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Christopher Douce

Accessbility and ePubs

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OU materials are provided in different formats. 

Students studying TM354 Software Engineering, for example, students are sent three printed textbooks. These textbooks are also available as a PDF digital download, which can be found in the resources section of the module website, enabling you to view the books on your computer or tablet (which saves lugging the books around).

The TM354 module materials are also available as web pages, which you can, of course, access through the module website. If you’re a user of assistive technologies, this means you can make use of magnification tools and screen readers.

There is another format which is useful: ePubs. This is a file format that is used with eReader devices, such as the Amazon Kindle. Other types of eReaders are, of course, available. You can download module ePub files from the module website onto your computer (or tablet) and then transfer them to your eReader. You can transfer ePub files either via a cable, or (if you are using a Kindle) by emailing your ePub files to a Kindle email address which is related to your device. When you connect your device to WiFi, if everything is set up correctly, your ePub files will be automatically installed.

There used to be another format; something called a Daisy talking book (RNIB). I understand that this format is gradually coming to the end of its life, in favour of newer formats and devices.

ePubs and screen readers

I was recently asked whether there were any Daisy books for TM354. Unfortunately, that isn’t something that is available. There is, however, an alternative if you would like to listen to module materials.

I’ve discovered that my Kindle has a built in ‘screen reader’ (I’m putting these words in quotes, since in eReader world, surely this ought to be a ‘page reader’ rather than a screen?) To test it out, I synched a set of BlueTooth headphones to my eReader (my current Kindle doesn’t contain an audio jack) and started to investigate the various settings. I could adjust speech speed and speech volume, and managed to navigate my way to a block I wanted to ‘listen’ to.

Whilst figuring all this out, I found the following links, which might be useful:

I didn’t get along with the Kindle text to speech software as well as I had hoped. I couldn’t easily figure out a way to pause the reading, which is pretty important for when I want to stop to make some notes.

Another approach I discovered is that I could download something called Thorium Reader, which is available on the Microsoft App store. This Windows app provides in built ePub reading facilities, in a way that is a bit more user friendly.

If this sounds to be of interest, here’s a link to the Thorium reader download pageAlso, here’s a bit more information about the Thorium reader.

My guess is that there are other ePub reading software and packages out there. Without doing any further testing, I also assume that some assistive technologies and screen readers, would read whatever your ePub app is presenting on your screen (providing that the ePub app is sufficiently well written).

Reflections

I’m using an eReader more and more for study. The more that I use it, the more useful I am finding it, especially for my literature studies. Despite my initial reservations, I’m starting to appreciate the ability to bookmark pages, search, and go quickly across and between texts. For work, I’m increasingly using it to do a ‘quick read’ of research papers. In some ways, this blog follows an earlier one: Using the Kindle for research and studying. As hinted at about, there are other devices available. If you want to give an eReader a try for study, you can get hold one a second-hand one (from a popular online auction site) for a very reasonable price.

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