Friday, April 11, 2008

Resources to Build Free Electronic Books and More...

Some Incredible Online Book Resources

This week I hosted an electronic book day workshop for teachers. Shar Burgoyne, trainer from Oregon Technology Access Project brought her travelling road show and set up laptops loaded with software to play with text to speech tools. We downloaded free public domain literature to copy and paste into speech engine software so students can read with more accessibility - especially if they have a print disability. The public domain/free e-text links are below.

Shar pointed out some new sites that I have missed, to add to my toolkit and I shared a few of my own. I thought I would list some resources and links below you can explore. Thanks Shar and OTAP for giving us a great training and a fun day! Below is a sampling of our exploration day...

Online text to speech tools: These have free versions and more advanced pay versions.

Read Please

Natural Reader - I liked that the pay version of this software converted text to Mp3 files to save for creating audio book versions of text.

Odiogo - this tool is what I use on my blog and My Reading Chair Site - it not only reads text online but it allows Mps download of the file so it can function as a type of converter of sorts too.

Reading Sites for ebooks:
Bookbox - You can download one free book that has a player to download too. You can listen to the book and then re-record the text with a mic while reading, and the story will play with student narration. A great way to allow students to hear themselves read and critique themselves as well as enjoy hearing themselves tell the story. It also has many languages to choose from.

Kidthing - This site is in its beta form. They have partnered with Dr. Seuss so "Horton Hears a Who" is their freebie download book. It downloads with a player that installs on your computer. When you are on the site it can read the books. The books are read with a real voice and the pages turn with a click that is possible to activate with a switch and switch interface for kids that have lost their motor skills to hold a book or turn a page. I can think of one pre-schooler right now that was fitted for a new power chair that could use this. I am going to be setting up his computer interface and this would work really well for him to have his own control over books he wants to read. You can create your own online library so when you go there, they are all under your account ready to read.

Kiddierecords - I was born in the late 1950's and I spent a lot of my childhood laying in front of my 45 or 78 rpm light up Bozo the Clown record player listening to fairy tales, songs, Disneyland records and making up great pictures in my imagination to go with them. This site is a nostalgia GOLDMINE. The site has archives of audio files for all the great book and record sets from the '40's, '50's and '60's. There is something for everyone there. I especially like that they have scanned many of the pages in the storybook sets and you can download the images as well as the audio story. A couple of years ago, I imbedded the audio files into a powerpoint and made each picture fill a slide. My son and his friends laid on the floor with my laptop, listened to the story and took turns doing the left-click when they heard the sound that was the cue to turn the page. I saw myself all over again - except this time it was a laptop instead of a record player!

Public Domain and Free Access Text: - This site is the grandaddy and has thousands of texts, audio version in Mp3 and great scanned images of the antque book illustrations. I like having the illustrations as well as the text to work with.

Knowledgerush - This was new site for me and had many of the titles that Gutenberg had - just a different layout and some other titles as well. It is a little more "MySpaceish" looking and more of a social bookmarking web 2.0 feel. There are submitted poems, reviews by readers, etc.

Other Reader Services: These services allow you to purchase electronic text and audio versions of books.
Google Book Search - "Google said that it is scanning more than 3,000 books per day, a rate that translates into more than 1 million annually." You can read about this in the wikipedia article. You can download and start your own book collection through them.

Microsoft Reader - There are some free books as well as the pay for download kinds here.

Amazon Kindle: Aldoblog had a nice post on the Kindle and mentioned the audio piece. You can download Audible books that will play on the Kindle. The link is below.

Audible - Online pay electronic book download site

The Holy Grail of Public Domain, Foreign Language and World Literature-by the-Alphabet-Resource-list.

This is the "Hail Mary" of book links I have found. You might have a better one but this one - astounding! "Fry your brain" :o) looking at site links on the Online Books Page.

And I didn't really explore all the readers, the Don Johnston catalog, Pix writer, and more...that will be another day.

All the best to you!


image link:


Davis said...

Dear Lon:

Great ideas and products.
In addition, is an awesome resource for those who have a print disability.

The Lord has given me the gift of dyslexia and I use and read at 300 to 480 wpm with 90+% comprehension. Another benefit to reading with readplease is that my spelling has improved immensely.

Also there is a website which you can read with readplease if you have the software downloaded and running in the background. All you have to do is to click on the icon in the upper right-hand corner and it will read the page to you.
This is called "Readplease enabled" ( Go to: for their demo.)

Would this be wonderful if all newspapers would provide this option?

Thank you again for your informative article on your blog.

Sincerely, Davis.

P.S. I proofread my comment with

narrator said...

UVA e-books is another great source
especially if you are using Microsoft Reader (and if you are using MS Reader be sure to add the RMR tool for MS Word for instant e-book creation).

And just to emphasize that all three "high-end" literacy solutions - WYNN, Kurzweil3000, Read-and-Write have instant mp3 conversion and CD burning.

But I also like to point out the simplest method, using Google Docs with Firefox's Click-Speak.

I'd like to be a fan of bookshare - they do good work - but I hate that access there is tied to diagnosis, a diagnosis often unobtainable for Americans who lack health insurance (or even just really good health insurance). Access to texts needs to be a right, not a gift at the end of a humiliating process of declaring oneself "disabled."

Lon said...

Thanks for the contributions. It is great to get these tips. I wonder how many people come back again to read comments under these posts. If they don't they are missing some great information!
Since my stroke last year I have had some dyslexic-type issues with reversals and my typing/spelling has goten really bad. I have to proofread alot more than I used to before. Maybe typing in Readplease would help me too!
I am interested in your comment Narrator, about I didn't cover it in this post specifically because of that. I remember something with NIMAS that it is only open to those with a medical diagnosis of a print disability I want to say because of an organic brain dysfunction. The problem is that the publishers are so paranoid that it was the only way NIMAS could happen. We are able to get free memberships for students in our schools just by the school verifying that the student has a print didability without the medical diagnosis/sign off from an MD. I apologize that I can't remember where exactly the M.D. organic brain dysfunction comes into play off the top of my head - I'll have to look through my notes. If anyone knows- let me know.

narrator said...

The thing I worry about with Bookshare is this: I believe in "lifespan" solutions, not things that are only useful in school. And once students leave school they will need to have medical coverage in order to remain "listed as disabled." In fact, students who move from high school to community college to universities often need to pay large amounts to be re-certified as "disabled" because their school psych reports are now "over 3 years old."

Yes, the problem is in part with the publishers, but the real issues are with US copyright law and US health policy.

For editing work quickly I'd suggest trying that Google Docs/Click-Speak combo. I've used this to support student writing (hear back what you just wrote). Unlike ReadPlease it is a full word processor. And if you need better spell checking for dyslexia support keep the brilliant open in another Firefox tab.