The DAISY Consortium's Monthly Newsletter - January 2013

From The Editor

There are five feature articles in this issue of the DAISY Planet covering a range of topics. I would like to thank AFB for their permission to republish the article Connecting the Dots: A Brighter Spin on the Future of Braille which was published in the January 2013 issue of AFB Access World.

On January 27 an email was sent to the Members of the DAISY Consortium asking that they complete an online survey hosted by the Obi-Tobi development & deployment team. The purpose of the survey is to help the team prioritize further developments of the features in Obi (DAISY audio with structure) and Tobi (DAISY and EPUB 3 full-text and audio). The deadline for completing the survey is close. If you are a DAISY Member, please complete the online survey as soon as possible – don't miss this opportunity to be heard. Many of you have already done so – you have let the development team know which Obi-Tobi features are most important to your organization.

Gerry Chevalier has provided both consulting and volunteer services to organizations providing services to individuals with a print disability for many years. He was introduced to DAISY in the late 1990's, served on the CNIB Library Board from 2001 to 2004. In 2004 Gerry concluded his consulting business and joined VisuAide (now HumanWare) as the Victor Reader Product Manager. Many of you know or have met Gerry and will join me in wishing him all the best in his retirement years which have begun just about now. Congratulations Gerry and thank you for being such a strong supporter of and advocate for DAISY and information access!

The question How to convert text documents into MP3 audio files posted in The Guardian AskJack blog was written by Bill who wants to listen to text information (RTF files) while mowing his lawn. Bill does not have a reading disability. The response is filled with information about text-to-speech (TTS), synthetic speech, Microsoft Save As DAISY, the DAISY Standard & DAISY aps, TTS quality and more that may be of interest to many in our community. What I find really fascinating about this blog is that it clearly illustrates how technologies and standards developed to meet the needs of people unable to read print publications can and do meet the needs of people in the mainstream marketplace. Wonderful!

Varju Luceno, the DAISY Consortium's Director of Communications is featured in an online interview this month on the Montana Uses This website which highlights some of the remarkable people working in (or with strong ties to) the state of Montana. If you would like to learn a bit about Varju, this interview is a good place to start!

DAISY TechWatch, the DAISY Consortium's Bi-Weekly News Brief was launched earlier this month. The first issue is available on the DAISY website; as they are published, all issues will be available on the TechWatch page. Our new e-newsletters contain a concisely presented news items and is intended to complement the DAISY Planet. The second issue comes out in early February.

Since the first DAISY 'story' was published five and a half years ago, I've had the opportunity and privilege to work with dozens and dozens of truly wonderful and amazing people as they've recounted people, events, challenges and achievements. This month and next, Maryanne Diamond's story will be featured. Ms. Diamond completed her term as President of the World Blind Union (WBU) in November and for the next four years will hold the position of Immediate Past President. I've never had the opportunity to meet Maryanne in person, but after reading 'her story' I honestly feel that I know her quite well. Even if you do not always read the DAISY stories, please make a point of reading Maryanne's – the lady is truly an inspiration. Thank you again for your time and for sharing some of your amazing experiences with us.

And, of course, thanks to everyone for sending ideas, articles and suggestions for publication in the DAISY Planet. Your ongoing input helps me to provide our community with the information it needs to remain up to date on issues of importance and interest. DAISY stories provide insight into the lives of people we might not otherwise have ever come to know. Please get in touch with me by email (you will have my address if you receive the DAISY Planet email notice) or you can use the DAISY Contact Us Form (DAISY Planet Newsletter Category).

Lynn Leith
Editor

DAISY Marketplace

The following links are to new or recently updated DAISY Products and Services from our Members and Friends. Marketplace entries also appear on our home page.

The DAISY Marketplace

Publishers' Corner

EPUB 3 Best Practices by Matt Garrish & Markus Gylling, and published by O'Reilly Media, was released this month. "This concise guide includes best practices and advice to help you navigate the format's wide range of technologies and functionality. EPUB 3 is set to turn electronic publishing on its head with rich multimedia reading experiences and scripted interactivity..." The book includes chapters covering the unique aspects of the EPUB publishing process, such as technology, content creation, and distribution, and also provides a comprehensive survey of accessible production features.

