Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Acquiring and Reading Books on iOS Devices

Your iOS device is a wonderful key to reading books accessibly as a blind person. I do the majority of my reading on my iPHONE and have done so for years now. For most of my life, the choice of what I could read and when I could read it depended on the efforts of libraries for the blind. By the time I got to read a best seller, let alone something more obscure, it was years after my sighted friends and family had read it and stopped thinking about it. If you were truly desperate to read a popular book while your friends were, you could pay five times as much as your friends paid for a paperback book to get an audio edition on CD. Over the past decade, a great deal of change has taken place. Thanks to the rise in popularity of ebooks and audio books, those days are gone for good.

Apps like iBOOKS, Kindle, Audible, and Voice Dream Reader let blind people tap into commercial sources of books paying the same as everyone else does for precisely the same books while they're still brand new to everybody. These books can be read on a Braille display, high-quality synthetic speech, or narrated by a professional human reader depending on your choice of book provider and personal preference. No extra work need be done by charitable organisations to make this astounding historic change possible. Instead, the work is done by the companies providing the books in Ebook or digital audio formats. They invest in making certain their apps are accessible to Voiceover, Apple's built-in screen-reader. This allows the accessing of Ebooks by reading them out loud or translating them into Braille on the fly and sending the result to a Braille display.

Twenty years ago, I walked the hallways of my school weighed down by a backpack containing around forty pounds of Braille volumes containing what I hoped were the right fractions of my text books for the day's classes. People too close behind me when I turned a corner were apt to be crushed into a wall. It's now possible for blind people to own a vast library far exceeding 1000 accessible books and cary it with them in a pocket. This has profoundly liberated me. Now the books I read are precisely the books I wish to. Although I still make use of a digital library for the blind, the bulk of what I read are books I have purchased paying the same price as any sighted reader would. Below, I'll discuss the various sources of audio and Ebooks which I make use of as well as the apps needed to acquire and read books.

iBooks: Bookstore, Shelf and Reading Room Combined

Apple tends to favour convenience and simplicity. You see this in all of its stores and apps. Using the iBooks app, you are able to purchase and read books including audio books all from within the same app. The interface is very accessible and intuitive. There's no need to have mastered browsing the web or to register accounts with different book vendors. Everything is handled through your Apple ID. For new users, this is especially compelling. Well over a million books are made available on iBooks. Keep in mind, however, that publishing isn't Apple's core business. You may find that the book you want isn't available as an iBook. This is especially true for books which are off the beaten path of best sellers. Also, other book vendors are far more aggressive with pricing and offering bargains. This makes a tremendous difference if you're buying books all the time. There are free books as well as ones you pay for. Like other ebook publishers, there are special sales and offers. However, obtaining a large library of ebooks will cost you more than it would on Amazon Kindle or other venues. You can get audio books as well but they can be gotten more cheeply elsewhere presuming patience and discipline.

There are tabs across the bottom of the screen which, when double-tapped, expose different areas of activity. In this case, from left to right, they are: "My books", "Features", "Top Charts", "Search", and "Purchased". At the top of the screen, there is an action area containing options which change contextually depending on the tab you're in.

My Books:

In the "My Books" tab where you start initially, you will first encounter a "grid view" button. This toggles between showing your collection as a list or a grid of books. Double-tapping the button will cause it to change to a grid view. I recommend leaving this alone as a list view with books in a sequential line is easier to navigate. Flicking right of that button, you will come to a series of buttons concerning which of your book collections you want to focus on and how to organize them. Tooks in a series will be grouped together. Double-tapping on the series will take you to a list containing only the books in the series. 


In the "features" tab, the action area at the top contains a "category" button and two further buttons allowing you to select between regular books and audio books narrated by human readers. This is a busy area with headings and buttons giving quick access to books being currently featured. Think of it as special displays and sales found in a traditional bookstore. Set the rotor to headings to make navigation faster and easier. Flick up and down to reach different headings. There are more headings than you think. Flick right to move off a heading and flick down to another heading. Flick left and right to explore item by item. There will be books and also buttons giving access to selections of books. The main features page attempts to show as many different things as possible so these buttons give access to more content belonging to a certain collection. Look especially for "see alll" buttons. iBOOKS is full of them. They let you see all of the books in a feature of interest. This lets the "Features" area pack a whole lot more variety in a confined space.

