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An Innovative New Method of Publishing Large Print Books

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An Innovative New Method of Publishing Large Print Books

By Rochelle Caviness - March 31, 2003

Text-Key is a new method of producing and distributing large print books, and it is provided as a service of the Virginia M. Woolf Foundation. Books offered by Text-Key are produced in ELF format (enhanced letter format) and are distributed on Compact Discs (CDs). Each disc contains a single book in a variety of formats. These formats include a version designed for use with computer screen readers, a version formatted to facilitate printing out the book (in either a 28 or 48 point font size), plus the text is preformatted so that you can read the text in either a 28-point font or 48-point font, without having to scroll through the text.

Accessing a Text-Key Book

To open a Text-Key book, simply insert the CD into your computer's CD drive. When the book opens you will be presented with a choice of selecting a 28-point type or 48-point type. Once you make your selection, you will be whisked to the main menu. From here you can begin to read the book, print out the book, or visit the comprehensive help section that will fully explain how to navigate and use the Text-Key version of the book you have selected.

In short order, you will see why I feel that Text-Key has developed an innovative new method of providing large print books on CD for the visually impaired. Each CD is printed on demand, and each contains the complete text of a book, preformatted in both 28 and 48 point font sizes. These large print versions are PDF files that can be read on your computer using the Adobe Acrobat reader. Unlike downloading a PDF on over the Internet, these files open almost instantaneously.

If you choose to read the books in the preformatted 28 or 48 point font sizes, you will not have to scroll down the pages as you read. This is one of the nicest features of the preformatted texts, because you can easily navigate the text using a few keyboard commands - thereby negating the need to use your mouse. If desired, you can manually change the font size in which the text is displayed on the Adobe Acrobat reader to something other than 28 or 48. This may disrupt the formatting creating the need for you to scroll down the page as you read.

A plain text (ASCII) version of each book, in which the entire book is opened as a single file, is also included. This file should be readable by most computer screen reading programs. In addition, a file is included that was designed specifically to be used with the screen readers produced by Freedom Scientific and GW Micro.

Text-Key and Office Depot

While the Text-Key books can be read via your computer, you also have the option of printing out these books. You can do this on your home computer, or you can out-source the job. Text-Key has recently entered into an agreement with Office Depot that enables purchasers of any Text-Key book to have a hard copy of their book printed out, at a reduced rate. All you have to do is take your Text-Key disc to any Office Depot, and they will print out your book on recycled paper. Currently, this costs about four cents per page, which represents a substantial discount off Office Depot's normal printing charge. If you want the book bound, there is an additional charge.


Text-Key produces both copyrighted and royalty free books. Currently the vast majority of their books are royalty free, and they can be purchased by anyone. Their copyrighted books, however, can only be purchased by individuals with a certified visual impairment. This is similar to the process of registering with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, wherein you have to fill out a short qualification form and have it signed by your eye doctor or other competent person attesting to the fact that you are blind or visually impaired.

Virginia M. Woolf Foundation

Text-Key is a service provided by the Virginia M. Woolf Foundation. This is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping others. Through the Text-Key project they are striving to broaden the horizons of blind and visually impaired individuals by making a variety of publications available in accessible formats.

What Book's are Available from Text-Key?

A sampling of the books currently available on CD from Text-Key include: This is just a partial list of the books currently available. In addition, new texts are continuously being added.

In Conclusion

For the purposes of this article, I looked at two books issued by Text-Key: I tried out these books on two PCs, one running Windows 95 with a minuscule amount of memory, and one running Windows 98 that has all the standard bells and whistles. The books opened quickly on both computers, and I did not experience any problems while using the Text-Key books - on either system. I especially liked the detailed help files that accompanied each book. I found the files to be very detailed, and the explanations were straightforward and easy to follow. In short, I found the books easy to access and navigate. The Text-Key library offers a nice collection of 'must-read' classics for the entire family, ranging from fairytales to dramas. In short, Text-Key is providing a unique service that will be of interest to many visually impaired readers.

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