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Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2013 Issue  Volume 14  Number 3

App Accessibility

Evaluation of the Go Read App, A Free DAISY and ePUB Reader from Bookshare

In the March 2012 issue, AccessWorld evaluated the then new Bookshare Reader app for Android. Since that time the app has seen several updates with the current version being version 4.0.1. The app boasts a new structure, increased functionality, and updated playback controls. For this article, I will be evaluating the app using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.2 Jellybean.

Initial Setup, Quick Start Guide, and User Guide

The first time you open the app you will be presented with a Quick Start Guide that will immediately be read to you using the text-to-speech voice you have selected to use with Talkback. The Quick Start Guide describes the available controls, discusses book navigation briefly, and provides instructions for locating the complete user guide, which is found in the menu under the Help option. The guide is structured like a book so that it is easy for you to find the information you need using the Table of Contents. Everything that the app can do is discussed in detail, and the writing is clear and concise.

The Reading Screen

The reading screen is rather simple and easily navigated. Around 75 to 80 percent of the screen is taken up by the text of the book that is being read. This text is not accessible to TalkBack, and if you place your finger anywhere in this area, nothing is announced to you. Below this area is a line of buttons. From left to right these are labeled: "Previous Section," "Play/Pause," "Table of Contents," and "Next Section." In the very bottom right corner of the screen is the "Menu" button. This button is located in the dock and just below the "Next Section" button.

The buttons can all be accessed with various gestures performed in the book playback area. To simulate the "Previous Section" button, swipe left, and for the "Next Section" button, swipe right. To play or pause the book, you can double tap the screen. To go to the Table of Contents swipe up, and to access the Main Menu swipe down. If you are using a device running Android 4.0 or later, you must use two fingers to perform the swiping gestures, and double tapping the screen will not work as a gesture for the "Play/Pause" button.

The Main Menu

The main menu can be accessed from the reading screen by either using the swipe-down gesture or by using the on-screen button, and it connects to all of the other screens. It is structured as a standard Android menu with a single column of options that you can scroll through using the standard TalkBack gestures.

Book Navigation

The first four options in the main menu are used for advanced book navigation. The first option is labeled "Read to Me," and it will place you on the main reading screen. Below this is an option labeled "Table of Contents." This is the main Table of Contents screen that can also be accessed from the reading screen with the swipe-up gesture. All of the headings in the book are listed in this menu. If a heading has subheadings, the number of subheadings will be announced. When you select a section, you will be taken to it in the reading screen. However, the section will not be read automatically. If the section you have selected has subheadings, you will be presented with a menu that either allows you to go to the main heading in the reading screen or to reveal the subheadings in the main Table of Contents screen.

The next option in the main menu is "Navigate to Page." When you select this option, you will be presented with an edit box where you can enter the number of the page you would like to go to. The page that you are currently on will also be announced along with the total number of pages in the book. You must select the edit box before the number keyboard will appear. After you have entered your page number and selected the "Search" button, you will be presented with a screen that says, "Alert [page number]," and then, you will automatically be returned to the reading screen on the page you selected. Again, like when navigating by section, the book will not automatically begin playing, so you must press the "Play/Pause" button.

Below the "Navigate to Page" option in the main menu is "Bookmarks." There are several options in this menu. The very top of the screen will alert you to the book that you are currently reading, and next to this is an option to display all of the bookmarks for every book in your collection. You are able to use these tabs to switch between a screen showing all of the bookmarks in your book collection and a screen showing the bookmarks in the book that you are currently reading.

Below this option is an "Add Bookmark" option. This option places a bookmark on the current page of the book you are reading. The rest of the menu will be composed of the bookmarks that you have. Bookmarks are labeled with the text of the sentence they are placed on. The page number where the bookmark resides will be read after the bookmarked sentence. If you have the screen toggled to show all of your bookmarks, the name of the book that contains the bookmark will be read after the page number. Selecting a bookmark will open a menu where you can either navigate to the selected bookmark in the text or delete the selected bookmark. As with the other navigation options, you must press the "Play/Pause" button as the book will not be read automatically after choosing to go to a selected bookmark.

