Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Talking Books

Today, RNIB are celebrating 80 years since the launch of their Talking Book service for blind and partially sighted readers. Personally, I have been using the service for about five years now and would be lost without it. Books offer so much including entertainment, education and escapism. Up until now, I have paid an annual fee of £50 in order to take advantage of the service, but was pleasantly surprised to learn today that RNIB are scrapping the fee, so from here on Talking Books are free to loan.

Recently, my portable Daisy player broke, which is a device needed to access Talking Books. As is the case for most products for the visually impaired, it would have been very pricey for me to replace it, approximately £300. Although a bit hesitant at first due to my lack of ability when it comes to technology (long live my Nokia with Talks), I decided to trial Overdrive. Overdrive is a relatively new service offered by RNIB, which allows its users to directly download Talking Books to their smart device. The app also links to other libraries, but I’m yet to master that side of things.

I have had my ipod touch for about 18 months now, which I originally got to help me learn how to use a touch screen, knowing that one day my trusty nokia will pack in (nooooo) and I’ll have to transfer to the Apple world. Having little patience for difficult tasks, well technology in general, I found myself only using my ipod touch to tell Sirri to ‘play music’ and ask him silly questions like ‘how much do you weigh?’. Hence, getting Overdrive was a big step. Maybe I should give myself more credit for my abilities or maybe the app is just really simple to use that even I can manage it with little trouble. The search facility is easily found, you just tap the ‘borrow’ button to obviously ‘borrow’ a book and then you go to your bookshelf on the RNIB Library to download the book to the app. The Overdrive app is VI friendly with clear controls for play, pause, rewind etc. I like that you can increase the speed of a book too, but I believe that facility is only available on IOS devices (if that’s what they are called). Nothing is perfect and the downside to the app is returning books with Voice Over enabled. It is really temperamental, sometimes the options appear, but more often than not when you double tap and hold, it begins to play the book instead. Nevertheless, each book you download has an expiry date, which you can choose to be 14 or 21 days and then the book will return itself to the library. You can checkout six books at a time. Overall, I’m satisfied and would definitely recommend it. It beats sending RNIB a list of books you want to read and then wait for the CDs to arrive in the post.

Whilst the Talking Books service is great, my only gripe with it is that a few times now, I have begun to read books in a series, only to find that RNIB don’t have the entire series and due to commercial reasons won’t be getting them either. I have had this problem with authors, such as Ally Condie, Veronica Roth, Charlaine Harris and P.C. and Kristin Cast. It’s quite frustrating, will I ever find out what happens next?! At present I am hooked on books written by experienced foster carer Cathy Glass. RNIB have four of her novels and I sincerely hope that they get more soon.

If like me you’re always looking for new things to read, you can find below a list of authors that I have enjoyed in the past. My preferred genres are chick flicks, true stories, fantasy, dystopia and young adult fiction.

Authors of note:
Dorothy Koomson
Cecelia Ahern
Lisa Jewell
Lauren Weisberger
Sarra Manning
Jane Fallon
Jane Green
Kate Jacobs
Sheila O’Flanagan
Jodi Picoult
R.J Palacio
Jane Costello
Jenny Colgan
Jojo Moyes
Harriet Evans
Alice Sebold
Lucy Dillon
Michele Hauf
Lucy Robinson
Gina Blaxill
Malorie Blackman
Carole Matthews
Aidan Macfarlane/Ann McPherson
Melvin Burgess
Louise Rennison
Allyson Braithwate/Ally Condie
Lindsey Kelk
Suzanne Collins
Lucy Diamond
Veronica Roth
Lisa Genova
S.J. Watson
Paula Daly
Charlaine Harris
Meg Cabot
P.C. and Kristin Cast
Sara Gruem
Cathy Glass