[Athen] Pearson Pushing VitalSource after ATN denial

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Fri Feb 1 10:33:38 PST 2019

And even a blind student wants images. Let’s say you want a friend to describe an image to you or you want to use speech to read, but magnify the images -- say when taking Art history. A PDF without images is not accessible, even if you cannot see, because how are you supposed to find the images in a huge hardcover book? The publishers claim if you bought the book you have the images, but if they are part of the PDF they are so much easier to locate when you need description or magnification!

And if the images are only in VitalSource, it means you can’t as easily get them to where your tutor, describer or magnification device is located. VitalSource doesn’t run on a Braille notetaker which is what many blind students use.

As a lover of VitalSource, I still see it not replacing PDF files, even for blind students who might need easier access to images.

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of chagnon at pubcom.com
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2019 11:10 AM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Pearson Pushing VitalSource after ATN denial

Interesting comments.

Deborah Armstrong wrote:
<quote> Another thing Pearson is doing is supplying PDFs with all the images removed. I’ve gotten several like this; the caption is there but no image, and for a book with a lot of figures this is unacceptable. <end-quote>
Agree! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that in a PDF or document.
That type of workaround was done eons ago before most people realized that accessibility is for all users, not only those who are fully blind.
Removing the graphic does not help those with low vision, cognitive, and other disabilities.
Plus, the caption might not contain all of the visual information that is in the graphic, so those dependent on Alt-text won’t have it because there isn’t a graphic to hold the Alt-text.
What’s so striking to me is that publishers are balking at providing accessible PDFs for their books. If they’re printing a book, then most likely they are using Adobe InDesign to design and lay it out because it is the publishing industry’s standard software worldwide.
For those who’ve attended my classes at AHG and at our training lab, they know that the layout for print can be converted to an accessible PDF from from the same file—but the designers must learn how to set up the InDesign layout for both print and accessible PDF. They also can quickly convert it to an accessible EPUB from the same layout.
A little bit of training in how to do this can solve the problem for both publishers and academia.
—Bevi Chagnon