EPUB2 to EPUB3: Converting backlist titles is a Google Group for the discussion of EPUB 2 to EPUB 3 conversion. Topics may include things such as automation tools, semantic dilemmas, and workflows.

• In the Good e-Reader YouTube interview Bill McCoy the Executive Director of IDPF talks EPUB3 recorded at Digital Book World 2013, Bill talks about EPUB 3 and HTML5, the importance of EPUB 3 for publication of digital textbooks, global language support (vertical and left to write content) and the rapid uptake of EPUB 3 in Japan.

Connect, Explore, and Create the Future of Publishing, the O'REILLY TOC Tools of Change for Publishing Conference is only a few weeks away. The Conference which will take place February 12-14 in New York will provide an "intelligent blend of practical experience, technical expertise" that can be immediately put to use, as well as strategic insights.

• In the article Are we over-thinking EPUB? The future of the book is inherently linked to the browser Adam Hyde discusses EPUB, HTML, eBooks, technology and standards, essentially working through 'what is EPUB anyway': a standard, a collection of standards, a technology? You may also find the comments (there are a lot of them) interesting and informative.

IDPF Digital Book 2013 will take place May 29-30 in conjunction with Book Expo America (BEA) 2013 at the Javits Center in New York. The conference will bring together a blend of representatives from business & technology to find out what's going on in both the technology world and business world of digital books. One of the 3 tracks will focus on education & STMS (Scientific, Technical, Medical and Scholarly) publishing. The other tracks will target business & marketing, and technology & production.

Future Publishing and Accessibility: Facing the Challenge

"We are all being challenged. Publishers, libraries and everyone responsible for accessibility has to face that digitization and globalization means that yesterday's business models and solutions won't work any longer." Michael Wright, Director General, Nota – Danish National Library for Persons with Print Disabilities

Future Publishing and Accessibility Conference logoAlthough Future Publishing and Accessibility is still half a year away, the program and lineup of speakers are already drawing attention. The morning of the first day of the conference will open with back-to-back keynotes from Ray Kurzweil – inventor, writer, futurist, founder of Kurzweil Technologies, and Director of Engineering, Google, US; and Michael Seadle – Director of the Berlin School of Library and Information Science, Humboldt University in Berlin, DE. The keynote speakers for day two will include Jimmy Wales – founder of Wikipedia.

Both days of the conference will offer opportunities for bridge building between re-publishers (organizations such as libraries for the blind which produce accessible publications), mainstream publishers, technology developers and providers, librarians, educators, politicians and standards organizations, to foster an innovative approach to accessibility in the age of digital publishing.

The conference which is being hosted by Nota – the Danish National Library for Persons with Print Disabilities and the DAISY Consortium, in cooperation with The Ministry of Culture Denmark and Copenhagen, will be the place to be this June 13 and 14.

Information about the Future Publishing and Accessibility Conference, including Early bird registration (ends March 30), discounted registration fee for DAISY Members, Conference Program details, the Conference video and the event venue is readily available on the Conference website. Three content tracks will offer something of interest for everyone, including those involved in publishing, information access, government, publishing standards and tool development.

The DAISY Consortium is at the heart of a global partnership to develop and promote inclusive standards and technologies for reading and publishing in the digital age." Stephen King, President of the DAISY Consortium

The Future Publishing and Accessibility Conference press release was distributed today.

Making the Transition from MyStudioPC to Obi

Why, How, Who & When

Many of the details in this article come from the new DAISYpedia post: Migrating from MyStudioPC to Obi by Prashant Verma, a consultant with the DAISY Consortium.

MyStudio PC (MSPC) was developed for the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD) about a decade ago. This DAISY 2.02 audio and structure authoring software was licensed to and has been made available by JSRPD to DAISY Consortium Members in generous but limited numbers and to numerous organizations in developing countries since that time; it is no longer being developed. Obi is open source authoring software developed by the DAISY Consortium which is freely available to everyone. It is still being developed, improved and supported. The information given here and in Migrating from MyStudioPC to Obi is intended to provide producers and individuals using MyStudio PC with the information they need to make the transition to Obi and to encourage those who have not used MSPC but who wish to create DAISY "audio only" (audio and structure) 2.02 and DAISY 3 content to try Obi.