Top Charts:

This tab lets you look at what books are currently the most popular. There are charts for top paid and free books. Use the "see all" button under the heading to get access to all entries in the top chart you're interested in. Also, note the "categories" button at the top left. It lets you choose a category such as history, reference, science fictionn. You can then look at the paid and free top charts of books in that category. Looking at the various top charts under the "free" heading seems to be the best way of browsing free titles. There must be thousands available but other than using the free top charts, there seems to be no way of restricting your searches to free titles.


This lets you search for specific titles or authors. After double-tapping the "search" tab, touch the top left of the screen and flick right. You'll come to an edit field where you can input one or more terms to search for. Double-tap this to indicate your intention to type in that area. Voiceover will say "is editing". A keyboard has now appeared on the screen and you may type text into it. To the left of the space bar, there is a "dictate" button. Double-tap on this and listen for the short beep which lets you know that your devices is listening. Say the book title or author's name you're interested in and then wait or double-tap anywhere on the device to end dictation. When done typing or dictating, use the "search button which appears at the bottom right of the virtual keyboard. Because you're in an edit field, the tabs are not shown. Once you double-tap the "search" button, your device will execute the search.

Instead of enterring and typing anything in the search field, flick right and you'll discover a list of trending searches in the form of buttons. Double-tapping on these will execute the appropriate search as if you had typed it into the field at the top left. It's always good to be able to know what others are looking into.

After executing a search, touch the top left of the screen and flick right. You will soon be flicking over the results of your search. When you find the title of a book that interests you, double-tap on it. This puts you in the book's entry in the store. Think of it like focussing on a book rather than the rest of the store. The book entry will have a description and other information about the book. There will be reviews, ratings, and lots more. To obtain a book, find and double-tap the "get" button or the price of the book if the book isn't free. This price will be a button just like the "get" button. Follow the rest of the purchase procedure to acquire the book. It will then be downloaded into your library.

Reading iBooks:

To read your book, find and double-tap on the "My Books" tab. Touch the top left of your screen and then flick right until you come to the title of the book. There are buttons to help organise and search through your collection as it gets larger. Books will be automatically organised. If you have books in the same series, they'll be grouped under the series name. Double-tap to go deeper into any group or to open a book.

After double-tapping on a book title, you are placed inside the book. The "library" button found in the top left will take you out of the book and back to your library. While in book-reading mode, the action area at the top left of the screen below the status bar has buttons to help you navigate your book. Flicking right from "library" once gets you to the "table of contents" button. Double-tap this in order to browse through the sections flicking right to scroll through them in order. Double-tap on the section of the book which interests you. Had you kept flicking right, the "search" button would let you search for key words to quickly find areas of particular interest. Once you've selected a section, double-tap on its link to be taken to it. The final button in the action area is the "page bookmark" button. It can be on or off. Flick right once from that and you'll be on your book in the reading area. Using two fingers slightly spaced apart, flick them downward together on the screen to start your book reading continuously. Double-tap anywhere on the screen to pause or resume continuous reading. Using the rotor, you can also read by character, word, line, etc. This can be useful to determine how things are spellt. You can also jump to any notes, headings or links. You can create notes by turning the rotor to "edit" and flicking down to the option. You can also search for words or look up words once you've used the "text selection" rotor setting to highlight them.

Sometimes, you need to find text of a book by feeling around below the top of the screen. Once you find text from the book, flicking downwards with two fingers will start continuous reading. Swiping left or right with three fingers will move to previous and next pages. Books can have pictures and illustrations which aren't always described. Patience and exploring the screen and various options can really pay off.