Managing and Downloading Books

The three options following "Bookmarks" regard downloading and managing your books. "Downloaded Books" is the option directly below "Bookmarks." This menu is where the books in your collection are listed. When you select this option, you will be presented with various options for displaying your books. These options, from top to bottom, are titled: "Favorites," "Recent Books," "By Author," "By Title," "File Tree," and "Search." All of these options also have a short explanation of what they will display, which is read automatically after the option title. Once you have selected a display style and a book, you will be placed in a menu to interact with the book. You are able to open the book, add or remove it from your favorites list, and delete the book.

The next option in the main menu is the "Get Bookshare Books" option. The first time you select this option, you will be prompted for your Bookshare username and password. After you have logged in, you will be presented with various options for finding books. At the top of the list, you will find options to search for books using the title, author, and ISBN. Below these options you will find additional options to display the most recent books and the most popular books. Below these two options is a button to log out of your Bookshare account.

When you select a book you would like to download, you will be moved to a screen with book details. The title and author of the book are at the very top of the screen, and below this is a "Download" button that runs the width of the screen. Under this button is the book information. The details that are provided are ISBN, language, category, the date added, publisher, copyright date, and synopsis. When you select the "Download" button, you will be presented with an alert that tells you your book download has started. You will be quickly returned to the book details screen where the "Download" button will be dimmed and relabeled "Downloading Book." Once the book has downloaded, the button will once again be relabeled as "Book Downloaded, Read Book." Selecting this button will place you at the top of the book in the reading screen.

The option below "Get Bookshare Books" is labeled "Get Books from Other Catalogs." The user guide claims that this option is inaccessible, but I was able to successfully find and download books using Android 4.2. When you select this option, you will be given a list of catalogs that you can search. You are also given the ability to add new catalogs using the Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS). Go Read has catalogs for Smashwords, Feedbooks, and ManyBooks already installed. The different catalogs will allow you to either search their collections or display books in various categories. The book download buttons appear at the bottom of the screen, and you are often forced to scroll down to see the book information as the cover of the book is usually displayed at the top of the screen.

Settings and Help

The final options consist of the various settings menus and the "Help" option, which launches the user guide. The Go Read settings option is located just below "Get Books from Other Catalogs," and it is simply labeled "Settings." There are two options in this menu. One is labeled "Directories," and it allows you to change the directory where various Go Read content is stored, such as Books. If you paste ePUB or DAISY books in the Books directory, they will appear in your downloaded books list. The other option is titled "About," and it provides a list of information about Go Read. The version number is displayed along with contact information for Bookshare, such as its website, e-mail address, and Twitter account.

After Go Read's "Settings," there are options to launch the accessibility and text-to-speech settings. These options are not specific to Go Read and launch the Android settings menus for both.

Quality of Reading

When you read a book using Go Read, the voice that you have selected in your main text-to-speech settings menu will be used. Therefore, even though TalkBack is not reading the book, it sounds as if it is because the voice that Go Read uses is the same that you have selected for TalkBack. When reading, you are not forced to press the "Next Section" button when you come to the end of a chapter or section. Go Read automatically moves to the next section.

When you close a book or switch from one book to another, your place in that book is retained for when you return to it. When you are reading a book, touching the screen will pause the book, and pressing the "Play/Pause" button will start it again. This way you can stop playback quickly without missing information as you search for the "Play/Pause" button. For this to be successful, you must touch at the bottom of the screen where the various buttons are located. The announcement of the button cuts off the speech. You can attempt to stop playback by touching the area where the text is located, but this does not always work whereas touching the button does.

There are a few issues with the gestures used to control Go Read. When you swipe right for the next section, the reading cursor is moved to the top of the current section where playback commences. The issue with this is that you do not actually move back a section as it simply takes you to the previous heading, which is the heading that you are currently in. To actually move to the previous section, you must swipe left or right twice quickly so that the cursor moves just as it is resting at the beginning of the current section. It is similar to the way older CD players work in which you have to press the skip backwards key twice to move back a track.

The Bottom Line

The Go Read app has progressed a great deal since our previous evaluation. The app has a simple interface that still provides a great deal of functionality. Reading is enjoyable and streamlined so that navigation is easily accomplished. There are a few minor issues with the app. Currently, it is impossible to navigate by word or character, which is a useful function when reading texts for school or work. Navigating backwards by section requires you to use the "Previous Section" gesture or button twice, which can be somewhat frustrating. Overall, the app is solid with few issues, and it is a stable and enjoyable option for reading books on Android.

Product Information

Product: Go Read 4.0.1
Price: Free
Available From: Benetech
Website: http://www.benetech.org/

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