org>. The Archive has 
scanned over thirty-three thousand items in this collection. Frueh says that 
the Internet Archive also has the largest Arabic collection outside of the 
Middle East and the Library of Congress. The Internet Archive digital library 
dwarfs the NLS digital collection, but Frueh reports that her organization 
would be delighted to explore expanding its partnership with NLS, allowing the 
national library to make all of these titles available through its frontline 

Readers should know that the Internet Archive, a member of the Open Book 
Alliance, opposes the currently proposed Google Books settlement. The Internet 
Archive and its supporters believe that the settlement as currently drafted 
creates an uneven playing field in out-of-print book publishing, an obscure 
area of debate among legal and academic scholars about one aspect of copyright 
law. Its objections, however, have nothing to do with the accessibility 
provisions and promise of rapid access to many digital books that the Google 
Book agreement would generate.

Blind readers now have another significant resource at our disposal that will 
enrich our lives. We can visit the Internet Archive and its related Websites 
for study, work, and recreation. The NFB looks forward to an ongoing and 
fruitful partnership with the Internet Archive. 

"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---- 
Chela Robles
E-Mail: cdrobles693@xxxxxxxxx

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