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Digital Reading Technologies

The AEM Center does not recommend specific products but we do attempt to identify the hardware and software most likely to support all learners, including individuals with disabilities. This applies to learners who are eligible to obtain specialized formats created from NIMAS source files and all others who are likely to benefit from accessible educational materials and technologies. For this reason, a number of digital reading technologies (hardware, software and apps) are listed and briefly described to inform those who may be in search of a useful reading and study support tool using digital content that may be provided as DAISY, EPUB, NIMAS, text, Microsoft Word, PDF and other formats.

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.

View in glossary

National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)

A technical standard used to produce XML-based source files for print-based educational materials.

View in glossary

Technology

Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

View in glossary

Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY)

Technical standard for producing accessible and navigable multimedia documents.

View in glossary

EPUB

Distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents.

View in glossary

PDF (Portable Document Format)

Universal computer file type used to exchange and view documents on any computer with Adobe Acrobat or Foxit Reader software installed.

View in glossary

When considering which e-reader to use for digital books, a number of issues are of importance:

  • Will you be using a hardware-based dedicated e-reading device (e.g., Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.)?
  • Will you be using a tablet or computer (e.g., Nexus, iPad, Mac, Windows PC, Chromebook, etc.)?
  • Where do you plan to obtain your e-books (e.g., Bookshare, Learning Ally, APH, NLS, Amazon, iBook Store, Google Play, etc.)?
  • Do you qualify for a membership in Bookshare, Learning Ally or the National Library Service or to Quota funds from APH that may be used to purchase APH products?
  • Will you need access to K-12 textbooks in DAISY format created from NIMAS file sets?
  • Do you plan to use text-to-speech or recorded audio to support your reading (e.g., Voiceover, Audible with human voice, Bookshare with TTS, Learning Ally with human voice, etc.)?
  • Will you need educational scaffolds and supports (e.g., synchronized highlighting with speech, dictionary, note taking capabilities, voice recording, etc.)?
  • Do you have specific format requirements or preferences (e.g., DAISY, EPUB, Amazon KF8, iBook, PDF, etc.)?
  • Do you plan to read e-books on multiple devices (e.g., begin reading a book on a laptop then resume reading on an iPad or Android phone)?

If the purchase of digital reading technologies is intended for use within a school district, a review of recent guidance provided by the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice is recommended. You may wish to refer to the Equal Access to Learning page which provides an overview and links to five important documents.

Note that the information provided about each e-reader is not intended to be comprehensive. It is intended to offer enough information to determine if visiting the source of additional information about a specific product may be of value.

The information provided below is divided into a number of categories with varied headings. Please note that not all e-readers fall neatly within a single category. Some are listed under the Multi-Format heading but others, when primarily intended to support a specific format, are listed under single topic headings. Any list of hardware, software and apps like the one below is likely to have errors. If you notice something that should be fixed, please send an email with your suggestion(s) to aem@cast.org.

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Part of the federal government, to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States.

View in glossary

Reader Categories

Multi-Format Reader Software (e.g., DAISY, EPUB, NIMAS, etc.)

Apple iBooks (with VoiceOver)

Amazon Kindle Reader

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android
  • Comments: Supports MOBI and KF8 formats (not fully accessible)

Capti Narrator

  • Purchase: Free and Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Chromebook, Android tablets (via Chrome browser), Web (as a website)
  • Comments: Integration with Bookshare, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Pocket, Instapaper, Gutenberg Project; built-in sophisticated translation, ability to extract articles from websites, advanced tools for educators.

Dolphin EasyReader

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Software will read DAISY, EPUB, NIMAS, text and HTML

Google Play Books

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android
  • Comments: TTS support when publisher allows, supports PDF and EPUB

Kurzweil 1000

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Software with Scan and Read, and will read any digital screen content

Kurzweil 3000

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows and Mac
  • Comments: Software will read EPUB, NIMAS, text, HTML,  any digital screen content

Kurzweil 3000-firefly

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad and Web
  • Comments: Software will read any digital screen content

Read:OutLoud 6

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Software will import and read DAISY, EPUB, NIMAS, text, and HTML

TextHelp Read&Write for Windows

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Will import NIMAS file sets, DAISY, PDF and just about anything displayed on a screen, includes tools for research, writing, studying and test taking

ReadHear PC and ReadHear Mac (formerly gh PLAYER)

  • Purchase: Commercial (or free with LearningAlly membership). See PC Comparison Chart
  • Platforms: Windows and Mac
  • Comments: Software will read DAISY, EPUB, NIMAS, text, and HTML

WYNN Literacy Software

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Reads live text on screen and in browsers, applications, documents, etc.

Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Artificial production of human speech, using special software and/or hardware.

View in glossary

DAISY Reader Software and Hardware

AMIS (Adaptive Multimedia Information System)

  • Purchase: Free, Open Source
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: DAISY 2.02 and 3 playback software

GoRead (Bookshare)

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: Android
  • Comments: Reads DAISY text with synthetic voice, highlights, will access Bookshare bookstore

Plextalk

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Also available from Learning Ally
  • Platforms: Hardware plus Windows-based recording software
  • Comments: Reads books conforming to DAISY 2.0, 2.02 or 3.0 standards and reads Microsoft Word DOC and DOCX, plain text, html, BRL, BRF or DAISY text by text-to-speech audio files in MP3, WMA, AMR-WB+, Ogg Vorbis, Wave (PCM) formats and Audible Format 4.

Read2Go (Bookshare)

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: iPad and iPhone
  • Comments: Reads DAISY text with synthetic voice, highlights, will access Bookshare bookstore

Victor Reader Stream

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Dedicated hardware device
  • Comments: Supports DAISY 2.0, 2.02, 3; MP4, more

BRF (Digital Braille)

File type using Grade II Braille. May also be used with common Braille devices or printers.

View in glossary

Audio

Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.

View in glossary

EPUB Reader Software

Adobe Digital Editions

  • Purchase: OER - free
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android
  • Comments: Supports PDF, EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 (use with screen reader for voicing)

Gitden Reader

  • Purchase: OER - free
  • Platforms: iOS and Android
  • Comments: Supports EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 Reader

Barnes & Noble Nook Apps

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Apps for Android, iOS and Windows tablets
  • Comments: Supports EPUB2, HTML and PDF

Readium for Chrome

  • Purchase: OER - free
  • Platforms: Any platform that supports the Chrome browser
  • Comments: Runs as an extension within the Chrome browser, SDK for other platforms

Voice Dream Reader

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: iOS and Android
  • Comments: TS Reader supporting PDF, EPUB, DAISY, Word, text files and more

Modified EPUB Reader Hardware

Amazon Kindle Fire HD Tablet and E-readers

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Modified Android OS Reader/Tablet
  • Comments: Supports Mobi, KF8 file format, plain text and PDF (has tts but not fully accessible)

Apple iPad with iBook Reader

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Apple iPad (iBooks also available for Mac and iPhone)
  • Comments: Supports modified EPUB iBooks may be read with VoiceOver

Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Dedicated Reader
  • Comments: Supports EPUB2, PDF, text, etc., (no TTS and not fully accessible)

Kobo Glo HD eReader

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Dedicated Reader
  • Comments: Supports EPUB, PDF, RTF and text formats (no TTS)

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Tablet and e-Book Reader
  • Comments: Supports EPUB, PDF, text, etc. with Android TTS support

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 NOOK 8" Black

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Tablet and e-Book Reader
  • Comments: Supports EPUB, PDF, text, etc. with Android TTS support

Samsung Galaxy Tab E NOOK 9.6

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Tablet and e-Book Reader
  • Comments: Supports EPUB, PDF, text, etc. with Android TTS support

e-book

Electronic version of a book.

View in glossary

PDF Reader Software

Adobe Acrobat Reader

  • Purchase: OER – free
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS and Android
  • Comments: PDF viewer with TTS support

Adobe Digital Editions

  • Purchase: OER - free
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone
  • Comments: Supports PDF, EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 (use with screen reader for voicing)

Also see Read&Write for Windows, Kurzweil 1000, Kurzweil 3000 and Kurzweil 3000-firefly in the Multi-Format Reader section above.

Screen Reader Software

Apple VoiceOver

Dolphin SuperNova Access Suite (4 editions available)

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Magnification and screen reading software, reads anything on the screen

JAWS

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Reads live text on screen and in browsers, applications, etc.

NVDA

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Comments: Reads live text on screen and in browsers, applications, etc.