Kindle Books:

I was absolutely overjoyed when word reached me in 2013 that Amazon had decided to make its Kindle app accessible using VoiceOver. There had been a way to read these book on Windows PCs but it was annoying and poorly implemented. Thankfully, the iOS app received some real loving attention from someone who understood what was needed to make it not only workable but a downright attractive means of reading books. All at once, over a million books including all the popular best sellers were rendered completely accessible and enjoyable.

The main business of Amazon is selling products made by others. It was selling ebooks long before Apple came up with iBOOKs. The books are read using VoiceOver which means you can use any of the voices available to the screen-reader. This includes extremely high-quality voices like Alex, andy of the Siri voices, and other well-known options. Prices of Kindle books are equal to or lower than iBOOKs prices. There are many more book sales and special bargains on the Kindle bookstore than on iBOOKs. Because VoiceOver is used for reading Kindle books, people who have Braille displays can use them to read any Kindle books in Braille translated on the fly into the format of their choice. Amazon also owns Audible. A feature called whispersync lets you buy the Audible book at a reduced price and then keeps track of your position in both the audio and ebook copies. Blind users can then switch at will between hearing a human narrate a book to reading it themselves in Braille. We've never had that flexibility before.

Kindle books are quite small files. I have nearly 1000 books and they take up just over 3 GB of space.

The Amazon Website:

You need to use the Amazon website to obtain Kindle books. Be certain to register with the correct Amazon site for your location. For Canadians, and for Americans, Some books are only offered in certain countries. Also, book deals and special offers may differ.

First, register an acount with Amazon on the appropriate site. Next, get the Kindle app from the app store on your iOS device. You can then open the app and will be presented with an option to register your device with the acount you created on the web site. Once that process is done, you will be ready to acquire and read Kindle books.

You can use your computer as well as your iOS device. The NVDA screen-reader, as well as other popular screen-readers like Jas for Windows, support reading Kindle books on the PC.

The layout of the Amazon web site will differ since there is a special mobile version which will be used on your iOS device. You can request the full desktop site be used but I don't recommend this. Better to get used to how both sites work or else just use the mobile site on your iOS device doing all your purchases with it.

Once you're logged in, find the "shop by department" link. This brings up a menu of links leading to different departments on Amazon. Go to "Kindle store". Once there, flick right and you'll cross lings which lead to Kindle devices and will come to "Kindle books". Activate that link to go to the entrance page to the Kindle books area. Now, any searches you do with the search facilities on the site will be focused on Kindle books.

You'll find headings highlighting various featured books and links to different sections and categories of the bookstore. If you find a book you want to buy or obtain if it's free, double-tap on the title to go to the book's entry on the site. Once there, you can read the book description, reviews, and other information. You can also buy the book. Free books require the same process as ones which cost money. You simply won't be charged. Search for a clasic book like Treasure Island to try obtaining a book. Many classic books are free and so are some modern ones. I haven't found a way to limit searches to free books or any way to browse all free books on the site. There are doubtless thousands.

Be sure to sign up for the Kindle Daily Deal newslettre. Also, each month, look through the Kindle monthly deals. You can get great books for very low prices. I've bought many great books by adding them to my wish list and waiting until they went on sale. You can sort your wish list by using the "list actions" link. Hitting that brings up options which you flick right through. Sorting is one of them and you can sort by price from low to high.

There's never a rush. Take your time and really explore the Amazon site. It pays off.

The Kindle App:

Kindle takes a different approach to interface than the iBOOKs app. When you open the Kindle app, you will either be in your library or else the book you were last reading when you closed the app. Most of the screen is used to display your collection of books or the book you're reading. The menu button at the top left gives access to options which you can then flick left and right through. Double-tap on the one you want. Just to the right of the menu button, there's a place to double-tap in order to dismiss the menu without choosing any options. If you haven't activated the menu, flicking right takes you to the name of the collection you're viewing such as the default "all items". Flick right again to get to the book browser. This lets you search for books in your library and in the Amazon catalogue. You can't purchase books directly from the app but you can add books to your wish list from this book browser.

