What’s one thing you still prefer to do the old-fashioned way, regardless of technology and why?
I’ve talked about this before, but definitely reading books. And no, obviously I don’t mean that I prefer reading physical books over ebooks/audiobooks, that would be cool if I could actually afford it and have enough place to store all those books, because I’d love to be able to read physical books, but it’s inconvenient, clunky, and either limiting when you get them from a library, because Braille books are costly and slow to produce so the available books are FAAAAR fewer than standard print, or it’s super expensive if you’re desperate enough to order a book to be printed just for yourself.
What I actually mean is that I much prefer reading books on a specialised device for the blind like a book player or a Braille display, rather than on the phone, which seems to be the most popular option right now among blind people. Specialised book players are no longer particularly trendy and aren’t even produced as much as they used to be, simply because people are turning to phones now which are cheaper than specialised devices, and it doesn’t pay off for people to buy a specialised device for double the price of an iPhone when such a device has a lot fewer functions, even if oftentimes the functions it does have work better than on an iPhone because it was made to do a few specific things rather than everything possible. Book players are more of a thing with older blind people, like such who have lost their sight later in life and don’t necessarily feel up to learning how to use an iPhone blindly when they never even had a desire to that when they could still see. Their advantage is that they are obviously always accessible, and very intuitive and easy to use. Braille displays/notetakers are of course still in demand because people use them in connection with their mainstream devices like a phone or computer, but still I guess few people use their displays like that they just put an SD card in them and read books directly from them, without connecting to anything, like I do.
The reason why I prefer reading books the way I do is very simple – because that’s what I’m used to and because that is most comfortable to me. – My current book player that I’ve had for some seven years (although not the same copy). While it is still sold, its firmware hasn’t been developed in a couple years and will no longer be, so it has lost some of its features already. For example sharing files between it and a computer over a network folder because the protocol it used for that is outdated and no longer secure and no self-respecting computer will let you do that anymore. Which is generally a bummer because, yeah, you can of course theoretically connect it via USB like anyone sane would, except it’s not the best idea because when you unplug it, it just freezes and dies, and you have to take the battery out and put it back in, and if you need to exchange files on it regularly it’s not cool because sooner or later you’re going to damage the battery holder from constant playing with it. This has been a bug since forever and I know a few other people who’ve had it, but it never ended up being properly solved. So now I just use an SD adapter instead rather thann connecting to the PlexTalk as such when I want to add new files. But worse yet is the fact that it has lost support for Audible, because Audible ditched its older audio format. I was disconsolate because the sole reason for why I chose PlexTalk over a much cheaper device of its kind (which had the Jacek voice in it unlike PlexTalk!!! 😭) when I last got funding was because PlexTalk is the only one I know about here in Poland that supports Audible, and back then Audible was my only source of English books except for BookShare, and then after a few months there’s no Audible. I wrote both to Audible people and to Shinano Kenshi (PlexTalk) people but Audible people very gently expressed that they don’t really care, and Shinano Kenshi people wrote to me like half a year later (because they’re doing other things now, duh) saying that, yeeeah, they could, theoretically, maybe, add the support for the new format (which has also been around for quite some time already and it’s not like Audible has suddenly introduced a new one and ditched the old one simultaneously) but it doesn’t really pay off, to sum it up shortly.
In the meantime (between Audible ditching its old format and Shinano Kenshi responding to me) I finally got myself an iPhone, and part of my motivation was to have easier access to Audible, and to finally get used to read like most people (using the app Voice Dream Reader) because it also has the Jacek voice in it and because I kept hearing how it’s so so cool and as good as a book player.
I tried several times to make this transition, both with audiobooks and with ebooks, but it just doesn’t work for me. With all its annoyingness, I like PlexTalk because it’s small, so I can put it under my pillow and read in bed like that. It doesn’t really feel like an option with a phone, I mean I could theoretically, but, uh, who sleeps with a phone under the pillow. And the radiation and everything! PlexTalk has Wi-Fi, but I don’t use it anyway, so it’s always turned off for me, and even if it still emits some radiation it’s never going to be nowhere near that of an iPhone. Or I can read much more comfortably in the car or a public place. With an iPhone, I would have to also bring headphones, and I’m a control freak and don’t like having my hearing limited while being around other people in not very familiar places or situations, and with PlexTalk I can just keep it at a low volume near my cheek and have everything under control, no one hears it but I do perfectly fine. I’ve done that for ages and it’s just the only thing that feels right. Also if I’m reading in bed, I’m used to also having some music or radio quietly going on in the background, because a softly speaking speech synth alone going from a mini mono speaker doesn’t fulfill my need for sound entirely, and I use my phone for the music/radio, so I can’t simultaneously use it for reading because it would be one big chaos. Unless Apple one day introduces the possibility to have multiple audio outputs at the same time, and regulating the volume of each separately, then I might reconsider it once again.
And another thing is, I am just not crazy about Voice Dream Reader at all. I don’t want to say I don’t like it, because i can see it is generally a very good reading app compared to other reading phone apps, and it’s amazing that it exists because I still do use it sometimes for language learning and many people find it very useful. Oh yeah, and there’s Jacek, I even purchased him in the app, and I also bought a Welsh voice because I have none on the computer anymore after it got lost irretrievably just like Jacek so I read Welsh stuff with Voice Dream Reader out of necessity because I myself am a very slow Welsh reader, even though it’s a south Welsh voice as opposed to North Welsh which I’m learning, and reads some colloquial things really oddly. In my opinion, Voice Dream Reader doesn’t work very smoothly with Braille, it keeps losing focus or throws me into random places in the text when panning (moving through the lines of Braille) and Braille reading like that is just really cumbersome and annoying. . And even if you don’t read Braille but just listen to speech, navigating within that book isn’t quite as smooth and precise as it is in all the specialised devices that I’ve used so far, and I’ve used four different kinds in my life. That’s all probably because Voice Dream Reader isn’t really an app for the blind, but generally people with all sorts of print disabilities so it doesn’t really cater to any of these disabilities in particular I guess but just tries to work for everyone.
So yeah, I much prefer either my PlexTalk, for reading with a speech synth, or Braille-Sense (my Braille notetaker) as a standalone for reading books in Braille.
My eccentric reading requirements, unfortunately, meant that I had to figure out how to strip DRM’s from Audible, alongside all sorts of English-language ebooks from major retailers (really people, why don’t you just use watermarks? :O ) which I feel very sad about that I have to do it, but if they don’t want to be like properly inclusive… Perhaps at some point when/if the Marrakesh Treaty will become a thing in practice everywhere I won’t have to buy mainstream books anymore. Or regarding Audible alone I’ve heard that there is/is going to be some new device that actually supports the enhanced Audible format, so when my PlexTalk stops working and I’ll have a good gut feeling about that other device in general I’ll happily buy it instead, because it’s not like it’s some extreme fun spending an hour stripping books, the more that I have to do it on Sofi’s PC because I don’t know of a way to do it on Mac that would be both accessible and secure and that’s an inconvenience for us both. So let’s hope that Audible doesn’t come up with a new format until my PlexTalk dies, lol.
How about you? 🙂