Wednesdays are my day lately.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, readers of all ages, I have exciting news.
Well, it’s exciting for me, and if you’re blind, legally blind, or a person who likes listening to books, it’s exciting news for you too.
By listening, I don’t mean audio books. It’s not actors reading. I mean accessible tech. I mean a computerized voice reading.
Think I’m crazy for liking that sort of thing. I am not. Growing up legally blind, reading options were slim. When I was a kid, it was Braille (which I’ve only ever been mediocre at) or talking books, which were fun when I was little. As I got older, though, and reading became both a pastime and a route toward academic success, Braille was definitely too slow, and audio books were, likewise, not fast enough.
Halfway through college, I discovered Bookshare. I’ve mentioned this site before. It’s a great resource for visually impaired readers. Its only drawback is that, though its staff and volunteers work very hard (and I commend them for it), there are so many books in the world. Getting all of them onto the website is a daunting task. I love Bookshare. I’ll always keep my membership, but in the academic-heavy life I’ve chosen, access to books is a necessity, and up until now, if Bookshare didn’t have it, it was check the local library to scan it. If they didn’t have it, it was order it from Amazon in paperback to scan it. If Amazon didn’t have it—which was rare—it was scrounge. In other words, if Bookshare didn’t have it, it was a ton of work on my part, and with deadlines, a ton of time was not something I always had.
On a more personal note, it’s always been a bone of contention for me that sighted readers have access to books the day they came out. I always had to wait, even with Bookshare most of the time, anywhere from a few days to a few years to read a “new release.” Think of how easy it is to go to a bookstore or go online and get a book. Now think of how inconvenient it would be if you couldn’t. Some would say “Well, then I just won’t read.” As a life-long book lover and a writer, that’s not an option for me. I love to read.
And now, kids, I’m on the same page. Amazon Kindle finally went accessible.
Didn’t they have audio books before?
Some kindle books had text-to-speech capability, yes. But the way they did it, they needed audio permissions from the author. The new method puts the books out there as assistive technology. Thus, audio permission isn’t needed, and all books can, with the right software, be listened to.
I downloaded said software last week. I’ve only read a few books with it so far (end of the semester no time and such), but man, it’s like a dream come true. The world’s library is at my fingertips. For someone who’s never had that option, it’s amazing. I can finally read all the books my author buddies have published. Depressingly few are on Bookshare at this moment in time.
Interested in this?
PC users—download: kindle for PC with accessibility plugin
It works. There’s two voices to choose from—one male and one female. Are they the best, no, but they’re understandable, and they allow the visually impaired to read kindle books.
I’m told there is also a Mac version. I don’t own a Mac, however. If someone with a Mac would like to do some market research and report in the comments if it exists and/or works, how cool would you be? You might even get 5 bonus points.
Stay tuned for my day’s creative inspiration.
Oh my, Amazon,
Many years I have waited
For a gift like this to appear
Why, do you know over getting books?
I’ve so many times shed a tear
Oh my, oh my
I’ll write you customer reviews
Tell you of your good deed in detail
With this great option now, dear, there is no way I can fail.
If you work as you should.
It will be all good.
Did it finally happen?
Is it actually here for good?
No more scrounging for books in a format that works
But a method that could
let me get what I need
If I buy books
So I’ll buy books.
I could use a kindle.
It’s at last proved its worth.
To read books on kindle
What I’ve waited for since…since birth.
And with all the books to download
By my tech I won’t be mired.
As long as I get what I need
I don’t mind the price being highered.
It’s like a fairytale come true
Book source on which I can rely
And that’s how we’ll begin,
The kindle and I.
Once I have a kindle
My whole life will change
Cuz once I have a kindle
From books I won’t be estranged.
No frantic searching for class reading
No scanning page by page
All the books at my fingertips
Think of what I’ll save on rage.
And this gift of the word right at my side
Finally at last it’ll be mine
When we are hand in hand
The kindle and I.
You’ll hear the computerized voice
And say “I have a question for you.
Isn’t a voice that’s so impassive? A b*tch to listen to?”
And I’ll smile and hit the pause key
And I’ll sit you down next to me
“It might sound that way to you,
But if you knew what before this I’d gone through.
Of course the voice doesn’t matter to me.”
”All right then,” you’ll reply.
Oh what a pair we’ll be,
The kindle and I.
Yes, what a pair we’ll be,
The kindle and—
My future is unlimited.
And I’ve just had a vision almost like a prophesy.
I know. It sounds truly crazy.
And true, the vision’s hazy.
But I swear someday there’ll be
Knowledge of this, through the world
That all started…with me.
And I’ll sit there with my kindle
Feeling things I’ve never felt.
And though I’d never show it
I’d be so happy I could melt.
And so it will be for the rest of my life
I won’t want nothing else till I die
The ability to read
The books that I need
By my tech not stymied.
The kindle and I.
-Parody of “The Wizard and I” from WICKED the Musical