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Old 03-22-2012, 12:38 AM   #1
North19
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Question Need advice on ereader for kid with visual issues

My eight-year-old son is a great reader-except that he has visual issues. He struggles with visual tracking and fatigue when reading. What I'm hoping for as features

* adjustable font size --esp making the text thick, not just bigger
* he can switch the background to black with white text (It may be other color combos would work too, but black words on white/e-ink screen is not ideal for him.)
* lots of kids' book selections available, especially library options
* as affordable as possible.
* reading fluency apps would be a big plus as well (though I know pricier). (NOT learn-to-read literacy apps: he can read individual words or short lines of big fat text at a sixth grade level or so, but he can't move his eyes across normal text well.)

If nothing under that $125 is worth buying, we can wait and save, but we'd be more motivated if we knew what made it worth the effort.

We're also willing to look at projector options, as we own a zillion kids' physical books, but haven't found anything that could take regular books and project them large onto a wall affordably.

Any tips from anyone on other ways to make reading easier for him are welcome too.

Thanks in advance.

Last edited by North19; 03-22-2012 at 12:41 AM. Reason: formatting
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Old 03-22-2012, 07:41 AM   #2
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What are your/his experiences with your two Entourage readers? Does he get along better with the eink or with the tablet side? Is reading on the bigger reader more convenient for him or on the Pocket Edge? Have you tried out some reading apps on the tablet side? I think, fbreader for instance lets you read in night mode.

For the thickness: this is device independent. If he's reading books in epub format you can change it in the css file. Maybe it is worth that you investigate a little bit in this direction, choosing a different font and font style may make a great difference.

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My eight-year-old son is a great reader-except that he has visual issues. He struggles with visual tracking and fatigue when reading.
My apologizes for my next proposal, I really don't want to give another parent "a good advice", but maybe you can help your son a little bit by securing that he doesn't read too much "in one session", but makes enough breaks and spends more time playing in the open air.
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Old 03-22-2012, 07:10 PM   #3
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I would look into tablets and LCD e-readers. As far as I know, there aren't any straight e-ink ereaders that will allow you to reverse the background to black, and text to white. But with tablets, there's an abundance of apps for both accessibility, and ereading.

I would be seriously shy of buying a tablet of any kind for under $125 - I've never seen one with even half-way decent reviews. Tablets that cheap have serious problems - terrible screens, wonky half-broken hardware, etc. Don't get a tablet that costs that little. You get what you pay for.

But there are some good options in the $250-and-under range. There's obviously the Kindle Fire, Kobo Vox, and Nook tablet, but honestly, these all have a hampered app store and other limitations, and you can get a tablet with full capabilities for the same price (and you can install the Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or any other ereading apps on any tablet).

The Lenovo IdeaPad A1 has good reviews, and is $200. For about 50 bucks more, the HTC Flyer and Acer Iconia Tab are also good options. My dad has a Dropad A8 which is about $170. It's a decent, solid little tablet, but it's got a pretty old Android OS on it and obviously the specs are a little dated now. Still, if you really want to trim the costs, it's a decent option. All of the ones I've named are 7-inch.

Like I said, you can install the app for virtually any ereader on any tablet, and you can access their store. You can also find apps for accessibility that will help him be able to read more easily. That's the nice thing about getting a full-blown tablet - you have a lot more choice. And like I said, all of those I name above cost about the same as the LCD ereaders.
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Old 03-22-2012, 11:47 PM   #4
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There's a great iPad app available for kids with visual disabilities. It's called Read2Go, and it will allow you to set the colors of the display (white on black is a common selection, but this app will allow you to select a variety of background and text colors. I personally love orange text on a black background, especially around Halloween!) You can also modify the font size (from 12 to 72 point, I think).

The app will also read the book aloud while highlighting each word being spoken. Many kids with learning disabilities benefit from seeing and hearing the text at the same time. The highlighting feature can be adjusted: you can turn off the audio portion and just have the highlight moving at your child's reading rate, if you wish. This highlighting feature seems to be very helpful for readers who have difficulty with finding/reading certain portions of the screen or staying on the same line.

The app is $19.99 for Bookshare members. Bookshare membership is only available to folks with "print disabilities", ie: visual, physical, or reading disabilities. While adults might need to pay a membership fee, students like your child are eligible for free membership. You can learn more at: http://www.bookshare.org. There's also a demo video at http://read2go.org/.