Why choose Obi?

The article begins with a list of Obi features that are not available in MyStudioPC, including DAISY 3 output, skippable features (ability for the end users to skip past parts of the content such as footnotes), customizable keyboard shortcuts, support for straight forward localization into different languages, and of course, Obi is free to everyone and is open source. These and the other features in Obi make it the clear choice. Both tools are fully accessible to people who have a vision disability.

User Interface

Obi and MyStudio PC interface screen shot comparison The differences in the user interface are examined in detail. The arrangement of the information presented to and used by the producer in Obi and MSPC is very different. The comparison screen shot shown here is larger and clearer in the DAISYpedia article which also includes a screen shot of the audio "phrases" or clips in Obi.

An important point made regarding the differences in the user interface is that although both are accessible, MSPC is self-voicing while Obi provides full accessibility with support for screen readers (including less sophisticated open source screen readers), keyboard navigation, magnification of text and graphics, and audio clues.

Producing a DAISY Book

The various steps involved in creating a DAISY book are then described and compared. Processes such as creating a new project, opening, closing and saving projects, book structure, recording and editing are examined in detail. Additional Obi features and a list of other information resources are provided at the end of the article.

This DAISYpedia article was written in response to several requests for an explanation of the differences between Obi and MyStudio PC, and why someone using MSPC should consider using Obi.

Accessible Digital Book Production Training

Creating DAISY & EPUB Format Materials

The training program "PRODUCTION OF ACCESSIBLE DIGITAL BOOKS IN DAISY & EPUB FORMAT" will be conducted by the DAISY Consortium and Saksham from March 11 – 16, 2013 in New Delhi, India. The sessions will focus on the production of DAISY content using open-source tools and will cover the use of the Obi, Tobi, Save As DAISY and Pipeline 2 authoring and conversion tools. Training will be given in English.

Details about required participant skill and knowledge levels, and fees which include accommodation for the period of the training, lunch, and training & support materials are provided in the Training Participation Details.

The Training Outline provides an overview of the topics that will be covered each day.

The Registration Form is also available online on the DAISY website. The email address for submission of the form is given at the end of the Training Outline document.

Organizations producing accessible format materials and those planning to do so are eligible to submit a registration form.

Open Letter to Louis Braille

Pedro Zurita working at his desk If you know or know of Pedro Zurita you may have read his paper Open Letter to Louis Braille which he wrote in 1996 while he was Secretary General of the World Blind Union (WBU) (Note: This paper is third in the set of papers presented at the link.). He had been invited to speak at a World Literacy Forum – the subject of his presentation was left to him to select. Pedro wrote the paper in the form of an open letter to Louis Braille; that 'letter' has been translated into more than 40 languages.

In light of the fact that this presentation was written more than 15 years ago, and that since that time technological advances in information access have moved forward in leaps and bounds, this statement in Pedro's presentation is particularly intriguing: "technology is not making your extraordinarily simple code redundant, but rather is enhancing its potential." He also touches on the use of technology in developing countries, stating that he hopes they "will soon have access to the basic tools and material that exist today".

Throughout his 1996 paper Pedro Zurita advocates for the usage and importance of braille through historical references and personal experiences. Much has taken place since then, including the founding of the DAISY Consortium in that same year; much is yet to be done. Pedro closes his 1996 Open Letter to Louis Braille as follows:

"I solemnly promise to be faithful to you, although I know that, in the end, if by whatever ways or means, someone some day finds something that proves to be better than the system you proposed to the world in 1825, you, I and everyone will be overjoyed."

Perhaps (and hopefully) the collaborative work being done on the Transforming Braille Project will bring affordable refreshable braille reading technology to millions of people in developing countries.

