As the Technology Coach for Educational Vision Services, the program in the NYC Department of Education that serves students in our school system with visual impairments, I have been looking for a way to provide students with low-vision access to large print using the iPad. Our students are registered with Bookshare.org but it has been a stumbling block converting the DAISY formatted books into the epub format that can be read on the iPad. While there are numerous options for our students who are auditory or Braille readers, there has been a large disconnect in taking advantage of technology for our students who require large print and alternate contrast for visual reading.
The first thing I noticed is that while the iBooks app is great, it doesn't provide the flexibility in adjusting text size and contrast that is available in the free app Stanza. I tested it with several visually impaired students and determined that Stanza was preferable for reading books on the iPad.
Calibre is a free, cross-platform e-book convertor. While it won't recognize DAISY, it will recognize HTML documents. Firefox can open up the XML file in the DAISY book folder downloaded from Bookshare. Using Firefox, you can convert the XML file to an HTML file that Calibre recognizes and retains most of the book's format, including images in the DAISY book. This is particularly useful for NIMAC sourced textbooks that rely heavily on graphics.
During the Welcome Wizard, I set up Calibre to save files to an eBook folder I created in my Documents folder. While I chose the iPad as my Output Profile, it did not stick and had to be selected again in Calibre's Common Options Preference pane. The Base Font size can be adjusted in the Common Options Preference pane as needed by the intended reader. Calibre takes the HTML file and converts it to an epub file, saving it in a folder sorted by the author.
I wanted to find a way of transferring the epub book to the iPad without having to worry about syncing the iPad each time. Dropbox proved to be perfect for this. A teacher can share a folder with the student and use it to transfer the book to the iPad wirelessly. This is especially helpful the majority of our students are served using the itinerant model and the teacher can get the book on the iPad remotely.
While Dropbox cannot open the epub, it will transfer the book to the Stanza app. Once in Stanza, the text can be adjusted to the reader's preference for size and contrast. The iPad's built in Zoom can provide even further magnification if needed.
I understand this is a bit laborious and I am looking for a method to automate the process. I needed a way that would work on both Macs and Windows as our schools are cross platform. I also wanted to focus on a method using free software as we are a school system and budget is a concern.
What you need
Note that all of these applications and apps are free.
- On your own computer, install these - they will all install correctly on Windows, Mac, and Linux-based computers:
- Onto the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch where you want the books, install these (links are directly to the App Store):
After you have unzipped the downloaded book from Bookshare, these are the steps to take on your own computer:
- Open Firefox. Use the File>Open File command and open up the XML file in the Bookshare book's folder.
- In Firefox, select File>Save Page As. Navigate to your preferred folder (I created one called eBooks for this purpose), rename the file to the book's title with the extension ".html" and in the Save As drop down box, select Web Page, Complete. Quit Firefox.
- Open Calibre. Add the HTML file you created in step 2 to your Calibre library. For larger NIMAC books, especially ones with lots of graphics, this can take a long time. You will need to add the author's name as this is not picked up by Calibre.
- Select the book in the Calibre library list and choose the Convert Book icon. You can adjust the Base Font Size by clicking on the Look & Feel icon in the left pane. Click the OK button to process it.
- Navigate to the author folder created by Calibre. Open the book folder and find the .epub file created by Calibre. Transfer it into your Dropbox.
The next steps must be taken on the iPad (or iPhone or iPod Touch) where you want the book to be read:
- Open the Dropbox App on the device. Select the book you transferred in the previous step. After Dropbox attempts to open it on your iPad, you will get a message that Dropbox cannot open the file. This is fine. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, select the "Transfer to" icon. Select Stanza from the list.
- Stanza will open up and import the book. You can now read it the book in Stanza, adjusting the font, text and background colors to your preference. Images will not be magnified but you can use the iPad's Zoom feature to enlarge them if necessary.
- David H Cohen