More Formats – a Good Thing

Archives of Prague Castle, via Erik Kwakkel’s tumblr

My son is going back to school (graduate school) and I asked him if he has to buy textbooks. Even though I am his mother and know better, I said something generic and inane about downloads and how to search for cheaper prices.

“I really want my textbooks in large print”, he said. “I spend too much time already in front of a screen, and the light bothers my eyes.”

I know that about him. He’s got a rare retinal disorder called achromatopsia, and although the lack of color vision is intriguing to people he meets, it’s the low acuity and photophobia that bother him more. I think even if he didn’t have extreme light-sensitivity, he probably still wouldn’t want to read on an ebook reader or iPad. He’s fast and he’d be hitting “next” every 3 seconds. He’ll be fine, he will advocate for himself and get giant comb-bound enlarged books for reading and weight-lifting (his HS chemistry text was 11″x 17″ and 2 inches thick times 8 volumes). It made me think, though, about how we shouldn’t assume we know what people want.

It also led to a good Twitter conversation, in which the question was raised about Print on Demand units in public libraries as possibly helpful for the visually impaired.

And it made me think about being more patient with people who don’t know a lot about formats, or the visually impaired, or reading preferences, or how libraries work, or why I am not “about to go all digital”. I really appreciate that kind of patience from people who answer my questions about unfamiliar topics.

So, I’m going to try harder to explain to mostly middle-class parents why Kindle Unlimited is not going to replace my library (with screenshots, especially of what passes for “good” books in their “Easy Reader” category). And I’m going to keep on buying several books each year in large print format. Regular readers don’t usually mind them, but they are so helpful for some with visual impairments or dyslexia, etc.


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