Bookshare to Convert Open Content Textbooks to Accessible Formats
Our new announcement about the Department granting Bookshare supplemental funding to convert open content textbooks to accessible formats went over very well. We're promising to do highly accessible versions of 80 open content textbooks. There's even a quote from Governor Schwarzenegger in the press release!
Accessibility is a huge asset of open content materials, which are frequently released under the Creative Commons licenses and are freely distributable. Since they are open, we can get them and do the adaptations for accessibility. We also can (and do) make them freely available on our website. That's a huge difference compared to copyrighted works that we convert under the copyright exemption, which we have to keep under tight controls to restrict copyrighted works to only the use of people with bona fide print disabilities in the U.S. These new textbooks will be available to everybody, with or without a disability, for free, globally. They should be great examples of accessible textbooks, and allow teachers in training to access them, parents, assistive technology developers and so on. It's also a chance for us to start looking to the best ways of making these textbooks more usable for more people.
I recently blogged about seeing David Wiley's talk about Flat World Knowledge, the open content textbook company (for-profit, but giving away the digital versions of their textbooks for free under CC licenses), at the BYU ESR conference. We've been big fans of OERs and CC licensing, and it seems like the field is on the brink of really going to scale. Our mission is to make more of these materials matter to many more people: how can OERs be directly usable by millions of people?