Tag Archives: e-readers

Revolution and Evolution, the History of the Book

“In around 1440 AD, a goldsmith called Johannes Gutenberg began assembling the apparatus that would eventually become known as the first Western printing press. Thirty years later, this invention had transformed Europe, spiritually, economically and politically. In this episode of Worldview Adam Boulton is joined by Professor Alexander Lee and Professor Emma Smith to chart the history of the book, from its revolutionary beginnings to the present day.”

 

https://engelsbergideas.com/podcast/worldview/worldview-revolution-and-evolution-the-history-of-the-book/

 

This is a fascinating podcast. Apart from the interesting historical background, I was struck by Professor Smith’s comment that a dictator could easily remove e-books from electronic devices whilst it is virtually impossible for a totalitarian regime to track down and destroy all copies of physical books they dislike.

 

I do see advantages to e-books. Indeed, as a visually impaired person who is not able to read print I take advantage of the text to speech facility on the Kindle app in my iPhone to have books read aloud. In addition, all of my titles are available as e-books. However, I also love the physicality of books and most of my titles are also available in paperback format.

Reading and the visually impaired

E-books possess many advantages. Unlike print books one does not need to spend hours browsing around bookshops to find the book of your choice or, alternatively wait for several days for that print book you have ordered online to arrive. With the click of a mouse one can order Oliver Twist and have it delivered to the e-reader of your choice in minutes (often seconds). Again for those with limited space e-books are a godsend as a Kindle or other e-reader can hold a multiplicity of books in a tiny space. One group who have benefited enormously from the growth of e-books are the visually impaired. For centuries those with no vision had to rely on the kindness of family or friends to access the wonderful world of literature. Following the invention of braille a door was opened allowing blind people who mastered it to access books, however the number of titles availible in braille is tiny compared to the vast array of print books availible to sighted individuals. For the blind book lover wanting to read the classics, for example Great Expectations or War and Peace, both titles are availible in braille. However for a long time blind people struggled to keep up with the reading habits of their sighted family and friends as most contemporary literature is not availible in braille due to the costs of producing it. Again braille books take up a great deal of space (the New Oxford Book of English Verse runs to 10 thick braille volumes while it’s print counterpart is a single book).

The Kindle, the I-Pad and the I-Pod all have in-built voices (in the case of the more expensive version of the Kindle this is known as text to speech while Apple’s software is named voiceover). The technology allows people with little or no sight to access e-books opening up a world of literature which was largely closed to them hitherto.

To my knowledge Kindle’s web browser is not easily accessible (if at all) to blind people, however the visually impaired may access Amazon’s website using screenreading software such as Jaws which converts text into speech and braille and purchase titles with ease. Once a title is downloaded to the Kindle it is possible for a blind person to navigate around the menus, select books etc. While it is difficult for blind people to easily skip through the sections of a book using the Kindle, listening to a book from start to finish presents few (if any) difficulties.

Unfortunately a number of e-readers such as the Cobo are currently useless from the point of view of blind people as there is no ability for the visually impaired individual to have books read aloud. It is to be hoped that those manufacturers of e-readers who do not, at present build in speech capability will, in the future incorporate this facility making their products viable purchases for those with little or no vision. The world of reading should be open to everyone not just those who have vision.

(For my collection of erotic short stories “The Girl At The Bus Stop And Other Erotic Short Stories”, by K Morris please visit http://www.amazon.com/other-erotic-short-stories-ebook/dp/B00A6H75Y6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1353136476&sr=1-2&keywords=the+girl+at+the+bus+stop. If the link doesn’t work please visit Amazon’s Kindle Store and search for “The Girl At The Bus Stop And Other Erotic Short Stories” by K Morris).