[Athen] [ATHEN] FW: [bksvol-discuss] Great news about Bookshare.org

Ron Stewart ron.stewart at dolphinusa.com
Wed Oct 3 16:40:54 PDT 2007


Can I ask a favor, and that is folks quite jumping to conclusions that are
based on minimal information and a lot of conjecture. I would just like to
present some food for thought.

You need to remember that there were two DOE RFP's on this topic. One for
content providers and the other to consortias to basically move the NIMAS
implementation process forward. Here are the RFP numbers, 84.327k for the
one Bookshare landed and 84.327s for the implementation grants. Do a search
on the DOE website and give them a good reading. Both of the RFP's
specifically mentioned postsecondary ed, but there is absolutely no
involvement of postsecondary ed in the awards that have been made public so

In the "s" grant the major award is coordinated by CAST and included 15
state k-12 systems. Here is the abstract from the CAST website:
If you are in one of those states participating the first question I would
ask your state level folks is how are they going to deal with students
outside of the IDEA spectrum as they are required to do my law and also as a
condition of this funding.

At this point none of us know what Bookshare proposed in its RFP to the
grant offering. Bookshare in its current form has its legitimate issues,
but then so do all of the existing Authorized Entities. I have serious
reservations about their current operational models since they do not appear
to be scalable to the volume of materials that are required in the
educational space. Bookshare may have the technical expertise to design and
effective system, but do they have the staff with the requisite knowledge to
pull this off? I do not feel that expanding their current system will work,
they will need to create a new system to meet the requirements of the RFP.
It is one thing to have a group of volunteers scan and proof straight text
based books, but textbooks require a much higher level of skill and in many
instances a volunteer workforce may not be a suitable solution.

Knowing Jim Fructerman and having had several discussion with him about what
is possible given enough money I think that we need to at least give their
plan a fair chance. The publicity says 32 million, but in reality the only
thing they have for sure is the first years funding anything beyond that is
speculative because that is the nature of soft money funding from the feds.
In fact based on the recent history of federal soft money anything after
three years is pretty speculative. To meet their lofty goal of 100,000
titles they will have to have a high level of buy in from the publishers,
and does that currently exist? Even if they are successful this is still
less than half of the titles currently available in the postsecondary space,
not to mention the 10's of thousands in use in k-12.

It has always been my position that any effective model is going to take
collaboration between multiple systems to even being to make a dent in the
current need. Secondly we need to remember that these proposals are based
on the LNS model for free matter for the blind and print disabled. This
model leaves out what may be the majority of the student with print
disabilites in postsecondary ed. The NIMAS model also only looks at
students who are qualified as print disabled under IDEA, and in fact a large
number of students with print disabilites in the k-12 space are not
considered IDEA qualified but are on 504 plans.

What this money does do is put more fire under the kettle of full curricular
access for our community members with print related disabilites. There is
still a lot of work to be done, and in this case the test of success will be
who can the grant recipients bring together in an effort to form a
collaborative and progressive solution to the issues at stake.

Ron Stewart

-----Original Message-----
From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On
Behalf Of Robert Martinengo
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2007 3:30 PM
To: Access Technologists in Higher Education Network
Subject: Re: [Athen] FW: [bksvol-discuss] Great news about Bookshare.org


I think you are confounding the appropriate roles of libraries and
'alternate media publishers' (I wrote a little essay about this on my
). Libraries are wonderful places, but they are not free (its called
taxation), and Bookshare is not a library.

The DoE should have offered at least some money directly to publishers
to make their electronic versions of textbooks accessible (you know,
the ones we complain about on DSSHE for being inaccessible). You say
the cost of converting a book is greater than the market value, well,
the feds just provide $32 million in subsidies. The problem is, it all
went to a middle-man.

Its easy to paint the big publishers as the 'boogieman', but they are
the source of the material we want so badly to be accessible. So,
logically, if you really want equal access, you need to go to the
source. The publisher can be held accountable for the quality of their
product - Bookshare can't be, and trust me, they wont be (just like
RFB&D isn't).

Remember, RFB&D has been around for over 50 years, with a strong donor
and volunteer base, and a staff of hard working, dedicated people.
They had over 100,000 books in their catalog (until they went
digital). Yet, they simply cant meet the demand. This DoE grant is a
band-aid that will prolong the problem, not solve it.


On 10/3/07, Marks, Jim <marks at mso.umt.edu> wrote:

> Bob, I am surprised by your comments, and I would urge you to elaborate

> some more in case I'm misunderstanding you. Shouldn't any library be

> able to offer its holdings for free? Why should people with

> disabilities be singled out with requirements like being forced to

> purchase a print book we cannot use just to get a book we can read?

> I've never understood this ethic well, especially when one considers

> that the cost of converting a book to a truly usable format is almost

> always far more expensive than the market value of the print book. I've

> heard all the arguments that the proof of purchase bit is a good thing,

> but it's at best a gesture. And it's a gesture that ought not keep

> people from information solely because of a print disability. The

> property rights boogieman is a tool of oppression. It's entirely

> possible for civil rights and property rights to co-exist. I want to go

> to my library and read it's materials for free. That's what most people

> want from a library, print disabled or not.


> For whatever it's worth, I think the grant will create more

> accessibility all across the nation. The money will drive the

> improvements, and the Bookshare folks are well aware of the challenges

> they face in stepping up their services. My office has been

> contributing e-text to Bookshare for several years now. Our

> contribution numbers are not huge, but this grant will entrench

> Bookshare more deeply in the post-secondary world. I'll bet more

> colleges will be contributing soon, and that publishers will be doing

> the same. It's not going to be "the" answer by a long shot, but the

> grant is pretty good news if you're a student with a print disability.


> Jim Marks

> Director of Disability Services

> University of Montana

> jim.marks at umontana.edu

> http://www.umt.edu/dss/


> -----Original Message-----

> From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On

> Behalf Of Robert Martinengo

> Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2007 3:00 PM

> To: Access Technologists in Higher Education Network

> Subject: Re: [Athen] FW: [bksvol-discuss] Great news about Bookshare.org


> I think this grant could finally wake up educational publishers to the

> reality that the government is paying a middle-man to give away the

> publishers intellectual property.


> There is no stipulation from Bookshare that students have to buy their

> books in order to receive their services, so they will be getting their

> materials free. Not a bad deal for students, but it will rankle

> publishers.



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