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UK's First Educational E-Book Library Launched Online

The UK's (United Kingdom) first online library of educational textbooks in a range of digital formats accessible to visually impaired students has been launched. ”Books for All” is a joint project between The Seeing Ear (http://www.seeingear.org/), a website which provides electronic books for visually disabled people, and the University of Edinburgh. It allows authorized and registered teachers and students with visual impairments to access an online catalogue of alternative format educational books for free.

Accessible books are uploaded to the database by teachers, and can then be freely downloaded by other schools or registered users in formats such as plain text, Word and PDF. Tony Dart, chief executive of The Seeing Ear, said the system should eliminate the problem of people across the UK having to convert the same book into a format accessible for visually impaired students many times. "If a book is a set text, it's very often converted locally, with varying degrees of quality. This way, we can have one person upload an e-book to make it available for everybody."

Dart said that if successful, the project would have a "vast and positive impact" on accessible e-learning. There are currently around 100 educational titles available through the service, and Dart says he hopes this number will increase as more schools join. Around 250 schools are already registered.

Future plans to improve the service include a collaborative editing system to correct any mistakes to uploaded texts, and an online converter to automatically switch between accessible formats as required.

Reprinted from E-Access Bulletin, ISSUE 120, December 2009, the free email newsletter on access technology by people with impaired vision: www.headstar.com/eab

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