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Digital textbooks

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Amazon Kindle digital reader.  CATEA does not endorse this product or service.   The image is provided for visual reference only.
Amazon Kindle digital reader. CATEA does not endorse this product or service. The image is provided for visual reference only.
Sony reader digital book. CATEA does not endorse this product or service. This image is provided for visual reference only.
Sony reader digital book. CATEA does not endorse this product or service. This image is provided for visual reference only.

Digital Textbooks are electronic versions of traditional textbooks that are used to teach a variety of subjects to students with and without disabilities. These “books” combine traditional print content with interactive audio features, animation, tutorials, games and videos.[1]

Contents

History

In 1948, Anne T Macdonald, a member of the New York Public Library’s Women’s Auxiliary, began receiving letters from veterans of the World War II who were interested in attending college but had lost their sight in battle. The men were frustrated because they lacked the ability to read Braille and had no access to live readers. Macdonald, who believed that “education is a right, not a privilege” was determined to make a difference. Thus Recording for the Blind was formed. Today the organization is known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFBD). [2]

The organization began in the attic of the Library where members recording textbooks onto ”six-inch vinyl SoundScriber phonograph discs that played only 12 minutes of material per side”. In 1951, the organization incorporated as the nation’s only nonprofit to record textbooks.[3]

Digital textbooks began to get serious interest and research dollars in the late 1990s from multiple sources. In 1998, RFBD developed a system of producing textbooks in a digital format. Their system, AudioPlus, linked a computerized text file with a digitally recorded sound file. This combination, according to RFBD's Senior Vice President, John Kelly, combined the benefits of ‘books on tape’ with the search and navigation capabilities of the web.[4] December 1, 1999, Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Medicines Group announced a $125,000 contribution to digital textbook research.[5]

On July 1, 2007, RFBD transitioned to an all-digital library. The RFBD library uses a standardized digital format known as the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY).

Benefits for Students with Disabilities

Digital textbooks eliminate most of the weight in the backpack. Portable electronic readers can weigh less than 5 pounds.[6] Students can also access books via the internet at home and in the classroom where it is available.

Digital books offer benefits such as the ability to customize content by annotating text, highlighting key passages and bookmarking pages.[7] “Professors can mix and match chapters from various textbooks and other sources to create customized study guides or offer a section of a book, rather than an entire manuscript.”[8]

Other Benefits

In addition, authors and publishers see no revenue from the used textbook market. This isn’t as large of a problem in the digital textbook market where students are required to purchase a log-in.


Product Links

RFBD Book Catalog - https://custhub.rfbd.org/SearchCatalog.asp

External Links

Student Perceptions of Digital Textbooks: An Exploratory Study - http://www.westga.edu/~bquest/2003/digital.htm

References



Author: Melissa McAvoy
Affiliation: CATEA