While in your library, the menu gives options to search your library for a specific title or author, go into various collections of books and documents, accesss help and settings. Flicking left or right gets you through the options and double-tapping executes the one you're currently on. Touching the bottom right corner of the main library screen will get you to another small group of options. You can choose between viewing your full collection in the Amazon cloud or only the books on your device. You'll also find sorting potions there rather than in the menu.

Double-tap on a book title to enter the book.

Reading Books:

The first time you open a book, you'll be presented with information about it. You can go through this or close it. At that point, the whole screen is taken up with the book itself. Swiping down with two fingers starts continuous reading. Double-tapping anywhere on the screen will bring up a small menu of options plus a menu button. There are options in the small menu to leave a bookmark, change viewing options for the current book, access your notebook, and more. Hit the menu button to move from the internal book menu to the larger main menu. This main menu will be what you use most often. It includes a "library" button. Double-tap that to get out of a book and back to your library. It also provides access to the table of contents and lets you jump around in a book. Keep flicking right and you'll eventually get to the table of contents. Flick left to get to the option to return to the book and/or dismiss the menu.

Just remember that if you don't find an option you want in the menu you'reflicking through, find and double-tap the "menu" button to get to the main menu.

While reading, you can use a three-finger swipe left and right to turn pages. You can also use the rotor and all normal Voiceover controls to read by character, word, line, etc. The double-tap and hold gesture brings up yet more options to highlight things in a book, create notes in a digital notebook, look up definitions, share and copy passages of text and more. Great for study notes.

The app packs a lot of options into those three menus; the larger main menu, the minor menu reached by double-tapping and not holding, and the hidden menu accessed by double-tap and hold. If Voiceover hints are enabled, you'll get enough instructions to get you going. Exploration is rewarded. For example, the X Ray option is available in many books. This presents you with information about characters, people, and other important things like terms and concepts in books. Better than Cole's Notes but not available for all books. Another hidden gem is "popular highlights" which shows what others have taken the time to share as being particularly noteable.

Other Sources of Ebooks:

There are many smaller online stores and ebook publishers. This gives independant and new authors a lot more capability to sell their works. It also allows for different methods of funding and different selling arrangements. This makes books from independant authors and books on less popular topics accessible to blind people. I have many books on game creation and design which I've obtained from different sources of ebooks. I paid no more for these accessible books than any sighted customer would. It's exceedingly unlikely that any of these books would turn up in the CELA library, Bard, or other accessible libraries.

Keep in mind that these ebook providers don't have the same kind of resources as Amazon or iBOOKs. They are often very small businesses or even individual people with the skill to set up and run an online site. Depending on their skill and awareness of accessibility issues, their websites may be very different or tricky to use. Also, books may be less navigable due to lack of proper accessibility tags in the files. This won't matter as much for pleasure reading but would make referencing and study more difficult. People should be very comfortable with browsing the web if they want to take advantage of these different sources for books. The rotor is very useful getting to headings, links, buttons and other elements. I also recommend they obtain the Voice Dream Reader app from the app store. While not strictly necessary, it can make certain that you'll be able to navigate your purchased ebooks with relative ease and choose from a wide range of voices for reading.

When downloading using Safari, Once ou click on a download link for a book, flick right and you come to "open in" options. There is also a "more" button which lets you import the file into the app you want to use to read the file. You need not stick with the default options. The Voice Dream Reader app is great for dealing with EPUB, PDF and other formats provided there is no digital rights management or DRM protection. Kindle books usually have DRM and cannot be read outside of their own special app. However, these alternative sources of books don't use proprietary formats making for more options for reading.

Payment is easier if you have a credit card. Many places accept Paypal which can work directly from your bank acount if you set that up. This is useful for people who don't have credit cards. Applepay may be available in more places as time goes on. It can be used on Kickstarter. As with Paypal, you can add a bank card and use it rather than a credit card.

