Thursday, July 29, 2004

Last week I was reading the Sunday paper (the San Jose Mercury News) and I saw a speech that Jeff Skoll gave upon receiving a major philanthropy award. It was great to read about the nice things he had to say about Benetech in his Commonwealth Club speech!

I also saw an article in the Mercury yesterday about the Social Entrepreneurs boot camp at Santa Clara University. This event has gotten some great press and news around the field, and I will presenting there on Wednesday and participating on the business plan review panel on Friday. I'm looking forward to hearing from these entrepreneurs, some of whom we are already working with.

These are just two manifestations of the progress the social entrepreneurship field is making. We need to keep the momentum up!

Monday, July 26, 2004

As some of you know, we started providing newspapers and magazines through Bookshare.org as  a prototype project with NFB's Newline project.   I just received a user email that made me excited.  I checked back and was granted permission to quote this!

Since the NFB convention in Atlanta, I've been periodically downloading the national magazines that have been made available. This morning I downloaded The New York Times. It's hard to conveny to my sighted friends what it's like to be able to sit down and read a publication as this at the same time that they've purchased the same publication. Thank you so much for your efforts and dedication. The real plus is that I can "read" the various publications without cluttering my house or recycling bin with paper.

Also thank you for the ability to download books on so many subjects. With the work of the team at Benetech and the various volunteers who scan and send the books a dream has come true for so many of us. What a treat to be able to download Bill Clinton's book on the same day that it hit the bookstores. The same is also true of the 911 report. Thanks for a job well-done.

Warmest regards from a voracious reader
Phyllis Herrington



Tuesday, July 20, 2004

After a great vacation with my family, I'm back in town for a while, working on strengthening our team. In addition to recruiting for a senior manager for our Bookshare.org enterprise, we have just opened up a position for a new Vice President of Marketing.

It's exciting to build our team further, and I am especially looking forward to talking to our leading candidates. From my discussions with many top people over the past years, it's clear that quite a few are burning with the desire to mesh their business background with an opportunity to serve society. If you know of someone outstanding, please send them the link to our openings.

Benetech needs more management bandwidth to tackle our expanding needs and opportunities.  These are rare opportunities, and I know that we will be able to find the right people to build Benetech to the next level. 



Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I had the honor of addressing the National Federation of the Blind Convention this past week. We aren't ready to release the press release, but I did get the ok to post my remarks. Here they are:

Remarks for the NFB 2004 Convention on Bookshare.org and Newsline
Jim Fruchterman, President, Benetech

Hello, Federation!!

The dream of Benetech has been to make print access for the blind as easy as it is for the sighted. Even easier if we can! We have been pursuing this dream for over fifteen years, first with our affordable Arkenstone Open Book reading machines, and for the last two years with Bookshare.org.

Bookshare.org is a place on the Internet where people can work together to make accessible books available to the blind. The number one source of our books are blind people volunteering to make the books they scan available to the rest of the community of blind people. Blind people pick the books in Bookshare.org. Who's in charge of our collection? You are!

Bookshare.org also gets many books from other active volunteers who share our passion for independent literacy, as well as directly from publishers. For example, we had Bill Clinton's biography up on Bookshare.org the day it hit the bookshelves. And if you aren't interested in reading that particular book, there are 18,001 other books to choose from! Once you download a book, you can listen to it using VisuAide's Victor Reader software, or access it in Braille using your Braille display or notetaker.

But, books are not enough! And, we're delighted to announce here at the 2004 Convention, that we are partnering with NFB Newsline to include newspaper and magazines on Bookshare.org. If you reside in a state that funds Newsline, your Bookshare.org account will automatically include access to newspapers. If you live anywhere in the United States, you'll have access to magazines.

Now, we're just starting with a prototype program with a small number of newspapers and magazines, but our plan is to add more steadily throughout this year. We already have USA Today, the Economist and the New Yorker on line.

What does this mean? More choices for the blind! Not only can you access Newsline by telephone as most of you here already do, you can also download the paper in any other way that works for you. For Braille readers, this means today's newspaper today - in Braille! If you have a Braille notetaker, you can load up the newspaper and read it in Braille on the commute to work or school. If you have speech technology, you can use that to listen to it. If you use magnification technology - magnify it to your heart's content!

Newsline and Bookshare.org together give you the power to access the newspaper your way, every day. That's first class access! Better than what sighted people have. Please come down to the exhibit hall and see today's USA Today for yourself. Sign up for Newsline! Sign up for Bookshare.org. Bookshare.org and Newsline - today's newspaper today, in Braille, speech and large print. You're in charge!