The Learning Library and the Publishers
There are three potentially interesting strands of development at the moment in the world of publishing:
- Large print on demand.
As you may know, publishers are increasingly using "print on demand" companies to produce their titles, especially after the initial run. Lightning Source, a US-owned member of the Ingram Group and the largest on demand printers in the UK, are developing a catalogue of over 7,000 titles which with the publisher's agreement they are also able to offer through normal retail outlets in large print. Most of the titles will be coming on stream by the end of 2006, some are already available. See www.lightningsource.co.uk or talk to their David Taylor or Suzanne Wilson-Higgins.
The challenge for Lightning Source, for publishers, booksellers and above all ourselves is to ensure that this initiative is a success, to wake up the latent market which we are sure exists and to persuade people to go and ask for these titles. We also need to persuade the public library sector to find the funds to buy them.
There has been much talk of a particular promotion by the Borders chain of bookshops, but it is far from certain that this will go ahead.
The project is seen as a one year pilot, so it will be important to demonstrate during that period that there is a market.
Large print through mainstream retail outlets seems to be much more commonplace in the States.
- The Trusted Intermediary Project.
"As a result of discussions chaired by the DTI and involving RNIB, NLB, Publishers and relevant Trade Associations, a Feasibility Project has been initiated to investigate the potential for bringing about a significant increase in accessible book products for blind and partially sighted people. Central to the project is investigation of the extent to which published material can be made available to RNIB in digital form, then converted and processed into large print, Braille and audio products. Investigations will include looking at the feasibility of bringing these accessible products in to mainstream bookshops as well as through existing distribution methods and new online services. The project is complex and involves a wide range of stakeholders and interests. Despite the challenges involved, there has to date been a great consensus of all those involved in their commitment to undertake this work and their support for the overall objective. Planning for this project is currently in progress, with detailed work due to commence on the Feasibility in June. It is hoped that the Feasibility Project will report its recommendations by the end of the year.
The project is being led by Steve Tyler, RNIB who is the project sponsor, and managed by Jim Russell, an independent project manager. A steering group with broad representation and chaired by Michel Woodman of the DTI has been established along with a smaller project management team with representatives from The Publishers Licensing Society, The Booksellers Association, Book Industry Communication and RNIB. These representatives are coordinating the input required from other organisations and individuals.
Please bear in mind that at present, this is only a Feasibility Project. There have been no overall commitments by Publishers, DTI or for that matter RNIB to end solutions. Whatever the Feasibility Project recommends will also need to be subject to wider consultation and approval before subsequent implementation of recommendations."
There is a lot of support for this scheme, but we have as yet failed to find funding for it, or for any subsequent projects.
- "Daisy Books for All".
A biography of Sir John Wilson entitled "Blindness and the Visionary" will shortly be published as a "Daisy Book for All" - although this may not be the term finally chosen. This will be a print book with a Daisy CD Rom in the back cover with full Daisy text and audio. Sir John was the founder of Sight Savers International.
Last year we went to great lengths to ensure that Harry Potter and the half Blood Prince came out simultaneously in braille and print. This meant not only that blind kids could read it on the same day as their sighted peers, but that we could demonstrate our ability to handle such a valuable text securely. On the other hand, we were only able to sell the braille at the recommended retail price for the print by heavily subsidising the project. Bloomsbury, the Harry Potter publishers, themselves brought out a large print version simultaneously, but priced it at almost double the standard print. Several people also had difficulty ordering the large print through bookshops because of shortcomings in the latter's information systems.
We want to go for a few similar high profile simultaneous publications during the coming year, though in what formats and on what financial terms is still open for discussion.
You may wish to read "Chapter and Verse", a leaflet which we published on 28th February 2006 urging authors and publishers to become more involved. The text is available on the RNIB's Right to Read website (external link)
We have growing interest and support amongst publishers and the rest of the book industry, but a continuing stubborn refusal on the part of the Government to commit any funds.
Article by: David Mann, Campaigns Officer, RNIB UK.