Presentation: Seven Ways to Read a Book

Original Author(s): George Kerscher and Lynn Leith

Review of Digital Reading Formats

Reading Experience

  • Is the reading experience enjoyable? Is it frustrating?
  • Are you confident that what you are reading is exactly what is in the original publication - is it accurate, is it complete?
  • Is it portable, can you take it with you?
  • Are text display and audio synchronized?


  • Can you go to chapters, sections - quickly?
  • Can you go to chapters, sections - easily?
  • Can you go to a specific page?
  • Can you go to the previous and next pages
  • Can you search the whole book or only a chapter at a time?
  • Is movement/navigation through the book by headings meaningful and useful?
  • Can you move through the book page by page?
  • Can you place bookmarks in the book?


  • Can you use it with a wide range of Assistive Technology (AT)?
  • Can it be used with a wide range of commercial tools?
  • Are books actually available, if not, can you get what you need easily and quickly?


PDF Advantages

  1. File format most available from publishers
  2. Preserves page presentation (useful for individuals with some disabilities)
  3. Better than OCR, because the characters are recognized correctly (lower error rate)
  4. Text display and audio playback are synchronized

PDF Disadvantages

  1. Limited to certain platforms and with certain Assistive Technology
  2. Some PDF files are completely inaccessible, but you don't know until you try
  3. Reading order of content may not be the same as the print book
  4. Some of the information may not be accessed
  5. Navigation to a specific page may be not be possible or may be unreliable
  6. In many cases, there is no heading navigation - dependent upon tagging
    (it is possible to add structure to PDF)


MP3 Advantages

  1. Easy to use if you just want to navigate sequentially file by file
  2. Bookmark feature/marking feature available with some mp3 players
  3. Can be read with a wide range of commercially available tools
  4. Portable
  5. Reading can be pleasant, not tiring
  6. Commercially available format, applied minimally to study material

MP3 Disadvantages

  1. Cannot go to a specific point within a file
  2. Cannot go to a specific page unless each page is an mp3 file
  3. No content search functions
  4. Easy linear movement through the book by headings - but it's not meaningful
  5. The reading experience may be frustrating


ASCII Advantages

  1. Word searching supported (but not necessarily meaningful)
  2. Text display and audio playback are synchronized
  3. Accessible with a wide range of technology
  4. Small file size
  5. Portable

ASCII Disadvantages

  1. No structure to support navigation by heading
  2. Limited number of characters supported
  3. Because it is absolutely linear, it is easy to lose your place
  4. Cannot go to specific pages
  5. Searches for content are difficult

Microsoft Word

MS Word Advantages

  1. Word is the first application students learn, hence the application is widely known
  2. Widely available
  3. Works with a wide range of Assistive Technology (AT)
  4. Navigable when styles are appropriately and consistently applied

MS Word Disadvantages

  1. Not navigable when styles are not appropriately and consistently applied
  2. Page numbering may not correspond with the original print publication
  3. Searches for content are difficult (Cannot "find again" without starting from the beginning of the document)
  4. May not be able load a complete large book, it must be broken into chunks


HTML Advantages

  1. Widely available
  2. Supports navigation by heading if properly tagged
  3. Works with a wide range of AT
  4. Known Web surfing concepts apply

HTML Disadvantages

  1. Page numbers corresponding to the print are often not present
  2. May require multiple files
  3. May require on-line access


DAISY Advantages

  1. Reading is pleasant, not tiring
  2. Content should mirror the original publication
  3. Text display and audio may be synchronized - varies with type of DAISY book
  4. Easy to use, but offers complex functionality for those who want or need it
  5. Meaningful navigation by heading
  6. Accurate navigation by page - pages mirror pages in the original publication
  7. Navigation by previous and next page
  8. Meaningful content searching - varies with type of DAISY book
  9. Audio files may be portable to other devices
  10. Bookmarking is supported
  11. Adoption of the DAISY Standard and production of DAISY books are becoming more and more widely adopted and implemented

DAISY Disadvantages

  • Full DAISY functionality is limited to players supporting DAISY format

From the DAISY OK Specification:

DAISY OK defines the requirements for certification of DAISY players/reading systems and DAISY Digital Talking Books. DAISY OK further considers the importance of the relationship between books and players/reading systems and how this relationship should provide the best reading experience possible...

From the DAISY OK Specification: "DAISY OK DTB Introduction":

A DAISY DTB can be valid, and yet may not be "DAISY OK", and it is understood that not all valid Digital Talking Books (DTBs) produced by each producing organization will necessarily be "DAISY OK"...

A DAISY OK book must provide an enhanced reading experience, beyond what linear navigation in a commercial non-DAISY reading system (player) can provide. The structure of a DAISY OK DTB must be meaningful and provide navigation which corresponds to the structure of the original publication...

Commercial digital audio books support simple linear navigation, from one audio track to another. A DAISY OK DTB must have two or more "types" of navigation. A DAISY OK DTB must provide the user with more than one way to navigate the book...

DAISY was conceived out of a need for accessible information that is as good as or better than the access to information provided by print to those who use it.

The DAISY 2.02 Specification is the most broadly adopted access technology ever created. It is twice as popular as screen readers: there are approximately 100,000 screen readers, and over 200,000 DAISY reading systems (players) in the world.

It is our responsibility to give students with disabilities an opportunity to have a rich reading experience.

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This page was last edited by VLuceno on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 18:01
Text is available under the terms of the DAISY Consortium Intellectual Property Policy, Licensing, and Working Group Process.