Bookshare Update: Every Educator Still Needs to Know

It’s been several months since I posted about Bookshare and some developments have been made. First, recall that Bookshare is a free service for all U.S. students (across the lifespan) with qualifying print disabilities. The collection currently has 45,000 books and periodicals in digital text format, which can be downloaded by a school sponsor (e.g., a special education teacher). Students can also have an individual membership for home use. Bookshare has become the premier repository of copyrighted materials in specialized formats for students with qualifying print disabilities.

The digital text file formats available at Bookshare include TEXT, HTML, BRF, and DAISY. By default, the TEXT files will open in TextEdit on your MLTI device and those in HTML will open in Safari. The BRF files are Braille format and are compatible with Braille readers, such as refreshable Braille displays.

DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information SYstem. It is a standard for digital books because it provides structure that TEXT and HTML files cannot. “Tags” provide structure for digital books. Examples include sidebars, subsections, headers, highlighting, boldness, etc. All are structural elements. A word in bold could even be tagged for “go to glossary,” indicating a vocabulary word that is defined in the book’s glossary section. Marking up the text with tags allows for the content to be separated from how it is presented, making the reading experience much more enjoyable for individuals with print disabilities.

Because it is a specialized standard, DAISY files can only be read by a DAISY reader. The good news is that Bookshare provides its members with a choice of free DAISY readers for Bookshare files. The bad news is that neither choice is currently Mac-compatible. Bookshare has anticipated that the maker of the to-be Mac version, Don Johnston Inc, will be rolling it out at anytime. In the meantime, we continue to wait.

And it’s not just Bookshare that we’re waiting for. Currently, we are without a stable DAISY reader for the Mac.

My sincere recommendation at this time is to accommodate a student by making available a Windows-based computer with one of the two freely downloadable DAISY readers from the Bookshare site. One of the two is the Don Johnston Read:OutLoud for Bookshare. I recommend this reader in anticipation of the Mac version of the same product. Please note that only “Read:OutLoud for Bookshare” will read DAISY files downloaded from Bookshare. The standard version of Read:OutLoud, which I know many schools are using, will not.

If you have students enrolled in Bookshare, I’d love to hear from you and to learn how you are providing access to its DAISY files. Alternatively, if you need more information about Bookshare, please contact me.

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