Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Print Disabled New Zealanders to Benefit from International Exchange of eBooks

The Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind and Copyright Licensing Limited, on behalf of New Zealand book publishers and authors, have come together to participate in a World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) pilot project that will enable print disabled New Zealanders to enjoy international books in a format that is accessible to them, whether they are blind or otherwise print disabled – e.g. visually impaired but not blind, dyslexic or physically unable to hold a book or turn a page.

Until now the number of books available to the print disabled has been limited, but with New Zealand’s
involvement in the WIPO Pilot Project (known as TIGAR – Trusted Intermediary Global Access Resources) digital files from other participating countries will be able to be shared across borders. Some key international publishers have signed up to the pilot including French publishers Hachette and Editis,
Bloomsbury in the UK and Harper Collins in the US. Organisations in Canada and South Africa have also agreed to participate.

In parallel to the pilot, New Zealand publishers are embracing the latest digital publishing technologies that, in themselves, will make digital titles as accessible to people with certain visual impairments as they are to a sighted reader. eBooks published in this way, and the technology in the devices used to read them, are capable of displaying the book in multiple font sizes and of reading the book to the reader using text-tospeech software. Given that 34% of the world’s population will be over 50 by 2050 and 21% of those are likely to have reading impairments, the potential market for accessible content is significant.

Neil Jarvis of Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind says “This is a major step forward in our efforts to tackle the book famine which people with a print disability in New Zealand face every day. The RNZFB is proud to contribute to initiatives such as this which put more content in more people’s hands. Through access to information, including literature, people are able to take their place as citizens of an informed society. This initiative brings this goal closer.”

Paula Browning, CEO of Copyright Licensing Limited and Digital Publishing NZ Ltd commented that “New
Zealand authors and publishers are excited about the opportunities for their books to be read by the print
disabled in many parts of the world where they have not previously been available and in doing so,
enabling access for print disabled New Zealanders to read international titles that may otherwise not have
been available to them.”

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