By Tai Blas
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), a nonprofit organization, has been providing literature and textbooks on compact disk and digital audio formats to blind and learning disabled students for quite a few years now. At the program’s inception, these digital audio books required specialized players to be heard, and more recently, free software for Windows-based computers and the Apple Macintosh was made available to eligible students and their schools. However, until now, there was no way to read a book from RFB&D using a mobile platform such as the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.
Now, this has changed! For $19.95, users of the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4, iPad and iPod Touch third generation or later can purchase an app that will enable RFB&D books to be read on these popular devices.
I was able to get this app up and running in no time. The instructions I am supplying here assume that you are using a PC, although intermediate Mac users should be able to interpret these instructions as well. I also assume that VoiceOver is running on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (For the sake of convenience, I will refer to these devices collectively as the “iOS device.”)
I first went to www.rfbd.org and logged in to my account. If you do not have an account, there is a link to sign up. Many schools have RFB&D accounts for students to use, but it is advantageous for students to get their own individual accounts.
RFB&D offers free individual memberships for eligible individuals who experience difficulty reading print material.Visit http://www.rfbd.org/membership to find out more. To become a member, you will need to provide proof of disability to RFB&D through documentation from a qualified professional such as a doctor, teacher of the visually impaired or vocational rehabilitation counselor.
Once you have an account and can log on to the site, you will need to download RFB&D’s download manager and install it on your computer. Then, search the book catalog and add books to your shopping cart. The books that can be played using the new app for iOS devices are the DAISY versions–not the WMA-formatted books.
Once you are satisfied with the books you have added to your cart, you can click the checkout link. You will be asked to confirm your account and shipping information. Once you click the confirm order button, the digital books you chose will be available under the “my downloads” link. Click that link and then click on any of your books. A file will be downloaded to your computer. Make sure you know where this file is being saved, as you will need to access it again. After it has finished downloading, locate that file and click on it or press enter. The file will then open the RFB&D download manager. At this point, your book will begin downloading from RFB&D into the download manager.
The download manager creates two folders called RFBD downloads and RFBD Media Files. By default, these folders are created within the “my documents” folder. Navigate to the RFBD downloads folder and open it. You will see folders for each of the books you have downloaded. Click on the folder containing the book you would like to read. You will then see a zip file containing the entire book. This is the file that you will transfer to your iOS device through the file sharing utility in iTunes.
If you have not done so already, use iTunes on your computer or from your iOS device to search for and download the RFB&D Audio app. Sync your device so that the app is installed.
Before you begin the process of transferring books, make sure that the RFB&D app on your iOS device is closed and cleared from the app switcher.
Open iTunes on your computer and navigate to your iOS device in the tree view. Tab down until you reach the radio buttons and activate the one labeled “apps.” Tab until you get to a table/tree view labeled “file sharing apps”. In that list, select the RFB&D audio app. Tab to the “add” button and press enter. Tab down to the “look in” dialog and make sure that iTunes is looking in the correct location. If iTunes is not already looking for the file in “my documents,” tab to the list view and locate the my documents folder using the arrow keys or use backspace to navigate out of the current folder and locate my documents. Once iTunes is set to look in my documents, use the list view to navigate to the RFBD downloads folder. Hit enter. Find the folder containing the book you would like to upload to your iOS device and press enter. Once in the book folder, select the file containing the book. The file name will end with .zip. Select that file and tab to the “open” button and press enter. This file has now been added to the upload list for the RFB app, and your iOS device will automatically begin to sync the book to your device. You will hear a series of three tones from your iOS device when it is finished syncing. Do not do anything until the sync is complete.
At this point, use your iOS device to open the RFB&D audio app. You will hear guitar music as the zip file is being expanded for use on your device, and a message will appear stating “expanding x/y” where x represents the number of the book being expanded and Y represents the total number of books needing to be expanded. When done, the app will announce “finished expanding the book data. Double tap the OK button. Your books will show up and you can double tap on them. You are now presented with a screen containing a table of contents button, a start button, and a series of options you can select including TOC (table of contents), page or bookmark. These will let you navigate according to those three options. By default, you are placed in the table of contents. If you click on pages or bookmarks, you will be presented with a screen listing either one of these navigation options. Click on the section you would like to read. The book is then read by human voice.
From left to right along the bottom of the screen are a button to control zoom to magnify the on-screen options, a speed button which opens variable speed and pitch controls, a button to go to the previous section, a button to play or pause the playback, a button to go to the next section, a button to change navigation level, and a button to add a bookmark. Level navigation allows you to choose which level of the text you wish to hear. Levels are much like headings and are dependent on the layout used in the DAISY recording. For example, level one might be used for chapters while level two might be used for subsections of the book. Higher level numbers indicate more divisions within the book. This makes navigation extremely easy. The app allows for excellent speed and pitch adjustment, and the book can be read at up to 2.5 times faster than the original recording. The app will automatically remember where you left off in each book and will begin reading there when you return. From the main screen of the book, you can select to navigate by pages. Once you click the pages button, you can swipe up and down in the pages list and choose the page to which you would like to navigate. Navigation by section, page, or bookmark is extremely simple.