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On Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 9:34 AM Deborah Armstrong <armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu<mailto:armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu>> wrote:
One possible step in the right direction would be to point out to your publisher’s rep the portions of the book that were not accessible even in VitalSource. For example, figures without description or something that cannot be zoomed up to the size a student needs. I try to write the publisher with specific page numbers or specific figures and details about what’s not accessible.
You can explain you need the PDF in order to make these things accessible. I think if we keep harping on publishers about how something they claim is accessible isn’t it will reduce our need for the PDF files.
But, if the publishers want to take responsibility for making a book accessible, they have to be held to it, and if they don’t want to give us PDFS we have to give them a hard time.
I can kind of understand where the publishers are coming from, though I don’t have to like it. They want more students to buy more books and if that involves making them more accessible it’s a win for both sides. But it’s not a win when they claim accessibility and it’s untrue, then deny you the chance to fix the issue. So accessibility problems with a book need to be pointed out to them specifically.
Another thing Pearson is doing is supplying PDFS with all the images removed. I’ve gotten several like this; the caption is there but no image, and for a book with a lot of figures this is unacceptable.
One other thing Pearson reps are doing with I find quite disingenuous is talking to instructors about how their books are accessible and open textbooks are not. One of our counselors, who is also an instructor chose a Pearson book over an open textbook for that very reason.
For just one example of a Pearson book that illustrates all of these issues see “Fundamentals of Database Systems”, ISBN 9780133971224 which has a PDF on the ATN without images; is on Bookshare without images and is on VitalSource with images that are not described. And the images are required to comprehend the book though most of them are text-based and could be represented via tables rather than pictures.
From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of Susan Kelmer
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2019 2:40 PM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Pearson Pushing VitalSource after ATN denial
I have heard this same crap from Pearson through my contact (which is probably the same). By now, they have heard the “whys” and yes, they are being literal roadblocks to providing what we ask for.
When we request a PDF through ATN, we get it next-day (unless that title is on VitalSource, then we have to do the end run or workaround, which takes weeks, if they even respond at all).
So no, they are not “committed” to getting us what we need. If it isn’t in their tiny little definition of what they want to provide, we get the runaround, and the 20 questions, and really this just delays us getting what we need for our student. That is what I wish they would understand. We aren’t asking for a PDF because we don’t know any better. We are asking for a PDF because that is what we need to do what we do for the student.
If anyone wants the contact with Pearson directly, please email me off-list, I’m happy to share my contact’s information.
Susan Kelmer
Alternate Format Production Program Manager
Disability Services
University of Colorado Boulder
From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of George Kerscher
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2019 3:29 PM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Pearson Pushing VitalSource after ATN denial
I reached out to folks at Pearson to get some clarification. Here is what I was told:
Begin email from Pearson rep
if a student needs a PDF for accessibility purposes we will provide it. We're not in the business of denying anyone access to what they need for learning. As you are aware we've partnered with Vitalsource to provide accessible ePubs to students and in most cases this does meet their needs. When it doesn't, we ask why - not to "get in the way" but to try to understand the needs of the student in question.
While we do ask for "Proof of purchase" it isn't to identify the students - we are as concerned with privacy as anyone else. I'll look at the messaging we use to see if we can do a better job communicating.
As to his two week wait. we have internal approval processes in place before we let PDF's out the door. Those processes are in place to help insure that we protect the IP rights of our authors. Sometimes this does slow things down but we are currently active in trying to improve those processes and reduce the time necessary to deliver the PDF's.
I hope that helps, please feel free to reach out with any questions.
End of email from Pearson rep.
I was also told if anybody would like to communicate directly, send me (kerscher at montana.com<mailto:kerscher at montana.com>) and I will forward the request to my contact.
From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of Deborah Armstrong
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2019 10:55 AM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Pearson Pushing VitalSource after ATN denial
Just to give you comfort, the same thing has happened to me six times so far. Three of those times, luckily the student fell in love with VitalSource. The other three times, I had to do the proof-of-purchase-big-argument-thing!
For me, the bigger problem is when a student’s textbook is an ebook only, integrated with the LMS. Pearson’s beginning to do that a lot now, and so is Cengage. If a student has a book I can scan, then it’s much easier.
From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of Sorensen, Neal B
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2019 1:55 PM
To: athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: [Athen] Pearson Pushing VitalSource after ATN denial
Hi All,
I’m writing to see if anyone else has encountered a problem like this with (our dear friend) Pearson. Here’s the story. I made a request on AccessText Network for Microeconomics by Pindyck and Rubinfeld, and the request was denied. I received a follow-up e-mail at the same time saying the title is available on VitalSource, and the student could sent a proof-of-purchase directly to Pearson to get a free access code for their book. Now, I have NEVER had to provide a proof-of-purchase to get any book on AccessText Network. Their follow-up also suggested contacting the Pearson disability support office if the student is “using an assistive technology other than a screen reader.” The request has been approved by their permissions and now I’m just waiting for the book.
This is unacceptable of Pearson. Thankfully the student has tried to use textbooks only accessible online before, and knows the PDF is better for his needs. I’ve been waiting almost two weeks now for this book (I got a customer satisfaction survey before I got the book). What is mildly infuriating about all this is that I know they have the book in PDF… I mean, it’s on VitalSource so they have electronic versions! Why not just give me the PDF?
Additionally, why would I give Pearson the identity of my student? We are bound to confidentiality, and asking the student to identify themselves to the publisher is not necessary. This just goes to show that the major publishers will always try new ideas that don’t make sense, and that it is important to push back against those ideas when we encounter them!

Neal Sorensen
Access Specialist
Accessibility Resources
Minnesota State University, Mankato
132 Memorial Library
Mankato, MN 56001
Phone: 507-389-5242
FAX: 507-389-1199
Email: neal.sorensen at mnsu.edu<mailto:neal.sorensen at mnsu.edu>
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