People who associate audiobooks with actors reading the latest John Grisham potboiler in mellifluous tones have another thing a very different thing coming to them.
Welcome to the world of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), a half-century old, nationwide, non-profit organization that has enabled youngsters who were told that they would never read to graduate from college and engage in productive careers.
At RFB&D recording studios across the country, devoted teams of volunteers are engaged in reading, for the most part, textbooks that have been requested by the thousands of individuals mostly in grades Kindergarten through 12, and college students who use this unique service.
It is essential to know that reading a textbook means recording the entire textbook, including footnotes, bibliographies, and equations; describing diagrams and graphs the whole enchilada. For this reason, recording studios are typically located in close proximity to universities, where current and retired faculty are facile with the lingo of various subject specialties. Its not surprising, then, to learn that Princeton is home to a recording studio, housed in the St. Joseph Seminary on Mapleton Road. Princeton also happens to be the home of RFB&Ds headquarters on Roszel Road.
What we do is subject-based, explains CEO Andrew Friedman. We get content into a multi-media format. Just two weeks into the top spot (he was, for two years, the organizations CFO), Mr. Friedmans office is still bare, but his passion for his new job is clearly evident. He describes a recent conversation with a prospective board member who concluded that youve got the best job in the world, dont you?
With statistics showing that one out of every five individuals in the U.S. has a learning disability, Mr. Friedman, who worked in publishing before he came to RFB&D, says that the potential for growing the organization over the next couple of years is great. Theres a huge need for what we do. Its really about individual learning; giving kids the ability to learn the way that is easiest for them.
Quantum leaps in recording technology have and will support this growth for RFB&D. A small exhibit in the sunlit atrium at the organizations headquarters documents the transitions from reel-to-reel tapes, audio cassettes, CDs, and, most recently, MP3 capability. The early Soundscriber dictating machine used from 1948 through 1957 transferred a readers voice onto six inch vinylite plastic disks that held a mere twelve minutes of recorded materials per side. There was no room for error, observes a caption. If a mistake was made, the reader simply apologized and went on.
Today, an iPhone app is imminent, and Mr. Friedman is clearly delighted. Instead of using a blind product, kids will be using whats cool. It takes the stigma out of it.
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