bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
You and Yours - Transcript
BBC Radio 4
Print This Page
TX: 23.10.03 – NEW REPORT REVEALS THAT ONLY FIVE PERCENT OF BOOKS ARE ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS

PRESENTER: LIZ BARCLAY


BARCLAY
There are almost two million people in the UK with sight problems who can't read a standard print book, they need other formats such as large print, Braille or audio. But a new report from the RNIB reveals that only five per cent of books are ever made available in alternative formats. Even then they're usually more expensive and published weeks or even months after the standard versions and it's mostly charities, like the RNIB, that produce the alternative formats rather than the publishers. The RNIB is launching a Right to Read campaign to highlight the issue.

Bill Alker is partially sighted, he's an enthusiastic but restricted reader, as he told Mani Djazmi.

ALKER
At the moment I'm reading Richard Branson's autobiography what looks to be in size font 10, which is too small for me to read. I'm using the magnifying glass, it's a really large book, wow, it's got several hundred pages, possibly approaching 600 pages which makes it very difficult to hold with a magnifying glass and difficult to flick through the pages and get a really easy read.

DJAZMI
How many books do you have and of those how many are in large print?

ALKER
We have over 300 books in the house, unfortunately only two of them being the Great Gatsby and the Oxford English Dictionary are actually in large print.

DJAZMI
How widely have you searched? I mean I would surprised to hear that the big high street bookshops don't stock any books in large print.

ALKER
Well for me finding a large print book in a bookshop or a public library, it's a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Recently I was at Waterstones in Birmingham, which is a very well stocked, very good, shop but on asking whether there was a supply or availability of large print they had no large print books in stock.

DJAZMI
And are libraries equally as frustrating for you?

ALKER
I've all but given up attending public libraries, simply because my experience is there is - if there is large print available it's such a tiny selection. I can only assume that many of the publishers who produce large print books don't realise or take into account that there are approximately two million, if given the opportunity, would purchase books in large print. I certainly would buy more books in large prince.

BARCLAY
Bill Alker. In the United States books in different formats are far more easily available and they're often published at the same time as the standard print, so why can't we do it when they can? Sara Morgan is co-editor of Blindkiss.com and Sheila Bounford is executive director of the Independent Publishing Guild - a members' association for independent publishing companies. Sheila Bounford why are so few books published in formats that people with sight problems can use?

BOUNFORD
I think it's to do with how commercially viable it is for a publisher to produce a book in a different format. And in the UK at the moment the major purchasers of large print books have historically been libraries and their budgets are falling and the quantities of large print books that they're buying are also falling. So the usual print run of a commercially produced large print book these days can be as little as 500 copies and from that 500 copies the publisher has to make a profit.

BARCLAY
So you are saying that this is a commercial situation?

BOUNFORD
Yes.

BARCLAY
Sara Morgan you use a range of different formats yourself, what's wrong with the current services, such as the National Library for the Blind for instance?

MORGAN
Where do I start really. Five per cent of books that are produced in alternative formats, that means Braille, commercially available audio book and talking book from the RNIB and large print, of those five per cent obviously they focus on the mainstream, so I don't have a problem getting any Catherine Cookson, if I should want it, but if I want something a little bit different then no chance.

BARCLAY
But what about what Sheila Bounford has just said there? You know this is to do with - publishers are businesses, they can't really afford to, and you can't realistically expect them to produce more books in such a wide range of formats when very few of them are sold.

MORGAN
We're not actually asking them to do that, what we're asking them to do is to send the electronic versions of the books that they publish to the Braille producers at the same time as they send them to the printers. So that the books that we do get we get at a very similar time to everybody else.

BARCLAY
Sheila Bounford what about that?

BOUNFORD
Well I don't have any Braille producers in membership, so it's not really something that I can comment on. I did speak this morning to a producer of large print format books and they were saying that they do try to print and produce simultaneously where possible but it can be very difficult, particularly where publishers and editors are making changes to their manuscripts really very late in the whole publishing process and are very unwilling to release their material to the large print producers until a very late stage in the process. So it's to do with that maintenance of editorial control.

BARCLAY
So to come back to the question I asked, if they can do it in the States, why can't we do it here? In the USA the latest Harry Potter was available in audio on virtually the same day as the print.

BOUNFORD
Well again that's not really a question I can answer, except to say that probably in the US there is a much, much bigger market and therefore there's more market pressure to do exactly that.

BARCLAY
Sara Morgan, it is about market pressure.

MORGAN
Well I just don't get this really, I mean one of the things that we do in order to get access to books is scan the books and now it's perfectly legitimate in the light of the new Copyright Act for us to scan books that we buy for our own use. But because the publishers aren't taking any responsibility for this these books are getting shared on the internet, I am sharing books on the internet, which is precisely what they don't want, so we're told.

BARCLAY
So your message to the publishers is?

MORGAN
Do something, anything, engage in this process.

BARCLAY
Sara Morgan, from Blindkiss and Sheila Bounford, thank you both.



Back to the You and Yours homepage

The BBC is not responsible for external websites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy