[Athen] FW: Bookshare.org for Education Update

Ron Stewart ron.stewart at dolphinusa.com
Sat Oct 6 12:24:47 PDT 2007

Good evening,

It is great to see an overview of what Bookshare intends to try and do.
While this may definitely be a step forward it will take several months for
the details to all be worked out.

It needs to be noted that these are intended outcomes from the proposal but
the nature of this funding mechanism gives OSEP a lot of say in what happens
and OSEP has not traditionally been very receptive to the needs of higher

At this point we all need to give it time to work itself out. If your
institution is considering taking up Bookshare's institutional offer please
make sure and have it thoroughly veted through your legal office.
Bookshare's intent to provide these materials to your students does nothing
to mitigate your institutions requirements under Section 504.

Ron Stewart

-----Original Message-----
From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On
Behalf Of Pratik Patel
Sent: Saturday, October 06, 2007 11:28 AM
To: 'Access Technologists in Higher Education Network'
Subject: [Athen] FW: Bookshare.org for Education Update

I'm forwarding this with Jim's permission.


From: Jim Fruchterman
Sent: Thu 10/4/2007 10:39 PM
To: Bksvol-Discuss
Subject: Bookshare.org for Education Update
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
outcomes are achieved, meeting all Award requirements (RFP-a) through
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
solution that can read Bookshare.org books aloud and display them
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
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
unmet needs, rather than duplicating existing efforts. Bookshare.org is
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
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
which will continue to add significant value to our service. As the most
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
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
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
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.

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