WindowEyes

ZoomText

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows and Mac
  • Comments: Magnification and screen reading software, reads anything on the screen

Selected Android Reader Apps for Smartphones and Tablets

Amazon Kindle for Android

  • Purchase: Free
  • Also available from the Google Play Store
  • Platforms: Android
  • Comments: Supports use of Android TTS (not fully accessible)

Barnes & Noble Nook Reading App

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: Android
  • Comments: Supports EPUB and PDF (not fully accessible)

Gitden Reader

  • Purchase: OER - free
  • Platforms: Android
  • Comments: Robust EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 Reader

Go Read for Android

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: Android
  • Comments: Supports Bookshare DAISY

Google Play Books

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: Android (phone, tablet or computer)
  • Comments: TTS support when publisher allows, supports PDF and EPUB

Voice Aloud Reader

  • Purchase: Free ($ for no ads version)
  • Platforms: Android
  • Comments: Reads EPUB, PDF, text, HTML, DOCX and RTF files, supports device TTS

Selected iOS Readers for iPhones and iPads

Apple VoiceOver

Amazon Kindle App for iOS

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: iOS
  • Comments: Supports MOBI and KF8, uses VoiceOver (not fully accessible)

Barnes & Noble Nook App for iOS

  • Purchase: Commercial
  • Platforms: iOS
  • Comments: Supports EPUB and PDF, uses VoiceOver (not fully accessible)

Capti Narrator

  • Purchase: Free and Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Chromebook, Android tablets (via Chrome browser), Web (as a website)
  • Comments: Integration with Bookshare, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Pocket, Instapaper, Gutenberg Project; built-in sophisticated translation, ability to extract articles from websites, advanced tools for educators.

Gitden Reader

  • Purchase: OER - free
  • Platforms: iOS
  • Comments: Robust EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 Reader

VoiceDream Reader

  • Purchase: OER - free
  • Platforms: iOS
  • Comments: Robust TTS Reader for PDF, EPUB, DAISY, Word, text files and more

Readers Provided by Bookshare

More information on Bookshare Reading Tools

Capti Narrator

  • Purchase: Free and Commercial
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Chromebook, Android tablets (via Chrome browser), Web (as a website)
  • Comments: Integration with Bookshare, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Pocket, Instapaper, Gutenberg Project; built-in sophisticated translation, ability to extract articles from websites, advanced tools for educators.

Read:OutLoud 6 Version 2.1 Bookshare Edition by Don Johnston

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: PC and Mac (not compatible with the most current Mac OS X)

Victor Reader Soft Bookshare Edition by Humanware

  • Purchase: Free
  • Platforms: PC only

Bookshare Web Reader for use with Chrome (Mac or Windows) or Safari browsers (Mac or iPad)

Mobile Options

Other Reading Tools

Bookshare content is also fully accessible via Dolphin Guide and SuperNova through their integrated Bookshelf tool. With Bookshelf one can access multiple online content providers from one place; making the downloading and reading experience easy and hassle free. For additional information, please refer to the Dolphin website.

Readers Provided by Learning Ally

Human narrated books with text available to members.

Download software for Mac, Chrome, Windows, iOS and Android.

Readers Provided by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Products are developed and provided to programs serving students with visual impairments. Items are available for purchase with federal Quota funds.

iPad, iPod and Kindle devices may be used to access APH PDF formatted large print digital textbook files.

Refreshable Braille devices may be used to access digital Braille or BRF files.

APH also provides (see Products):

  • Braille Plus 18 (smart phone/tablet with braille display and keyboard)
  • Book Port DT (desktop style digital talking book player/recorder)
  • Book Port Plus (portable, digital talking book player/recorder)
  • Refreshabraille 18 (portable, refreshable braille display and keyboard)
  • Book Wizard Reader (DAISY Digital Talking Book reading software)

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Largest non-profit organization creating products and services for people who are visually impaired.

View in glossary

Refreshable Braille

Provided by an electronic device display or terminal by raising dots or pins through holes in a flat surface, and displaying 40 to 80 braille cells at one time.

View in glossary

Digital Talking Book (DTB)

Digitally encoded files containing audio portions and full text to increase quality and availability of information to print-disabled persons.

View in glossary

Additional Reader Feature and Accessibility Information

Book Industry Study Group EPUB 3 Support Grid (BISG)

DIAGRAM Center Digital Talking Book (DTB) and e-Book Features