Baltimore, MD – Twenty eight year old, legally blind Kevin J. Kinney is a Ph. D candidate at the University of Maryland. He is working on his doctoral dissertation on Mark Twain’s influence as the greatest American novelist. Eight years ago using a Close Circuit TV, he read Twain’s literary masterpieces, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures ofTom Sawyer. In the past two years, he has re- read both novels and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead
“As I read these books, I asked myself, how do they stack up against Twain’s masterpieces?” Kinney says. Kinney read these books electronically. He was assisted by Sarah Brown(who is dyslexic) who is one of two assistants. Brown introduced Kinney to e-book publishing in 2008. She was introduced to e-books in 2005 and has been a strong proponent of electronic publishing since. In fact, she has not purchased a hardcover or paperback book since 2005. Brown used electronic publishing to help write her masters’ thesis.
An e-book is published in electronic form. It consists of text, images, or both, and is produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic and telecommunications devices.TheOxford Dictionary of Englishdefines the e-book as "an electronic version of a printed book,"but e-books can exist without any printed equivalent. They are usually read on dedicated hardware devices known ase-Readers.
E-books are designed to look and read just like a paper book, a page at a time.
“Using e-books, I can instantly share notes and data with Sarah and my other assistant, customize layouts, integrate references, easily navigate text, instantly search text, insert graphics and do many other actions that make researchingeasier and faster than I can do reading hardcover and paperbacks,” says Kinney .
Kinney has been working on his dissertation for two years. He will publish his dissertation on-line, and he plans to publish a novel and a series of short stories digitally. He proudly tells his friends about the benefits of e-books. Some of these benefits include multi-channel distribution globally, reducing costs in printing and delivery, portability, visual impact, linking to any page in the publication, and it can be sent by e-mail.
“I can do so many things with e-book publishing that it makes my blindness appear obsolete,” Kinney states.
Brown supports Kinney by saying, “With my dyslexia, I have difficulty understanding what I am reading. With e-book publishing being able to highlight passages, insert notes and listen to the content, I increase my comprehension and productivity. As a result I am a better researcher.”
For Brown, e-book publishing has these pluses. She can insert direct links to products or web sites, there are no required plug-ins, it works with flash and html, all pages can printout,e-books can be downloaded in PDF and there is an interactive zoom on every page.
Being an environmentalist she stresses, “E-book publishing is 100 percent ECO-friendly. No trees are destroyed.”
Kinney and Brown praise e-book publishing companies who add accessibility features to e-books. One such company is VitalSource Technologies, Inc. The company develops e-book solutions. Its products and services enable publishers and other partners to create and deliver textbooks and other content directly to users’ computers in its Vital Book file format.
One of the company’s hallmarks is providing clients with accessibility features so individuals with disabilities can benefit.
"VitalSource is committed to providing superior accessibility options for its desktop, on-line, and mobile applications. We believe accessibility is a fundamental part of our e-textbook solution and that each and every user should be fully supported for every title they use with any of our applications." says Kent Freeman, president, VitalSource Technologies.
VitalSource works with the National Federation for the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind and Tech For All to review, evaluate and to make solutions available. It accomplishes this goal by taking advantage of the built-in solutions provided the computer or by supporting open source alternatives.And, it works with third party vendors to provide user support. VitalSource ensures a highly functional application for navigation, display, and other operations and it guarantees section 508 and WCAG 2.0 compliance. It leverages OS-based utilities Voiceover, JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, and its Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is available at www.vitalsource.com/508.
For Windows users with the NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) screen reader, the company’s Bookshelf supports version 2011.1.1 or later. NVDA is a free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Providing feedback through synthetic speech and Braille, it enables blind and visually-impaired persons to access computers running Windows for no more cost than a sighted person.
For Windows users using the Windows-Eyes screen reader, Bookshelf supports version 7.5.1. or later. For Windows users using JAWS, Bookshelf on-line supports version 11 or later.
Kinney uses JAWS.
Kinney knows the pitfalls associated with self publishing e-books. There are no advances,
lower sales, piracy and lack of reviews.
Kinney and Brown have plenty of work before them. Kinney believes he has completed nearly 50 percent of his research, and he will finish in three years. He believes he would not be where he is without e-books. He believes e-book publishing is a boon to people with disabilities.
“E-books tear down information barriers for people with disabilities. By doing so, it expands educational and job opportunities for them,” Kinney says.
E-books can be purchased and downloaded from a web site, CD (compact disk), floppy disk, or even a zip disk. Most e-books are purchased on the Internet. The process starts with the purchase of one or more books with a credit card or PayPal transfer.
“Once I purchase an e-book, the on-line store sends an email my web address that only I can use to download the file,” Kinney says.
If the downloading fails, Kinney is given additional time to complete the transaction.
“Once the file is on my computer I no longer need to be connected to the Internet,” says Kinney. An exception is e-books designed to be read only on the Internet using html code in a web browser.
E-books come in various formats. The most popular are Adobe (PDF), Microsoft’s Reader (LIT), Mobipocket (PRC), and Amazon's Kindle.
Kinney uses e-book publishing for projects besides his Ph. D. For example. he is writing a book on on-line accessibility. He says, “I am richer aesthetically because of e-books.”