Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Profits for publishers in making books accessible to all

28.05.2008
Many people have no access to most published books. European researchers are trying to remedy this by adapting new technologies to provide accessibility on demand for the visually impaired.

The dream is to make all new publications simultaneously available in formats such as Braille, large print and audio. This will mean the blind, the partially sighted and those suffering from reading disabilities such as dyslexia have the same access rights to information as the rest of society.

While the driving force behind the research is helping the ‘print impaired’, who make up between 6-8% of all Europeans, a substantial and hence profitable new mainstream market is also being created.

The EU-funded EUAIN project and its successors have brought together the publishing industry in Europe with accessibility organisations for the first time, and a whole new type of publishing is in the process of being created as a result.

Project co-ordinator David Crombie says while there are plenty of accessibility projects for the Internet, this one is different in that it deals with allowing access to documents in any digital format.

The researchers also viewed accessibility as a being part of a process rather than as a product.

“At key points in the process of creating a digital document, you have to put in accessibility,” he says. “The sooner in the process you add accessibility the better and cheaper it is.”

Important to start at the beginning
He compares built in accessibility in publishing with that in a building.
“When you build, you make sure there is wheelchair access, disabled toilets and other features for the disabled in the building blueprints,” he says. “If you have to go back once the building is completed and retrofit, then it will cost a fortune.”

The same principle applies to publishing. Page make-up and mark-up instructions are included in the original formatting of a digital document, and form the publishing equivalent of an architect’s plan.

These instructions not only provide publishers with information they need for a standard print run, but also for Braille, large-print and even audio versions of the book.

“Printing on demand is a relatively new technology which is just now starting to become mainstream,” Crombie says.

With many of the intermediate steps between receipt of the manuscript and printing of a book now made redundant by digital technologies, a file containing the words and formatting instructions goes straight to the printing press.

The partners in EUAIN have been working on demonstrating to publishers that it is in their best interests, as well as in the interests of the print impaired, to include different sets of formatting instructions from the start of the process.

In the US a commercial start has already been made in this respect with large-print books, the most popular format after standard print. Online shoppers at Amazon.com can order books in either standard or large-print format, and these are then printed on demand.

In European countries a number of book accessibility initiatives have been started over the years, but most of them have been conducted in isolation from each other.

Third-party organisations, rather than the publishers in each country, are responsible for producing books in accessible formats, but only in relation to a small number of selected ones.

Carrots not sticks for publishers
What the EUAIN team has done is to bring all the accessibility organisations in the different countries together to pool their knowledge. The team then put them together with the pan-European publishing industry to explore mutually-beneficial ways to work together.

“It’s no longer a question of publishers being told ‘You must give us this’, but of everybody sitting around a table and talking about markets and how to best serve them while ensuring a profit for the publishers,” Crombie says.

One field in particular where there is likely to be a major crossover, and a whole new mainstream market created, is in synthesised print and audio titles.

Advances in publishing have made well-structured digital audio versions of books extremely flexible, with listeners able to jump from page to page, chapter to chapter or even paragraph to paragraph and easily conduct word searches.

Synthesising the printed text and audio, using a speech synthesiser on the computer reading instructions from the electronic book file, produces a whole new experience for users.

A trial of the methods was recently conducted at a university with a course book. When other students saw how well this worked they started demanding that their course books also be synchronised, Crombie says.

“This is a new and interesting way of interacting with the information which many people will find useful,” he says.

Although EUAIN itself wound up last year, there is a still a long way to go before all publishers make all books accessible on demand. But the EUAIN team has laid the building blocks in the form of a new association, and spin-off projects such as one to set up standards and industry guidelines and produce training materials and courses.

The partners from the project are also trying to set up a new entity that will use the Open Document Format to provide publishers with the ability to electronically plug in to the system and get their books automatically formatted for accessibility.

Two hundred years after the first Braille book was published, there is now a real hope that all books will one day be available in that and other accessible formats.

The EUAIN project received funding from the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research.

Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89752

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Researchers catch extreme waves with higher-resolution modeling
15.02.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>