SiteofWeek051210Even as audio versions of best sellers fill store shelves and new technology fuels the popularity of digitized books, the number of titles accessible to people who are blind or dyslexic is relatively small. A new service announced May 6 by the nonprofit Internet Archive in San Francisco is trying to change that. The group has hired hundreds of people to scan thousands of books into its “Open Library” digital database—more than doubling the titles available to people who aren’t able to read a hard copy. Brewster Kahle, the organization’s founder, says the project initially will make 1 million books available to the visually impaired, using money from foundations, libraries, corporations, and the government. He’s hoping a subsequent book drive will add even more titles to the collection. “We’ll offer current novels, educational books, anything. If somebody donates a book to the archive, we can digitize it and add it to the collection,” he said. The Internet Archive is scanning a variety of books in many languages, so they can be read by the software and devices blind people use to convert written pages into speech. The organization has 20 scanning centers in five countries, including one in the Library of Congress. “Publishers mostly concentrate on their newest, profitable books. We are working to get all books online,” Kahle said, adding that the organization does not run into copyright concerns because the law allows libraries to make books available to people with disabilities. http://openlibrary.org/subjects/accessible_book

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Jeff Festa