With an iPad, you'll also get the ability to reverse black-and-white in all apps, and you'll have access to the built-in VoiceOver screen reader, which will read most screens aloud, including books in the ibooks app, the Kindle app, etc. (I could be wrong about the Kindle app, I haven't checked this out myself yet.)
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Old 03-23-2012, 03:07 PM   #5
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@tracings
Does this app only work with books from bookshare.org?
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Old 03-23-2012, 08:48 PM   #6
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For adjusting to THICKER text you probably want to look at something that allows you to add fonts then scrounge around to find a font or two that works for you. I don't think you're likely to find any reader or app that will actually make text thicker.
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Old 03-24-2012, 02:26 AM   #7
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Have visual issues myself. IMHO, and I may get blasted for it, I think a e book reader is simply not a viable option.

A laptop or Desktop with a program I found long ago worked best for me. You can get a full working version for free so you can try before you buy. You get a pop up screen every 20 min or so telling you its a trial version.

Google and try ice book reader pro. It worked so well for me I paid the 100 bucks for the full version. It has some amazing features.

At the time I purchased it I got updates for life. I THINK they still offer it. Hope you try it. Hope it works for your child. It sure opened up reading for me. Just a thought.
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Old 03-24-2012, 03:04 AM   #8
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If your existing Kindle is a Kindle 3 or 4, then have you tried changing the font to one that is very bold? See Calibre - GUI Plugin - Kindle Collections for one way to do this. Copying the Bold font face into the Regular font file may be all that is needed. A bold font is very black on an EInk device, and there are color filters that go over the screen that might help with the white/grey background.

Even without changing the font, Calibre can convert most DRM-free ebooks to use bold in place of regular text. This should work on almost any reading device. Under Preferences -> Conversion -> Common Options, add the following to Extra CSS:
Code:
body {
    font-family: sans-serif;
    font-weight: bold;
}
You can replace sans-serif with serif if you prefer. Then (for the Kindle) do a MOBI to MOBI conversion and the new ebook will display with the bold font.
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Old 03-24-2012, 03:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmokeAndMirrors View Post
As far as I know, there aren't any straight e-ink ereaders that will allow you to reverse the background to black, and text to white.
I have used Libre Office Writer to prepare example pdf file with various font sizes, with black background and white text.
If you open it on almost any e-ink reader, it will work.

Used font is Ubuntu Font Bold. http://font.ubuntu.com/
The development of this highly readable font was paid for by the Canonical company - authors of Ubuntu Linux

You "just" need to prepare such pdf for each book the visually impaired user wants to read. First you need to experiment a bit with format that is ideal for him/her.
I can provide odt document, or instructions, so you just copy and paste text into it and save. Preparation of such document just takes a few minutes and it can provide hours and hours of entertainment.

To get text for visually impaired person you need to register at some organization in your country that grants access for such people to many, many texts. There are also many texts available on Internet free of charge. I used a bit of "Sherlock Holmes adventures" from Project Gutenberg web site.
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Old 03-24-2012, 07:13 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kacir View Post
I have used Libre Office Writer to prepare example pdf file with various font sizes, with black background and white text.
If you open it on almost any e-ink reader, it will work.

Used font is Ubuntu Font Bold. http://font.ubuntu.com/
The development of this highly readable font was paid for by the Canonical company - authors of Ubuntu Linux

You "just" need to prepare such pdf for each book the visually impaired user wants to read. First you need to experiment a bit with format that is ideal for him/her.
I can provide odt document, or instructions, so you just copy and paste text into it and save. Preparation of such document just takes a few minutes and it can provide hours and hours of entertainment.

To get text for visually impaired person you need to register at some organization in your country that grants access for such people to many, many texts. There are also many texts available on Internet free of charge. I used a bit of "Sherlock Holmes adventures" from Project Gutenberg web site.
That's very cool, but a lot of work. I'm a semi-geeky Linux user myself (Linux Mint FTW!), but your average person is not going to be able or willing to do all that work for every book. With an ereading app, you can just change the settings once and it will stay that way for every book.