Connecting the Dots: A Brighter Spin on the Future of Braille

Transforming braille logoThe article was published in the January 2013 issue of AFB Access World, written by Deborah Kendrick, and republished here with permission from AFB. External links have been added. Ms. Kendrick's article features the Transforming Braille Project, which was granted a charter to bring an affordable tactile eBook experience to braille readers by the DAISY Consortium Board of Directors in June 2012.

Even if you don't use braille, you'll want to read this article. Let me amend that. If you are interested in people who are blind or who have low vision, their future, and the commitment of leaders of organizations around the world involved with literacy for people who don't read print, you'll want to read this article.

In the interest of clarity and full personal disclosure, I am more than a fan or aficionado of braille. I would go so far as to say that my life depends on it or, at the very least, has been centered soundly upon it since the age of six.

Because of my rapid inhalation of braille into my DNA, I was the first in a working class family to graduate high school, first to go to college, and the only one to pursue graduate work.

The merger of braille with technology (which technically began in the early 1970s, and started for me with the acquisition of a tape-based Versabraille in 1985) resulted in an exponentially rapid growth in access to information for people who are blind. With early databases and online services, braille readers could consult encyclopedias, newspapers, and a variety of information sources.

The parade of personal braille-aware notetaking devices with multiple functions began in 1987 with Deane Blazie's ground-breaking Braille 'n Speak and has continued through an overabundance of complex devices capable of managing all types of information, allowing the user both to input braille and read it on refreshable displays.

Personally, I have never used a computer without an accompanying refreshable braille display, a device which enables the computer user to read information from the computer screen on lines ranging from 18 to 80 braille characters.

Braille in my home and office is ubiquitous. Braille is present in almost every aspect of my life, from the braille hardcopy versions of magazines like Harper's and Cooking Light I read, to the simple labels I place on bottles of shampoo and herb-infused olive oil, and from the braille device I use to read text messages on my iPhone, to the notetaker that manages every aspect of my life (from conference notes and contact lists to e-mail messages and downloaded books).

The future of braille, however, has been a concern of many who care about the future of people who are blind. Some remarkable projects are under way to put a brighter spin on the future of braille and those who use it. Again, whether you read braille yourself or not, these projects are ones that AccessWorld readers may want to follow.

The DAISY Consortium and Transforming Braille

Since 1996, the DAISY Consortium has been recognized as the international not-for-profit organization committed to making digital materials accessible to people everywhere and ensuring that all developed standards are international, so a person in one country can access materials developed in another. While focus has been primarily on the development of standards with regard to audio or "talking" books, DAISY leaders have also recognized that tactile reading represents an integral element in information access and literacy for people who are blind. Under its current president, Stephen King of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and the RNIB chair, Kevin Carey, in partnership with several other organizations, the DAISY Consortium launched a tremendous project in 2012.

Calling the project Transforming Braille, the aim is not so much to transform braille itself but, rather, to transform the availability of braille to people everywhere who are blind. Two realities guided the creation of the project.

First, hardcopy braille is costly and requires considerable time and labor to produce. Secondly, while refreshable braille devices afford instant access to far more information than that which is available in hardcopy braille, such devices typically cost around $6,000 and are, consequently, usually only available to people in prosperous countries where, more often than not, funding is provided by the government for use in educational or employment settings.

The goal, then, of the Transforming Braille project is to identify a refreshable braille device that is dramatically less expensive than existing products, a device that would be within the reach of all people who are blind, including those in developing countries. Rather than the complex multi-featured devices currently on the market, the pursued holy grail of braille in this project is one that would simply deliver braille into the hands of its users. Libraries could provide electronic copies of texts simultaneously to many patrons at a fraction of the cost of providing those same texts in hardcopy braille to a relative few.

Project Orchestration

Steven Rothstein, president of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA, was brought on board as the Transforming Braille project director. (In the interest of clarity, it warrants pointing out here that Kevin Carey of RNIB is chair of the project with regard to organizing and conducting meetings. Steven Rothstein's role as project director involves the hands-on orchestration of technical reviews of those projects being considered, gathering related data, and the general nuts and bolts of moving the project forward.)

The first phase of the project was funded by the RNIB and was completed in July of 2012. It involved identifying as many existing projects designed to produce refreshable braille as could be found around the world. Over 50 projects were identified, Rothstein explained, the efforts of entities large and small, including colleges, corporations, and not-for-profit organizations. Those 50-plus identified projects were drawn from 15 different countries. How many ways are there to incite pins to move up and down? How many ways are there to send the electronic messages required to tell those various types of pins to do their moving? Obviously, Rothstein and his colleagues found an impressive variety of answers to such questions. Along with a variety of materials, the search also unearthed a variety of price points. Through independent and rigorous testing, the number of projects was ultimately reduced to a final seven, three of which were identified as "promising" and four "to watch."

Regrettably, albeit understandably, there is no specific information regarding those final contenders to be shared as yet. All participating organizations have signed nondisclosure agreements concurring that no specifics of individual projects being considered will be discussed outside the circle of those directly involved. Rothstein did say that, at this point, the focus is on single-line displays with the assumption that, once the desired affordable and effective technology has been identified for a one-line display, employing it at a later date for multi-line displays would follow. For the impatient and/or insatiably curious among us, however, the wait for additional information may not be long. Phase 2 of the project, the phase during which the final contenders are rigorously tested and an ultimate "best solution" is to be determined, is scheduled to complete very soon.

Phase 2 has been funded by organizations from around the world, which comprise the Transforming Braille project board. The list of funding partners for the project is, of course, an ever changing one. Spearheading that list, along with the RNIB, are four US organizations: the National Federation of the Blind, National Library Service [for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)], American Printing House for the Blind, and Perkins. Other funding partners include Canada's CNIB as well as leading blindness organizations in Australia, New Zealand, India, France, and elsewhere.

What about that Phase 3?

The organization's wish is that Phase 3 will be under way by the spring of 2013. When it does arrive, Phase 3 is, of course, the most exciting stage of Transforming Braille. That phase will focus on actually producing and marketing the resulting product, the dramatically less expensive piece of technology that will deliver braille into the hands of people everywhere who are blind. To complete Phase 3, Transforming Braille still needs money. Many notable organizations from around the world have literally and figuratively bought in to this ground-breaking initiative, but there are many more that have not as yet done so. To read more about the project, learn how to contribute, or to submit a refreshable braille project, visit the DAISY website.

Meanwhile … in Boston

A discussion of quests for a better future for braille and the people who read it would not be complete without the inclusion of the effort begun three and a half years ago at National Braille Press (NBP) in Boston. When Brian MacDonald joined NBP as president in 2008, an early order of business was to establish the Center for Braille Innovation, which convened in 2009. Innovative and affordable ways of getting braille into the hands of more users was essential, MacDonald realized, and he set about building a team to make that happen. One of the first people he contacted was Deane Blazie, inventor of the renowned Braille 'n Speak, the first personal notetaking and organizing device for the blind. Blazie came out of retirement and has volunteered his time since that first call to develop the as-yet-only-imagined piece of technology. Also invited to the table was Mike Romeo, another pioneer in access technology (who started working for Blazie Engineering and its forerunner Maryland Computer Services) and who has been an engineer on the NBP staff since the project's inception.

Over the last 25 years, many complex devices enabling users to read and write with refreshable braille have been in this small market. Typically, such products cost around $6,000, which puts them beyond the reach of many consumers. The goal of the Center for Braille Innovation was to develop a multi-function product, a "braille tablet" for the blind, but to keep its price thousands of dollars beneath the current standard.

Three and a half years later, the B2G (Braille to Go) device is almost ready to come to market.

An Android-based device, the B2G is a 20-cell, 8-dot braille device with cursor routing keys and a braille keyboard for input. Blazie and others selected Android as the operating system because, particularly in its latest Jelly Bean iteration, it offers accessibility mixed with an open source approach that greatly enhances possibilities. The device will offer the customary notetaking features along with a music player, GPS receiver, compass, camera (that can be used for OCR applications, currency or color identification, or just taking photos), voice input, speech output, and 32GB of internal storage along with onboard slots for SD and USB media storage devices. It will offer not only WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity but cellular connectivity for use as a mobile phone and the flexibility of downloading the myriad Android apps that users might want to use.