Some Sources of Ebooks:

Story Cartel:

Story Cartel offers free Kindle or PDF copies of books in exchange for your honest reviews of them. These reviews can be published on Amazon, Goodreads, or your own blog if you have one. The purpose is to form relationships between readers and authors. Remember that you have around a month after obtaining a book to post a review and give the link to that review to Story Cartel by completing the form related to the chosen book. You won't be able to obtain more books until you provide links to your reviews.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo:

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are often used to fund books which may be of interest. For example, role-playing game books are often funded through Kickstarter and released as pdf or epub files. These can be read using apps like iBOOKS or Voice Dream Reader. Many labours of love are crowd funded though these sites. For instance, a couple of books entitled You Are The Hero were crowd funded and written by Jonathan Green, a very knowledgeable author of Fighting Fantasy books. These books examined the history of this very popular series of adventure game books.

CRC Press:

This is a great place to get text books. Books sold as ebooks use the Vital Source bookshelf app and are in a proprietary format. You need to use the Vital Source bookshelf app to read these books. The Windows PC app is also very accessible. Both are designed to work with screen-readers. People looking for any sort of academic book should check this site out before giving up hope. They even go to the trouble of describing pictures and more visual items.

Bundle of Holding

This is a great resource for people interested in roleplaying games, game design, and creating believable fictional worlds. Books are offered in bundles reducing the cost and typically contributing to charities at the same time. Bundles have basic and bonus content depending on how much you decide to spend.

Drivethrough Fiction

This site offers a wide range of lesser known books including mysteries, romance, fantasy, horror and science fiction among other genres. Books are offered in PDF and other popular formats. They are watermarked to identify you as the purchaser. Annoying to hear read out loud on each page but makes it easy to move by pages searching for your own name.


This is a favorite source of books for me. Books are sold in themed bundles. These are written by indie authors and curated by people including authors who have a strong knowledge and interest in the genre or theme of the bundle. Bundles have a basic collection as well as a bonus tier which can be unlocked by paying more than a minimum amount which increases as more people purchase the bundle. Books are free from drm of any kind relying on the honesty of customers not to share books they've purchased. They are in pdf, epub and Kindle formats so there's certain to be one you can use with your favorite reading app. Once you've created an account with Storybundle, you can always download bundles you've purchased previously. A link to your personal download page is sent via email when you purchase a bundle. Usually, there's one bundle being featured on the site. If you click on the covers of books which interest you, a dialogue pops up letting you read about the book whose cover you double-tapped. Finding the "close" button requires feeling around on the screen. I often turn to Google to find out about books within a bundle but the dialogues are fully readable using Safari and Voiceover. Patience and exploration are rewarded here. There's an edit field where you can put in the amount you want to pay. The amount automatically in there is just a suggestion. Look at the bundle to see what the current minimum needed to unlock the bonus is. As long as you're a cent above that, you'l get all the bonus books. It changes as time passes.

Voice Dream REader:

Voice Dream Reader is an app which makes reading different kinds of documents simple and accessible. It can handle ebooks in pdf and epub formats provided they aren't protected by digital rights management or DRM.

It can't read Kindle or iBOOKs since these ebooks are protected by DRM. Many government forms and other documents are available online in PDF format which Voice Dream reader can handle. While reading forms is possible, filling them out isn't. While basic text editing is possible, think of Voice Dream Reader as a reading tool. It can handle zipped audio books including mp3 files and Daisy format books like those from the CELA library.

A real strength of this app is that you can treat documents like music literally playing them in the background. This would let you use your EarPod controls to play a book while on a bus without having to have your iOS device out of pack or pocket. It can work with the screen locked just like you can play music with the screen locked using your headset or earbut controls. For greater control, you need to unlock the screen and have your device handy. The app is designed to help more than just blind people. There are ways to change how documents are display so reading is easier for visually impaired people and people with other reading difficulties. These are found by double-tapping the "visual settings" button. This button is only revealed once a document has been opened for reading. Similarly, the "audio settings" button lets people customize how documents sound. Different synthetic voices can be acquired and managed. Speed, pitch and volume can be set. This app makes extensive use of pop-up menus. Clutter is kept to a minimum. For instance, the "add" button at the top left of the library reveals a pop-up menu of the many ways to ad documents to your library. The same holds true for settings, sorting options, and more.

