E-Sylum reader Tom Babinszki is blind and publishes the Blind Coin Collector blog. His most recent post describes his difficult but ultimately successful quest to
be able to read all numismatic books (even protected in-copyright publications) from the Newman Numismatic Portal, which uses the Internet Archive for digitization and back-end
hosting. Here's an excerpt. -Editor
LEFT: Tom's second generation Victor Reader Stream device
RIGHT: Tom visiting the National Numismatic Collection in 2016
The Internet Archive, Archive.org contains almost two million books which are protected, but are freely available for people with print disabilities. Most of these protected
books are not available electronically from other places. However, accessing these materials is not immediately obvious. In this post I will describe the problem, and how to get
Though this blog is about coin collecting, this is a topic which can be useful for all people with print disabilities, such as blind, visually impaired or dyslexic. Therefore,
I will talk about the issue in general, and at the end I will explain how these protected materials relate to numismatics in general. For the time being, let me just say that it
has opened a new world in numismatic research.
Why free books?
In general, people with print disabilities are not immediately able to pick up a book or a magazine and read it. They have to first convert it into electronic format. These days,
most published materials already exist in electronic format, so when they are printed, blind people use a phone app or a scanner and OCR to convert this material back into the
same electronic text, usually in a slightly worse format than the original. It would only make sense to have access to the original electronic resource.
Reading books for free
Before someone gets access to freely available books, they have to provide a proof of disability. There are several organizations which provide access to hundreds of thousands of
books, such as BookShare, or the National Library Service. Though BookShare charges a nominal fee for the service, they also ensure that people can get to these materials even if
they don't have an annual $50.
Once eligibility is established, people can read these books on their computers, mobile devices, or on electronic readers, specially designed for people with print
The National Library Service distributes a book reader free of charge, to all eligible people to use. These devices can read from a specially designed cartridge or a USB memory
One of the formats Archive.org uses is DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem), which the NLS reader, many other devices, and applications support. However, when these
books are protected, reading them is not as simple as typing the password for access.
Why is Archive.org important?
People with print disabilities these days have many choices when it comes to finding electronically available books. The most important sources are BookShare, the National Library
Service, or Amazon, where for a small fee, people can read Kindle books electronically, most of which are fully accessible. However, Archive.org contains many publications which
are not available anywhere else. At the time of writing, according to Archive.org, they have more than 1,985,000 protected publications.
Protected books and numismatics
There is a web site, the Newman Numismatic Portal, which alone changed what numismatics means to me. Though I've been collecting coins since I was six, I couldn't find much
information about coins. When things started to change was when the online coin catalogs started to appear, I first got a subscription in 2008. But the Newman Numismatic Portal in
the last few years made research more imaginable without vision than ever before. Of course, it is always possible to get books and magazines and scan them one by one. But this is
where the NNP helps.
It is an initiative that gathers and digitizes numismatic information. In their own words, "NNP is dedicated to becoming the primary and most comprehensive resource for
numismatic research and reference material".
Indeed, they have hundreds of books, thousands of periodicals and auction catalogs just to name a few things.
But here is where it gets interesting for print disabled people. The NNP also digitizes books which are under copyright protection. This way, these books become searchable, but
cannot be downloaded. However, the digitized books are housed on Archive.org, and the books under copyright are readable for people with print disabilities as protected DAISY
Currently, there are close to 7,000 numismatic documents in this format. This collection allows me to get some of the latest information about numismatics which sighted people
need to read from paper based books and magazines when they find the information they are looking for through the online search.
You can find these lists here:
Currently I am doing an extensive research, mostly dealing with contemporary literature. When I searched on my main keyword only among the protected documents, I found over a
hundred results. This is information I would not be able to find anywhere else, it would have taken me months of research just to compile this list, not to mention that I would
still have to obtain the literature from libraries and scan them one by one. Today, when I am interested, I just run a search, download the book, copy it over to my Victor Reader,
and read and search the material.
The opportunity the NNP and Archive.org has opened to me is incredible. I hope this information will help other people with print disabilities to explore and use this immense
amount of literature.
To read the complete article, see:
Accessing protected DAISY documents on Archive.org
Wayne Homren, Editor
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.
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