The goal, Brian MacDonald said, is to graduate the B2G from prototype to marketable product by the summer of 2013. A final price tag has not yet been determined, but it will be considerably less than any similar products currently available.

And There's More…

National Braille Press and its Center for Braille Innovation are working on other truly ground-breaking products to revolutionize the future of braille and technology, and that work will be highlighted in future issues of AccessWorld. This article is intended to serve as an introduction to exploring the work that is under way to secure literacy and learning for those who read and see pictures with their fingertips. As we anticipate the culmination of the work conducted by the DAISY Consortium's Transforming Braille and the NBP's Center for Braille Innovation, it seems safe to say that something definitely good is on the horizon. All of the organizations pursuing new, affordable solutions are working cooperatively and collaboratively, a kind of icing on the proverbial braille cake. When, for example, I asked Brian MacDonald, "What happens if the Transforming Braille project comes up with something so wonderful that your projects aren't necessary?" he answered without hesitation, "Then we all win."

Indeed.

Dear DAISY

Tobi vs. Obi: Which Should I Use When?

I am beginning to educate myself about issues of accessibility and have found your newsletter to be very useful in that regard. I would like to experiment in developing accessible eBooks. I learned from your newsletter of Obi and Tobi, but am not clear as to why I would use one and not the other. Can you point me to some clarification on that point?

Also, since Adobe InDesign, a very well-funded industry heavyweight, supports EPUB 3 (which encapsulates the DAISY requirements), is there any compelling reason to learn to use either Tobi or Obi other than the fact that they are free?

PS: By the way, thank you for the link (in the newsletter) to the YouTube video that highlighted accessibility issues of the Amazon Kindle. I did not understand the issues prior to watching that video.

Sincerely,
Richard

---------------------------

Dear Richard,

Tobi and Obi are used for different production processes and output (although they are based on the same code). Obi is very straight forward to use. The output is the DAISY structure - headings, page numbers, skippable structures such as footnotes - but the full text of the publication is not a part of the final DAISY book (or magazine, etc.). Obi can produce both DAISY 3 and DAISY 2.02 books. Tobi on the other hand produces full text and audio DAISY 3 digital talking books and now also produces EPUB 3 books with audio.

Tobi is really designed more for professional production while Obi is designed to be effective and yet simple enough to be used by anyone interested in creating DAISY books, magazines, etc. It can as easily be used by someone at home with a computer and microphone as it can by someone in a recording facility. If you will be working on your own with limited resources (workstation, recording facility and technical support) you might want to start with Obi.

Another option you might want to look into one of the "Save As DAISY" options. Information is available in the DAISY website Save As DAISY Project area

Regarding Adobe InDesign, apart from the issue of cost, CS6 requires more training than Tobi which is much simpler to use. Also Tobi is the first application to support the DIAGRAM content model for image descriptions and allows the content creator to enter textual descriptions, specify alternative images, author rich metadata and enable audio narration of the image information using the same waveform editing tools that are available to produce DAISY 3 digital talking books.

CS6 is more liberal with the input format requirements than Tobi which requires input in specific formats. If you are already an Adobe CS user and plan to continue with this software to produce EPUB 3 content, please be sure to make use of the EPUB 3 Full QA Checklist which is available at EPUB 3 Accessibility Guidelines on the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) website.

Bits & Pieces

• New and updated DAISYpedia articles can be easily found by going to the Recent Published Changes page. New articles this month are:
· Video tutorials: Using Save As DAISY
· Videos: Why and how to create structured documents with Word 2007 and 2010
· DAISY Books on Mobile Phones and Multimedia Devices
· Obi Training Videos
· Benefits of Text-to-Speech-Technology and Audio-Visual Presentation
and
· Migrating from MyStudioPC to Obi

Recently updated articles include:
· Description of various functions in Obi
· Get started with AMIS
and
· Video: Creating EPUB with Tobi

Dolphin EasyConverter from Dolphin Computer Access Ltd. now provides Arabic language support. This accessible format creation tool now recognizes and converts a wide range of document formats written in the Arabic language. EasyConverter analyzes Arabic text in variety of file types including PDF, Microsoft Word and Rich Text. The content is converted into customizable large print, braille, DAISY or audio formats. Additional information is available on the Dolphin Computer Access website.

