THIRD TIME THE CHARM: On the still Challenging Road to Book Access

Doh! As memories of sunny boat rides and historic walking tours become ever more distant, I am forced to slip fully into the grasp of reality. For the next two years, that’s gonna mean grad school. I’m looking forward to this now, having seen the first course and its rigorous but useful requirements. But, I hadn’t thought it would be so hard to get the one text book I needed.

I went to the first site that had been recommended to me by Disability Services, textbooks.com. They wanted $50 for an electronic copy. Ok, not too bad for a college book I thought.

The issue at first was that I couldn’t get the book to show up on my phone’s screen, where I’d initially chosen to log in. It seemed that an image, I guess the cover, was obscuring everything else, and I had no idea how to remove it. So I tried to go back PC-SIDE, only it said my account didn’t exist! Created another one, and no access to the book. Sigh.

Next, I tried Google Play Books. If it’s Google, I reasoned, then surely it should be at least moderately accessible. Hey, they’ve done a lot better meeting this basic standard lately. Well it would’ve been, except the text-to-speech functionality was disabled both on the PC and phone. I’ve heard of this, but it was the first time I’ve encountered it. More frustration, this time for a $33 rental fee. Great.

Finally, it occurred to me to go and check in with my old friends at CourseSmart.com. Only they’ve merged? and become VitalSource, the same provider for the textbooks.com site. Even so, once I again paid a $33 rental fee and obtained it through the VitalSource platform I could finally! get it to work. They even have an IOS app that has a great layout, showing me where each paragraph and page clearly begin and end. This will come in handy when referencing.

All of those shananigans cost me $113 in total. I don’t know how much of a refund I can get, but am just glad to be able to read the chapter in time. As you can see, yes access has come a long way, but it is still too much of a crapshoot when one is attempting to make purchasing decisions. On Google especially, I tried to ascertain if the thing would work but didn’t see the “helpful” message to screen readers that they wouldn’t be able to interact with the material until I’d already wasted my dough. I wish it had said so more upfront!

In the hopes of avoiding more craziness, ah who am I kidding, there will always be more craziness, I’m referring to the graduate checklist I wrote a couple years ago when reflecting on what happened last time. I want to make sure I’ve done everything to the best of my ability, or at least know how I will do so soon. Here she blows.

  1. Know your goals. As I’ve spoken of before, this is the one thing of which I am most certain.
  2. Know the writing style. APA, ah the nightmare continues! We do have a really structured way of learning it in the first class, though, and will also do a podcast. On APA. Right.
  3. Know the technology. Oh, book craziness aside I am far better at that than I had been in 2011. Now, I have most of my stuff in the phone, and will mainly only need the PC to do discussions.
  4. Talk to professors and Disability Services staff about needs. Well? I’ve started that. The director of that office at Queens is excellent, and has gotten most things in line. Still must set virtual office hours to chat with prof.
  5. Be financially able to survive first semester. This is the reason I’m staying on at the job, though it would benefit me tremendously if I didn’t have to work. Maybe I can win that $900,000,000 power ball lottery?

So come and join me as I begin this wild ride again. I anticipate that some classmates will be reading soon, so hello. I hope I entertain, educate, and inform. Off to what else? read.

2 Responses to THIRD TIME THE CHARM: On the still Challenging Road to Book Access

  1. Your assigned reading fiasco is a truly absurd tale that would nettle the best of us. You beat the system, though, and persevered! I enjoyed this story.

    • Yes, such craziness occurs more often than I’d like. I usually try to laugh at the situation, though. Thanks for reading.

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