If you are new to the world of downloadable formats of text for print disability, there might seem to be a lot of things to learn. Bookshare.org is a great place to start for access to books, but you need to qualify with them as having a bonafide print disability. Your membership costs $25 up front one time to sign up, and a $50 a year subscription fee. You can participate for free if you apply through a school for educational purposes. This includes k-12, post-secondary and adult education. Go to Bookshare to read more on Memberships.
When you get your membership or qualify under a educational account, you will have access to books in various file formats that will download within the folder of the book title. Some books might have more format types than others, depending on the book. For example, if the book is a public domain book, it will be in an HTML or Internet document format that reads in a browser window.
Here are the 4 formats that books download in with Bookshare:
1. DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) which is the digital talking book standard. There is a DAISY/NISO standard which is more specific, but all you really need to know is the term DAISY for this format. Bookshare provides a free downloadable reader, the Victor Reader Soft DAISY player so that you can hear all the DAISY file books played on this player with synthesized speech. This player comes in formats for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
2. BRF is the digital braille format. It can be used with braille reading devices and braille printers. If you are sending the file directly to a braille printer/embosser, remember that there might be errors in words and text that show up because it has not been edited by a person. It is a computer-converted format.
3. HTML is the hyper text mark-up language, or the language that is used to present text on the Internet on a web page. As mentioned above, the public domain books will download in this format. You can use Natural Reader's floating toolbar and highlight the text to hear it read, or use clickspeak (Firefox only) on the browser toolbar to hear HTML files read when opened in your Firefox or Internet explorer browser window.
4. Txt (ASCII) is the unformatted file type that opens in Notepad on a Windows computer. There is no font, style, etc. it is just "plain -Jane" text. You can select all the text and paste it into a Word document or blank HTML page and do anything you like with it to dress it up from there. You are still looking to have the text read, and with the Natural Reader you can do that directly form the Txt. file format.
You can read more on these file formats at Bookshare, About Formats.
As far as players, if you want to make your bookshare files portable, you can use the ClassMate Reader by Humanware and Don Johnston which reads DAISY/NISO; Mp3; NIMAS; Txt; HTML and XML.
The Victor Vibe is a portable reader that plays DAISY, Mp3 and audio CD's.
Another option would be to convert Txt files or HTML files into Mp3 files using the upgrade in Natural Reader that converts to MP3. The basic tool is free and the upgrade is about $45 or so. If you convert the books to Mp3, then you can put them on an ipod, Zune, or any Mp3 player of choice. You can even burn the Mp3 files on a CD and play them on any CD player which plays the Mp3 format.
If you have a print disability and utilize the formats within Bookshare, you will have many texts (even daily news) available to you and you can convert them into about any format to suit your purposes. Technology keeps advancing and our options expand all the time. We are getting to the point where accessibility is becoming more user friendly than it used to be. Microsoft just announced it has added the DAISY format as a file type to save as within the Office Suite of applications. This again, is opening up new options to create text and format it ourselves for greater accessibility.
All the best to you!