Also, a lot of the visually impaired people I've seen post here say that a back-lit screen is actually better for them. I imagine it probably depends on what type of impairment you have, and I wouldn't know - I'm just a little bit near-sighted. But that's what I've heard.

What might be a good idea, to the OP, is to take your son to a Best Buy or something, and have him look at the demos - e-ink ereaders, tablets, and laptops - and see what works best for him.
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Old 03-24-2012, 09:50 PM   #11
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@tracings
Does this app only work with books from bookshare.org?
@frozennorth,
I'm thinking there's got to be a way to get other documents to show up in the Read2Go app, but so far, I haven't been able to figure out how. Since it's promoted as being a way to read books from Bookshare, it's possible that that's the only source the app will recognize.

Of course, Bookshare members can upload scans of books, too. In fact, Bookshare originated as a service to share books that visually impaired folks had scanned. (The original idea was something like this: If a kid had scanned a textbook for class because no accessible versions were available, wouldn't it be great if she could share that with other visually disabled students, no matter where they lived?) Since 1996, an amendment to the Copyright Act permits this, so long as the end users are print disabled. (http://www.loc.gov/nls/reference/fac...copyright.html.

Soooo, I suppose if you're a Bookshare member, you can always scan in a book you want to read, upload it to Bookshare, and download it via the app.
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Old 03-24-2012, 11:23 PM   #12
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Oh, just thought of this:

Blio, the free ebook reader app for iPad/iPhone, Android and Windows PC, also has word highlighting when using the Text-To-Speech option. While it is not nearly as customizable as on Read2Go, I suppose that those readers who want highlighting can turn on TTS, and turn off their speakers.

Blio's big claim to fame is that it allows publishers to preserve the original formatting of the book, so I'm not surprised that there are limitations to the font modifications available to the user. As far as I can tell with my limited freebie books, you can't select a different font face, nor can you change to a "night" view of white text on black page. (I'm using the PC version; this may be different in Android or iPad.)

Preserving the formatting does seem to be appropriate in children's books though, as you'll have the text and the illustrations showing on the same screen. And the full color is nice in these books, as well.

Many of the children's books include professional narration, and some also include a Blio feature called "guided zoom" which magnifies the text and outlines your current paragraph, which may help some readers maintain their place. I didn't see these features in too many adult books, though.

Blio is associated with the Baker & Taylor store; they've been big library suppliers for years, and the Blio website claims that B&T is the largest book distributor in the country.

Blio can handle imported epubs and xps files. The iPad/iPhone version can also handle PDFs. If the magnification function works the same in PDFs as it does in books, it might be a great option for these. I'd be curious to know if anyone's tried reading PDFs in Blio?
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Old 03-25-2012, 05:33 AM   #13
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That's very cool, but a lot of work. I'm a semi-geeky Linux user myself (Linux Mint FTW!),
I have been using Mint Linux as my main desktop at home ever since Celena came out. Before that I was just playing with Bianca. Before that it was FreeBSD, and PC-BSD, and before that Slackware.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SmokeAndMirrors View Post
but your average person is not going to be able or willing to do all that work for every book. With an ereading app, you can just change the settings once and it will stay that way for every book.

Also, a lot of the visually impaired people I've seen post here say that a back-lit screen is actually better for them. I imagine it probably depends on what type of impairment you have, and I wouldn't know - I'm just a little bit near-sighted. But that's what I've heard.
I was reacting to the statement that no e-ink reader can do black background with white text.
Well, it obviously can.

Of course an iPad is a better choice for a person with vision problems. But, a new iPad costs $499, and a new e-ink reader can be had for $79.
If you desperately need a reader for your kid to be able to read at all, and you run on a tight budget, a bit of work isn't such an unreasonable proposition.

I know that converting books can be a hassle. This is why I have PocketBook that can digest almost any format and present it in a form that I like.
When I began with e-books, a looooooong time ago, I used an old, salvaged, bombarded-out little notebook with 4MB of RAM, 386 processor and 640x480 grey-scale display. My first pocket sized reader with non-backlit screen was Cassiopeia A-11 with Windows CE 1.0 (GRRRRR!). For that Cassiopeia I had to break books into 200kB chunks and convert them into PocketWord format, otherwise it choked to death ;-).
But 2 minutes of work preparing a book that will provide many hours of entertainment isn't that bad trade-off.
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