• The deadline for the M-enabling Summit Call for Presentations has been extended to February 15. The Summit will take place June 6 and 7 in Washington, DC.

Load2Learn which provides accessible textbooks and images to support dyslexic, partially sighted or blind learners who have difficulty reading standard print now has 16 videos and tutorials about accessible content production and related issues on YouTube on the Load2Learn Project page.

• The recording & slides of the January 24 webinar, "Accessible Images - From Creation to End User", will be posted on the DIAGRAM Center website in the Center's Training Resources area. Topics covered include an overview of tactile diagrams, whether to create a tactile diagram or describe an image, how to create image descriptions and more. Two webinars already available in the Center's training are: "How to Describe Complex Images for Accessibility" and "Digital Accessible Math Images".

• The article A Review of Smartphone Options for People With Visual Impairments written by Prashant Verma, consultant with the DAISY Consortium, was recently published in the Retina India monthly newsletter. A link to that article has also been posted on the DAISY Facebook page.

• Applications for the NFB 2013 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program are now being accepted. Each year the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) presents cash awards to individuals and organizations that have made an outstanding contribution toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. Deadline for submissions is March 31. Additional details and the online application are available on the NFB website.

• Bookshare begins the year with the blog series with "Top Tips" to answer questions Bookshare members commonly ask and provide suggestions that may help its members to become better users. There is a link on the blog to subscribe to get the Bookshare tips by email each week. The first post is Do You Know These Bookshare Answers? #1.

• Volunteer efforts at the Taiwan Digital Talking Books Association are featured in the Taipei Times article Audio books bring voices in the dark.

• Bookshare will be giving 3 webinars – February 5, 13 & 21 about how to use the new tools/features that will make Bookshare faster and easier to use. Details about the new features, Bookshelf and Bookshare Web Reader (for Individual Members only), plus webinar times, registration links and more are provided on the Bookshare website.

• Registration for the first National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Tactile Graphics Conference which will take place April 12 & 13 is now open. Day 1 opens with "General Sessions" followed in the afternoon and on day 2, with options of four topic streams each. The agenda and link for registration are on the conference website. The site also includes a link to the new NFB YouTube video Tactile Graphics and STEM Education for the blind.

FreeLists.org hosts a wide variety of mailing lists, including discussion lists for Bookshare, braille-related issues, blindness, deafness, and many other topics. You can search for lists relating to any accessibility or other topic using the keyword search box near the top of the page.

• A list of and links to the Best Free Dictionary and Thesaurus Programs and Websites is available on the How-To Geek website.

• The Eyes On Success (previously "ViewPoints") 2012 Year-End Retrospective (show number 1252) includes highlights from the interview about the DAISY Consortium and the interview with show hosts Nancy & Peter Torpey whose story was featured in the June 2012 DAISY Planet. Current and archived shows and show notes are online on the Eyes On Success website.

Tech Tips

• Although Obi is Windows software, it can be used on a Mac with VMWARE Fusion or Oracle VM VirtualBox which is open source and freely available.

EpubCheck 3.0, an EPUB validation tool, was released late in December and is available for anyone to download at no cost.

• Pipeline 2 version 1.4 has been released with three alternative packages for download. Links to the downloads and information about the about the Web UI are available on the Pipeline 2 website. New scripts introduced in this release are: DTBook validator, DTBook to XHTML5 conversion, DAISY 3 to EPUB 3 conversion, DTBook to PEF conversion, and, PEF-production scripts can now produce a BRF output. (Note: a last minute issue was identified in the Braille production modules when the path to the installation directory contains spaces. Please accommodate this limitation if you are using the braille production modules.)

Obi, the open source audio & structure DAISY authoring tool can now be configured to modify the names of sections in the Obi project or to keep them same as the names of audio files imported into the project.

• Information about and links to the Best Free Programs and Online Services for Sending and Sharing Large Files is available on the How-To Geek website.