Archive for November, 2010

E-Book Reader Reviews

Kindle, Nook, BeBook, Kobo, Sony Reader, Astak, iPod/iTouch… 

and the list of e-book readers goes on and on!

ebook readers
Ebook Readers

It’s the season for gifting. If I were to judge by the number of questions asked about e-book readers it appears this is a hot item on givers lists this year! With so many devices to choose from, how do you sift through the choices to get a device that mets your needs?

With all the E-book readers flooding the market it is difficult to decide on electronic book device purchase. As an assistive technology quester I am always on the hunt for devices to support our special needs clients and exploring methods of delivering accessible print for them.  Although I do not yet own a specific e-book reader,  a number of them are on my radar that seem to have features that support access to print for individuals with special needs. I have been working with ebook reader apps for the iPad as well as the PC  such as vBookz, Blio and Kindle for PC but continue to explore dedicated ebook reader device features for  students and clients I service. This post provides a few  web based reviews/resources I found helpful to help sift through devices and their features. Also listed are questions that will guide (using Joy Zabala’s SETT Framework) you in thinking about what features you need to look for if you are making a ebook reader purchase for individuals with special needs.

First here are questions to consider what the readers needs are:

  • Student/User – Who is the user, what skills or learning mode allows them the best access to content? Does the user  need to pictures and text, do they need books read out loud (text to speech) to access print? Do they have any motor concerns for access to the device? Is the print size and clarity easy to access  for the individual ? Does the user need larger print for visual access?
  • Environment(s) – Where will it be used, how long will the device be used, what kind of battery life do you want it to have?
  • Task(s)  – What is it going to be used for? What kind of content do you want on it? Curriculum materials,  reading books already in print, reading articles,  news, magazines? Are the books or materials you want to use on the device available in electronic format? If not, what kind of file formats can be uploaded or converted to the device? What  file formats can the device manage? 

I have been researching  information on e-book reader devices for a while. Here are a few web resources I found that provides extensive current information on features, specifications and reviews of e-book reading devices to help sort through device selection:

eBook – Reader 2011 Comparison

Top Ten Reviews website provides reviews of 16 different e-book readers including specifications, cost, features, ranking  on a 1-5  scale (poor to excellent),  user review and formating information in an easily viewable chart. The Top Ten Reviews website also provides suggestions for what to look for in an e-book reader such as  design, content management, cost, memory and battery life, as well as additional features.  Pictures and links to videos and vendor information is also help with understanding device features.

The chart or table produced by Top Ten Review was ideal to quickly weed through important features and specifications when considering an e-book reader for special needs, especially if considered for use if managing curriculum based materials in a school system (see article indicating the Feds Require Accessibility to EReaders) . Listed on this review included 4 of the 16 that had text to speech capabilities, important information for accessibility requirements in schools if applying their use in general education (see above article).

The Ebook Reader Wiki 

 The Mobile Reader Wiki provides an extensive matrix of comparisons of ebook readers according to size (5″, 6″ and larger), features, content, formating compatibility design, cost as well as additional features. The matrix information is presented in a chart allowing ease of  reviewing  extensive information at a glance. A source of device  specifications and feature information but it does not rate or provide reviews of the devices. Still well worth perusing to gather extensive device feature information.


Another website reviewing over 30 e-book readers. The website provides information on not only dedicated e-book readers but also devices such as iPad, Galaxy Tab and enTourage Edge which are mobile tablet PC’s that can be used as an e-book reader. Review and rating categories of overall, usability, design and value for the money are provided. Discussion of the features, ratings and user reviews are provided along with cost of the device. Updated information is provided, helpful with the frequent changes  and upgrades made with electronic devices and operating systems.  Another website worth the visit to gather information on devices.

The website eBook Reader Reviews is dedicated in entirety to the discussion of eBook Readers for more informed decision-making. 

There are many sources of information on e-book readers on the Internet of which the reviews for mentioned are only a few. I hope they are helpful. If you have a great resource please share in the comments!

Look for more information coming in future posts on managing document  or PDF file conversion for use in e-book readers!

AT Quester


vBookz 2.1 Manages ePub Format for iPad, iPod and iPhone

It is here! vBookz has updated their ebook app providing the tools to be able to upload your own ePub files to its interface!

vBookz picture


 vBookz is a beautiful, free ebook reader with speech capabilities that has been out for the iPad for a while. It’s interface is easy to navigate, beautiful, providing public domain ebooks with text to speech capabilities.  The arrival of the new version 2.1 now allows uploading of other files converted to ePub format, which is a boon for loading curriculum content to students onto devices such as iPad or iPods for access using text to speech capabilties.


vBooks text to speech provides a good quality female or a male voice and the ability to adjust the rate of speech.  There are basic choices of  white on black or black on white background contrast and text size. Book marking capabilities are intuitively available. The vBookz website provides an easy tutorial on how to created an ePub file and transfer it to your vBookz app on your iDevice.

