Saturday, September 5, 2015

The National Federation of the Blinds War Against Amazon


Amazon has been trying to make inroads in the educational market for the last six years and they have been consistently been stymied  by the National Federation of the Blind. The organization has done everything from staging protests outside the Amazon Seattle headquarters and filing petitions to United States Departments of Education and Justice.

Over the course of the month Amazon won a $30 million dollar bid  to provide the The New York City Department of Education to create a single, massive e-book marketplace for the city's 1,800 public schools.  The National Federation of the Blind has been sending the Educational Department over 10 different emails, trying to persuade them to cancel the deal and even threatened to stage a protest.   The campaign worked and 24 hours before the final vote to approve the Amazon contract the Education Department officials issued their decision to postpone the initiative.

The National Federation of the Blinds biggest concern with Amazon trying to break into the e-book market in New York is the lack of MathML. The Kindle format for e-readers and tablets does not support complex mathematical formats, but EPUB3 does. The NFB also has concerns that the Fire line of tablets does have audio capabilities to read text aloud, vision impaired people need assistance to set it up. The organization is trying to convince New York to employ Vitalsource technology because they use the evolving standard MathJax javascript framework to render MathML. MathJax fully supports accessibility including ChromeVox, Texthelp, JAWS, MathPlayer with more player support planned.

Amazon and the National Federation of the Blind have been at war with each other since 2008.  Amazon originally tried to enter the educational market in 2009 and the NFB immediately filed a lawsuit and filed complaints against several of these institutions. These claims prompted a June 29, 2010, Joint Dear Colleague Letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice warning educational institutions not to purchase inaccessible technology. A follow-up FAQ from the Department of Education made it clear that the prohibition against the purchase of inaccessible technology also applied to libraries and K-12 schools. In a May 2013 letter, the Department of Education affirmed its position that a school would be in violation of federal law if it adopted technology that offers the features of Whispercast.

Everyone needs an arch-nemesis. He-man has Skeletor, Tigra has Mumra, GI.Joe has Cobra and Amazon has the National Federation of the Blind.

Yes Please Paperback is Cheaper than the e-book


Yes Please by Amy Poehler has been a perennial New York Times Bestseller since it initially debuted October of 2014. The title just became available in paperback this week and it is retailing for $9.87 at Barnes and Noble and $9.53 at Amazon. The biggest concern about the paperback edition is that it is more affordable than the e-book.

Barnes and Noble is selling the e-book edition of Yes Please for $11.99, Amazon $10.43, Kobo $11.99, iBooks $11.99 or directly from the publisher HaperCollins for $14.99.

Every major online retailer is selling the digital edition for a higher price than the paperback.  This has become a major trend over  the last calendar year as all of the major publishers have signed new e-book contracts with the likes of Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo and Gooogle. The publishers now are chiefly responsible for dictating the digital price and the wholesale concept that Amazon pioneered is going the way of the Dodo Bird.

Suffice to say, if you have yet to read Yes Please by Amy Poehler I recommend purchasing the paperback edition, as it is way cheaper than the e-book.

Bamboo Spark Might be the Ultimate Note Taking Device


Wacom has just developed a new product called the Bamboo Spark that might be the most economical note taking device. It also has app capabilities to send your drawings or annotations to your smartphone or tablet.

The Bamboo Spark uses Wacom’s stylus input technology to allow the folio to capture the movement of the pen, allowing it to record images drawn by the user the pen and paper, effectively creating a digital copy of the drawing or other data as an image file for safe keeping or later editing.

The folio contains an EMR (Electro-Magnetic Resonance) board that works with the supplied Bamboo Spark pen, which also functions as a traditional ink pen. Using an A5-sized pad of paper, the board sits behind the sheets, recording the movements of the special pen. The battery is said to last for up to eight hours of continuous use, while the ink refills for the Bamboo Spark pen will apparently last for up to three months of typical use.

The Spark has a few mobile apps for iOS and Android and you can send data directly to your device via Bluetooth.  It will be available for sale starting this October and will cost $160.