The Library:

Whenever you open the app, you arrive at your library of documents available on your device. This library can be backed up to iCloud and/or stored and synched on iCloud drive and other devices where you have installed Voice Dream Reader. At the top left is the "add" button. This lets you add documents from different possible sources such as Dropbox, etc.

"Filter" is to the right of "add". You can organise documents into groups, view only documents from a certain source, or look at only flagged or unread documents. For a large collection of documents, creating folders is best. That's done in the "by folder" button in the "filter" pop-up. AFter hitting that, you'll find options to add folder and edit their order or names. You cannot create folders from the initial library screen.

"Edit" is found to the right of "filter" and lets you re-order, move, flag or delete documents. Double-tapping on a document selects it. This lets you select and move or do other things to many documents.

"Search" is found to the right of "edit" This lets you search for documents within whatever filter you're currently in. If you haven't created any folders or selected a certain group of documents, this would searrch the names of all files in your collection displaying those whose names contained what you typed in the search field.

After the search field, you reach the start of your collection of documents or what is within and filters you selected. This can be flicked through or scrolled through with three-fingered upward or downward swipes. Very useful with large collections containing many rows of documents.

The bottom right of the screen contains further options including:

"Sort": Lets you sort documents in different ways such as by date added, length, etc. Doubletapping this causes a pop-up menu of options to appear. Flick through them and double-tap what you want.

"List view" and "grid view": These two option arrange your collection of documents into a grid or list. I find the list view more useful.

"Settings": This causes a pop-up menu of settings to appear. These let you choose and manage cloud synchronisation, set up content sources like Bookshare, and manage or acquire voices to read your documents. You can also obtain help and a copy of the user manual if needed. The manual is short and takes under half an hour to read through. It is organised into headings. You should read this to get the most out of the app. There is also a shorter quick start guide.

"Now Reading": This will always take you directly to where you left off in the last document you were reading. It is always at the bottom right corner of the library screen. Double-tap it to use it.

When Inside a Document:

There are many more actions available from within a document.

"Home": This gets you back to the library screen and is found at the top left of the screen.

"Actions": This presents you with a series of choices letting you export or share the document. You can also edit the text and title of the document with the "edit" option found at the right end of the "action" pop-up menu.

"Reading settings": There are various reading modes to specify whether you stop after finishing a document, keep going through your collection, read by touching text with your finger, or other options. A timer is available which you can use to stop reading after a given time.

"Audio settings": This is where you can choose your preferred voice, obtain new voices, increase or decrease speed, volume and pitch. This lets you quickly make adjustments. Flick up or down on the audio setting button to adjust speed. Double-tap it to get to other options used less frequently. There are many voices available for $3 up to $6 Canadian. Purchased voices will be downloaded to your device and installed. You can always remove and download them again as needed once they've been purchased.

"Visual Settings": There are many options including colour, font, how many lines are visible, cursor position, and much more. These can help people with learning disabilities as well as vision impairments. Pac-man mode is said to help increase reading speed by eliminating words the cursor goes over.

"Add bookmark": You can add as many bookmarks to documents as you like. This can be useful when a document isn't well formatted and doesn't have headings to help navigate quickly through. Once bookmarks have been placed, you can move back and forth using the "headings, bookmarks and highlights" option or via setting the navigation unit to bookmark and then fast-forwarding or rewinding flicking up or down with the play button.

Reading and navigating through a document is done by easily operated controls. Under the area where the text is displayed, there are controls. Touch the bottom right of the screen and flick left or feel around on the lower left of the screen to find them. You can treat your document like it was music. Play and pause with the play button by double-tapping it or with your earpod controls. Flick up or down on the play button to move back and forward. Flick right of the play button to find a "navigation unit" button. This also responds to up or down flicks letting you choose how much flicking up or down on the play button moves you. This can depend on how well the document you're reading is formatted. Some don't have headings but still let you move by sentence, paragraph, page, etc. You can also move to the prior or next bookmark if you've created them in the document. If nothing else, you can always move by percentage of the document.