Having waited and searched the Internet for an ebook reader with text to speech, I am excited to learn about the upgrade of vBookz  to version 2.1  and the ability to manage ePub files! The wait is over!!

 AT Quester

AT for Writing

 Assistive Technology for writing is probably one of my favorite subjects as an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Specialist. In an effort to be green I am posting a slide show on AT for Struggling Writers for a class that I will be presenting on the topic. Although not inclusive, there are many resources about AT writing tools.

AT for Struggling Writers

AT for struggling Writers 11-20-10

AT Quester

Onscreen Keyboard with Word Prediction

The need for an onscreen keyboard with word prediction, abbreviation expansion recently presented itself inorder to  supply an individual with a mobility impairment  access to his computer. My typical search and checking on previous favorites was stymied by the need to find some thing that had all the tools but also Win 7 compatible. Despite numerous searches, I was not coming up with a match and disappointed that previous favorites did not  appear to be Win 7 compatible.

Windows 7 operating system does have a great onscreen keyboard that is adjustable in size,  has basic word prediction, a hover tool (dwell)  for selection and different keyboard layouts. All great, but not quite enough for a dedicated on screen keyboard user.

With assistance from a experienced AT ECU guru from ATR (Thanks Phil!) I was provided several resources, one which I had not found in my searches –Word Logic. Word Logic’s Onscreen Keyboard had all that I was looking for and more!

Word Logic

Word Logic

Word Logic’s  Options  menu choices provides the ability to  customize its appearance,  window behavior, word prediction dictionaries, navigation/hovering time for selection or use with a mouse click as needed, to mention just a few. It’s word prediction also provides phrases offered in its prediction dictionary as well as abbreviation expansion and the ability to create your own dictionary word list. Recency was immediately available following use of new words.

Word Logic Optionspic

Word Logic Options

A new feature I found in Word Logic not typically present in other word prediction programs,  provides a feature that allow you to create buttons as a link to favorite websites within the onscreen keyboard window for easy access. I found this especially helpful for individuals who have limited but accurate mobility.

Word Logic was  easy to install and implement. It is also reasonably priced. Word Logics website also provides a Quick Guide  with directions to quickly get you going with the software.

Word Logic Tools

Word Logic Tools

Contact with Word Logic via email  found them very prompt in replying to questions and willing to accommodate specific requests about software purchasing. What a great find! If I were rating software I’d give Word Logic five stars from my initial use and their customer service!


More iPod/iPad App Resources

The more I work with the iPod and iPad devices the greater I understand the incredible possibilites that exist to support student learning. Finding the apps is often a timely process involving searching, downloading and then trialing the app to see if it is a fit for a students needs.

Great News is that iTunes has recently created an individual category in its store for Special Needs! Much easier than searching through all categories  for possible apps for students that seem to be endless and increase daily at an exponential rate!

iTunes Special Needs Store

iTunes Special Needs Store

I am fortunate to be a member of the QIAT list serv where I have an incredible access to the collective resources of  hundreds (thousands?) of AT gurus with amazing experience. A recent post provided a link to Luiz Perez’s wikispace providing numerous apps for special education needs. Nicely done and organized. His wikispace also provides tutorials and other resources for education. I wish I had found this resource  earlier this month for training at my school!

Mobile Learning 4 Special Needs

Mobile Learning 4 Special Needs

Mobile Learning 4 Special Needs

Carol Videos

The school where I work subscribes to the terrific resource Discovery Education (United Streaming), a powerful resource for teaching and reinforcing skills and providing visual learners information in their best learning mode. How could it get much better than United Streaming?

Well free doesn’t always mean better, but free and more video resources can be better for our students. is a website with a compilation of free videos  for primary thru secondary aged students organized with a wide range of topics from sciences to  history, math to life skills. The videos are carefully organized by subject with the capability of searching by age using a slider tool on the web page to narrow your search.  Videos are also rated. They also provide a video of how to use the website for ease of use.

What a fabulous resource for  instruction, building background knowledge or reinforce educational concepts to your students.


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Adult Coin-U-Lator Equivalent

When you work in Assistive Technology, there are always questions about tools for specific jobs received via email  and colleagues. A colleague forwarded a question from a special education teacher looking for  an adult equivalent of  the  Coin-U-Lator for teenagers or adults that might be more appropriate in appearance for that age group.

Here are my search results of tools that are more amendable to adults  that deal with calculating coins:

Coin Counting Calculator

The Coin Counting Calculator can be used to count money and to teach coin values. The function of the calculator can be set to add or subtract. This could be used to help a student identify coins, learn coin values, to determine if they have enough money to purchase an item, and to calculate the change they would have left.

iPocket Change

An app for the iPod that calculates if you have enough change for a purchase.

iPocket Change app for iPod

Change Calculator

Change Calculator is only a calculator with out visuals of coins available for reference.  It will calculate change you will receive.

Coin Math

Coin Math app practices coin identification, counting of coins and practices calculating change.

All of the apps cost under $1.99 at the time of this post. If you have any other resources, please share!