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Winter 2002 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)


By Holly Cooper, Technology Specialist, TSBVI, Outreach

EBooks are electronic texts containing special formatting features which allow for reading with specialized software. EBooks are a recent development in the book market and can be downloaded into your computer, PDA (Personal Digital Assistants or Palm type device) or pocket computer, as well as into dedicated devices or special eBook readers. The exciting news for our readers is there is now voice output availability for eBooks, using Microsoft Reader on a Windows computer. This means that you can have an eBook read to you by your computer without the use of JAWS. (By the way, you can now download SEE/HEAR from TSBVI's website in Microsoft Reader.)

Here is some background information. Electronic books came on the market a few years ago and were promoted for their ability to save paper, space, and money. A few different companies developed special portable devices to read eBooks that were approximately the size of a typical paperback book. RCA and Franklin (which we in the field of visual impairment know as the maker of the Franklin Language Master talking dictionary) currently have eBook readers available in retail stores which sell electronics. There has been a certain amount of media hype debating the joys of printed books versus the technological advances of eBooks, and the market for eBooks lagged after their initial introduction. The introduction of PDAs and Pocket Computers into the mass market unexpectedly helped the spread of eBooks. PDAs and Pocket PCs have very small screens, but the devices with color screens are much more readable. They are also becoming more affordable.

EBooks are usually downloaded through an Internet connection to a desktop computer. If the eBooks are to be read on a portable device, they are hot synced (transferred through a special connector) from the computer to the device. There are a variety of eBook readers. There is also a variety of software for Windows, Win CE/ Pocket PC, Palm, and Mac operating systems that will allow your computer or portable device to read the eBook. Downloads of the reading software are usually available at no charge.


For general information on eBooks:

On-line sources of eBook readers and eBooks:

eBook retailers:

Below are some on-line eBook retailers that have publications for adults, youth and children. Some of these sources have books available at no cost. Most free publications are older books with expired copyrights.


eMonocle Reader has features for low vision users (usable in Mac, Linux and standard Windows, but not Palm OS or Pocket PC) such as print size 4 to 144 points, adjustable color and contrast, and modifiable icons. It has keyboard commands for non-mouse users. Available at no charge at http://www.ionsystems.com/emonocle/


Pulse Data, maker of BrailleNote, made an agreement to use Microsoft eBook Reader so users can have output of text in eBook format. Users of BrailleNote can download eBooks in Microsoft Reader format from the Internet into their computer and sync into their BrailleNote. They can choose to output the text in voice or refreshable Braille on their BrailleNote. Because many eBooks are copy and print protected, the ability of a BrailleNote user to output in print or hard copy Braille of an eBook is not consistent at this time.

Books on disk in text format can be purchased from National Braille Press. These disks can load text directly into a braille notetaker without the use of a computer, if you have a disk drive which is compatible with the device. For more information, see National Braille Press at http://www.braille.com/otherfor.html#anchorport

Examples of Books Available as eBooks

There are an amazing number of books available as eBooks. Many best sellers from current reading lists, classics, reference books, books for young adults and children can easily be downloaded. Prices are similar to the price of a paperback book or, in some cases, even less expensive. For parents who enjoy listening to audio books, this could be a reading experience for both you and your child. Here are just a few examples of titles that can be found in eBook formats: The Hardy Boys: The Castle Conundrum, Aftershocks, Alice's Through the Looking Glass, Anorexia Nervosa: Starving for Attention, Dangerous Mammals, Heather and the Snow, Creative Activities that Teach about Africa, Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, Focus on Inventors, Beyond Stone and Steel: A Memorial to the September 11, 2001 Victims, Presumed Innocent, and Along Came a Spider.


For many of our readers, eBooks can be a great way to access information. In review, here are some of the assets of eBooks for blind and visually impaired users:

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002