The CELA Digital Library:

This service offers a vast array of resources to people who are blind, visually impaired, or have other print disabilities such as learning difficulties preventing them from reading print. These include audio books, magazines, newspapers, and much more. There is no charge for library patrons to use these resources. To register with the web site, people will need to know their library account number. If they don't know their account number or need assistance, they should call:


There is a "help" link near the top of the site. This gets you to tutorials and instructions very useful for newcomers to the service. Calling the number given on the site will put people in touch with helpers who can talk you through any initial difficulties and explain things.

Anybody who used the CNIB digital library before in became the CELA library will have a valid library account number. They will likely find they are already registered in the system.

AFter registration is complete, you can make use of the library and services. People who haven't logged in may still explore the site and gain a good grasp of what is there.

General Overview:

People need to be comfortable browsing the web to make good use of the site. Provided beginners take their time, it is a good site to learn how to browse the web on. No risk of accidental purchases since there's nothing to buy. It has been designed for maximum accessibility and is very easy to navigate. Flicking left and right will get you through the various elements. There are headings marking different key portions of the site and the rotor is very useful for getting around quickly.

My Library:

Near the top of the page is the "My Library" link. This gets you to where you can customise and manage your service. You can view information on any loans or books you've placed holds on. You can create reading lists. Also, you can change your personal information and password. There are links and heading to help get around. You can change search preferences here including which accessible formats to include in search results. I did this when I heard about Daisy Text magazines being made available the same day they're published in print. By ticking a checkbox, I added the format to my results. I unticked many formats which don't interest me such as Daisy CDs and other physical ones. If you own a Braille display, books are available in electronic Braille formats. However, I have yet to find an app which makes reading them easy. Voiceover tanslates regular ebooks into Braille. You could therefore use Voice Dream Reader to read Daisy text format books on your Braille display.

After adjusting preferences or other settings, keep flicking right and look for a "save" button which you can double-tap to save any changes you made.


This area features popular books and recommendations based on current community favorites. Headings separate different groups of recommendations and make browsing through possible next reads very easy. There are best sellers, books focussed on a current area of public interest, community picks, and reader suggestions. There is also information on how you can suggest books for recommendation to others as well as suggest titles to be added to the collection.

Searching for and Checking Out books:

On the home page, you'll find a form which lets you do simple searches. If you know the title or author of the book you're interested in, type it in that form and flick right to the search button and double-tap it. This will perform the search. Wait around five seconds for the first page of results to load. Each found entry is under its own heading.Turn the rotor to headings flicking down to get to the next entry and up to go backwards. Flicking right will let you read any information displayed about the entry. This will include a description. You will come across a "play" button letting you hear samples of audio books in Direct to Player format. You'll also come to a "get it" button for each entry. Double-tap on this to check out the book. Direct to play titles will be added to your bookshelf. For other titles such as the new magazines in Daisy Text format, you'll need to download them to your reading app of choice. In Safari, you'll fine an "open in" button with a default app which may be what you want. If not, there's a "more" button. Double-tap that for additional options to appear in a pop-up menu. One of these will be "import to Voice Dream Reader " if you have that app installed.

To the right of that "search" button used with the simple search form, there are "advanced search" and "browse by category" options. These let you perform more detailed searches or simply look at what fantasy, science fiction or non-fiction titles are available. When using the browse by chategory option, a search is performed after you choose a category and results are ordered by date added. Some categories have subcategories. Take time to examine the site and learn your options.

The Newsstand:

This gives access to newspapers and magazines. Headings indicate the start of different areas. There are headings for newspapers, audio magazines, Daisy text magazines and other sources of news. Once at a heading of interest, flick right to go through the contents of that area. There's plenty of help available. For instance, when looking through newspapers, you'll find a "help with newspapers" link right above the list of available newspapers.

