mp3 for visually impaired
May 18, 2006 4:48 AM   Subscribe

I need recommendations for an mp3 player for a blind user.

My sister-in-law, who is very visually impaired, is tired of lugging around a big cassette player and recorded books for the blind that she gets from the Library of Congress.

She has a little bit of vision and has a computer running Windows XP. She wants to start listening to audiobooks with a more convenient little player. I have an account and listen with an iPod mini. I just don't think that an iPod is going to be that great for a blind person.

A similar question was asked last year, but I know technology changes, and I'm hoping to give her a good recommendation. In addition to recommending an mp3 player, I would appreciate knowing what source of audiobooks would be best.
posted by WyoWhy to Technology (12 answers total)
rockbox. (archos, iaudio, ipod, iriver, etc.)
posted by dorian at 5:16 AM on May 18, 2006

I just don't think that an iPod is going to be that great for a blind person.

Are you including the iPod shuffle in that?
posted by cillit bang at 5:28 AM on May 18, 2006

If she lives in Maryland, or has access to a Maryland library card, she can download audiobooks for free from Maryland's "Digital eLibrary Consortium." The books have digital rights management on them that makes listening priveleges expire after 21 days.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:56 AM on May 18, 2006

Aaand two lists of other libraries that offer the same thing:
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:00 AM on May 18, 2006

Get her a cheaper one, without a UI. Something like the Apple Shuffle
posted by blue_beetle at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Cillit bang and blue_beetle: Sorry to be so clueless ... I thought that the iPod Shuffle would shuffle files around--but I guess if you only load one file onto the shuffle that would be okay. Maybe this is the best idea for SIL.

A couple of questions: Are you able to bookmark files in the iPod shuffle? I am assuming that it would interface okay with and I know it would be fine with iTunes---and they do have books. I'm pretty sure that you'd have to have only one file at a time on the shuffle to ensure that it didn't shuffle--right?

Dorian, thanks for the Rockbox information, but I am not nearly computer savvy enough to really understand that site. I did print it out though and will try to figure it out.

As an added difficulty, my SIL lives in Israel. She's visiting us in DC now, but I don't know how much computer support she's going to be able to get on the Kibbutz. I'd like to help her as much as I can here.

posted by WyoWhy at 7:53 AM on May 18, 2006

There's a slider on the back of the iPod Shuffle: Off, Play in order, and Shuffle. It can also bookmark files from Audible.
posted by zsazsa at 8:03 AM on May 18, 2006

My business partner is very visually impaired. She's looked around quite a bit and decided to use the Shuffle. Its not great but she can get it to work. We've looked at the Rockbox stuff, but it's not good enough yet.

There are two products designed specifically for blind users that your SIL may want to look at; the Bookport and the Book Courier. Both of these will not only play mp3's, they also have a built in synthesizer to read back text files sent to the player. I've had some experience with the Book Port and you'll want to get a large capacity flash card to store audio books on if you want to have access to more than 1 book at a time.

My business partner doesn't like the Book Port or Book Courier for aesthetic reasons only. She thinks they are too big and don't look as nice as an Ipod. She's waiting for the Rockbox software to get better.
posted by rsclark at 8:31 AM on May 18, 2006

I'd go with the IPod shuffle. I've actually gotten to the point where I can work the basic controls on my IPod by touch alone; it's just the GUI that keeps me from being able to get whatever I want totally by feel. If I (sighted, although with sensitive fingers) can work the big IPod, a shuffle should be easy.
posted by kalimac at 11:06 AM on May 18, 2006

Although I love apple products, I would avoid them if you're looking to "borrow" DRMed audiobooks from your library. The Seattle library does a similar thing here, but the audiobooks are totally useless on any sort of iPod, because the files are in .wma or some other proprietary format.

Perhaps ask at your local library, or your sister in law's center for the blind in her area? Somewhate tangentially, there are also apparently some blind podcasters that do great work; she may want to check those out for more info or just for something else to litsen to.
posted by rossination at 11:20 AM on May 18, 2006

I like my sony NW-E507. It has an interesting set of controls which allow me to operate the unit in the dark, through my shirt pocket, while out walking etc. Took me a very short while to get used to the controls, but it's much better than the normal `tiny buttons' system so many mp3 players have.

I largely use it to listen to audio books / podcasts, and it also has the benefit of charging via it's USB cable, so there are no battery changes to worry about.
posted by tomble at 7:38 PM on May 18, 2006

WyoWhy -- basically it allows a voice-guided navigation/menu system. in addition it can speak the name of folders and files. I haven't played with it much; sounds like rsclark has evaluated it much more in depth. not surprised if it is still lacking at this point, rockbox is still evolving and has a long way to go (this is a good thing, in a sense).

and to get it working properly does take a little elbow grease and savvy.

having it read back text files would be champion, dnno if the rockbox boffins are working on that currently.
posted by dorian at 8:14 PM on May 18, 2006

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