Three cheers for the Internet Archive, which announced yesterday a new resource for the visually impaired (or as the IA called them, the “print disabled,” which I guess includes dyslexic people). These books are available at the newly redesigned Open Library, available at http://openlibrary.org/. What’s the Open Library? Here’s the first sentence from the About page: “One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty, but achievable, goal. ” Hey, I’m down with that! But let’s talk about the new collection for print disabled folks.
The library for the print disabled is available at http://openlibrary.org/subjects/accessible_book. Where is that count of a million coming from? On this home page I’m seeing a count of 393,792. Anyway, you’ll find a keyword search, subject listings, places and people, times, and a list of prominent authors and prominent publishers. The books accessible to the print disabled are scanned from hard copy books then digitized into a format called DAISY, a standard for digital talking books. (You can learn more about DAISY at http://www.daisy.org/.) Books that are out of copyright are accessible via unencrypted DAISY format, while in-copyright books are available in encrypted DAISY and require an NLS (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) key to access. You can get a list of “Protected DAISY” titles at http://openlibrary.org/subjects/protected_daisy. There are 410 at this writing.
Let’s find an unprotected DAISY book. At the Accessible Book collection page, I did a search for Ruggles of Red Gap and found it at http://openlibrary.org/works/OL5714160W/Ruggles_of_Red_Gap. (If you’re looking for something funny and odd, I recommend it, though I admit I spent about half the book wanting to smack Ruggles.) The site lists 15 editions, three of which are available in any kind of format.
As you can see, you have the option to read the book online (if you’ve ever used Internet Archive’s book browsing function, you’ll have no trouble; this is the same thing). You also have the option to get the book in PDF, plain text, ePub, Kindle, or DAISY format. For information on how DAISY works and hardware and software options for it, see http://www.daisy.org/tools-services. There’s a cross-platform DAISY reader (Mac, Windows, Linux) over on Google Code. It’s called Emerson.
Though this Open Library relaunch was put in the context of more books being available for print disabled folks (and I agree that’s very important) I found it also the case that there’s plenty of material here for the non-print disabled. I find the layout of book search easier and friendlier than the regular Internet Archive, though there’s also plenty on the IA that you won’t find here (like the huge collection of ancient yearbooks, for example.)
Absolutely worth a look!