Direct To Player:

The Direct to Player app lets people read a large and growing collection of Direct to Player format audio books in the CELA library. The app is very simple to use. Books in Direct to Player format are typically read by human narrators. People who struggle with browsing the web can have librarians automatically keep their bookshelves stocked with titles suiting their interests. The Direct to Play format makes it possible for other devices made solely to play these books more easy to keep stocked as they can receive books automatically.

Overall, this app is relatively easy to use. You don't even need the rotor gesture but it can get you quickly to the top of your bookshelf if it's set to headings. The other key gesture to master is the double-tap and hold. Tap twice and after the second tap, don't lift your finger. Wait for a popup menu to appear with useful options. Since your bookshelf can be stocked automatically by CELA librarians based on your prefered interests, you don't even need to browse the web to get books. Learning to do this and access the CELA library by yourself will increase your enjoyment though.

Your Bookshelf:

There are two tabs found on the bottom right. The one you start out in is "books". This has your bookshelf. Double-tap on a book to open it for reading. Double-tap and hold after the second tap to access options other than reading the book. These include getting details about a book, downloading a book to read while unconnected to the Internet, removing a book from your bookshelf returning it to the library. You can only have a certain number of books checked out at a time so it's important to return them when you're done reading them. To do this, Double-tap and hold on a book title. Hold your finger down until a beep is heard followd by the book's title. Flick right to go over options until you come to "remove from bookshelf". Double-tap on this option. If you've downloaded the book, it will be deleted from your device. Next, when you double-tap the ok button that appears, the book will be removed from your shelf and is no longer checked out to you.

Reading and Navigating a Book:

Double-tap on a book to open it. Once a book is opened, you'll find options letting you hear it and navigate. At the top left is the "back" button which returns you to the library. Flick right to reach other options. The book title is next followd by a "contents" button. Double-tap this to get into the contents screen which lets you get to any section in the book. Flick right to go through this screen. Double-tap on what interests you to jump to that part of the book which will begin playing automatically. Next to the contents button, you'll find the label of whatever section of the book you're reading.

Next to that is a button letting you select a unit of navigation. It might be labelled "chapter", "sentence", "paragraph", "time jump", etc. Double-tapping it toggles to the next setting.

Next is "player settings". You can set playback rate and time jump amount in this area. Previous, next and play buttons come next. These do what their names say. The play button is just above the home button in the centre of the lower edge of the screen. Double-tap it while a book is playing to pause reading. A two-finger double-tap anywhere on the screen will also pause and resume playback.

There is also a sleep timer. You'll find it to the right of the "play" button. Double-tap this and then flick right to find the number of minutes you want reading to continue before it stops.

Last is create bookmark. You can have as many bookmarks as you like in books you have currently checked out. They are deleted when the book is removed from your shelf.

The "More" tab:

In here, you'll find other things like settings. The "help" button is a few flicks from the top left and gives instructions for using the app. The "app settings" button lets you choose whether or not to have hints on. These give extra guidance as you move around the app. Another important setting is whether to allow cellular data to be used to stream and download books. I recommend people use their WIFI when available as books can be large. Some are half a gig.

Quirks to Be Aware of:

Sometimes, you'll try to open or play a book and it won't work. You'll hear repeated beeeping. You may also find that a book fails to be returned when you try that. If these things happen, close the app, re-open it, and try again. You may also find open dialogues saying "server error". These only occur when Direct to Player is running. Just hit the ok button and it'll go away. It's a free service so don't expect the same level of polish and perfection you experience using a commercial service like Audible.


For me, this new ability to tap into digital libraries and make use of the same commercial sources of ebooks available to the general population has been one of the most astonishing and liberating expansions of capability I've every experienced. I hope what I've written here helps others to become more liberated in their reading as I have. Even on a fixed income, it's possible to enjoy what your friends and family are reading at the same time as they are. Over time, you can build a staggeringly large collection and have it with you whereever you happen to be. Pick your moments and keep a sharp ear out for sales. There are doubtless many sources I have remained unaware of. Those whichf I've covered above have kept me well supplied with books. May they serve you well also.

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