Candidate Statement - Robin Seaman



Nomination for IDPF Board of Directors, November 2011 election

Robin Seaman - Bookshare

Reasons for Running

 From the time I joined Bookshare and advocated for joining the IDPF, the organization has been a critical resource for us and we are deeply invested in its success.

We at Bookshare believe that we can offer a unique perspective as Board members: 

Our Pioneering Work around eBooks and Accessibility

·         Since its founding in 2002, Bookshare – the largest global library of content for readers with print disabilities -- has been at the forefront of the ebook revolution, with a stellar engineering team that has dealt with a broad array of challenges in building a robust digital library.

·         A note on our history:  Bookshare’s ebook collection was originally driven by volunteers who scanned books they wanted to read – which we then transformed to DAISY -- in order to share them with others.  I came on board in 2008 to work with the publishing community to inspire publishers to donate their EPUB files to Bookshare and support our social mission.  Of the 130,000 titles in our collection, 60,000 have been contributed by publishers.  Our partnerships range from the major trade houses (Random House, S&S, Hachette, HarperCollins, Harlequin) to university presses (23 partners that include Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Chicago, Cambridge), professional and academic publishers (Wiley, Taylor & Frances), international organizations such as The World Bank, the IMF, and RAND Corporation, and K-12 educational publishers.

Our Keen Support of the Convergence of EPUB and DAISY

·         EPUB 3’s emphasis on accessibility, obviating the need for DAISY, is a tremendous step forward in leveling the playing field so that individuals with print disabilities have equal access to content and can buy books they want to read rather than relying exclusively on specialized services such as Bookshare. 

·         In Summer of 2012, Bookshare will be offering EPUB 3 downloads in addition to DAISY and BRF (the digital Braille Ready Format).

·         Betsy Beaumon, VP and GM, Literacy Program, Benetech, serves on the Board of the DAISY Consortium and Gerardo Capiel, VP of Engineering, Benetech, sits on the DAISY Technical Advisory Board.

Our Partnerships with Assistive Technology Companies and Silicon Valley Technology Companies

·         We work closely with the AT device makers Don Johnston and Humanware, providing their reading software tools to Bookshare members and ensuring that Bookshare books can be accessed on their AT devices as well as on devices from Kurzweil.

·         We have consulted with Apple over the last year and this summer Apple approved our iPad app, Read2Go, which is a top-ranked accessible educational app in the Apple App Store.

·         We regularly meet with Google's T.V. Raman and the rest of their Accessibility Team regarding technology initiatives and standards around accessibility and development of Android open source ebook readers.  

·         Bookshare also collaborates closely with Mozilla around accessibility and has been a grantee of the Mozilla Foundation.

Our Role in Engaging with All Sectors of Publishing

·         To accommodate both individual readers who are looking for books for entertainment and intellectual fulfillment as well as students at every level in the education system – from grades K-12 through secondary and post-secondary studies and adult continuing education – we are building an extremely broad content library.  I work with K-12 textbook publishers, K-12 publishers who specialize in supplementary educational materials, university presses, academic and scholarly publishers, trade publishers, children’s book publishers, and STM publishers. 

Bookshare’s Growing International Presence

·         We are committed to making books accessible not just in the US but around the world and have a special focus on developing countries. 

·         We have partnerships with sponsoring organizations in 11 countries and members in 28 countries.

·         We are publishing books in Spanish, French, Hindi and Tamil.

·         With funding from Qatar, we are embarked on an Arabic initiative that we believe has the potential to impact literacy in the Middle East.

My Background

As the Director of Content Acquisition for Bookshare, I work across all publishing sectors to forge partnerships with Bookshare. 

I have been in book publishing in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area for twenty-five years and have worked in a variety of marketing and content roles for Macmillan, Oxford University Press, The Crown Publishing Group, HarperSanFrancisco and IDG Books, where I was the Creative Director, Product Packaging, and oversaw the first major redesign of the “For Dummies” series.


I joined NuvoMedia in 1999 as Director of Content for the Rocket eBook, the first dedicated electronic reading device, and continued in that role when Gemstar acquired both NuvoMedia and its competitor, SoftBook.


In 2008, I joined Benetech, the Palo Alto-based nonprofit founded by the Silicon Valley social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow, Jim Fruchterman, which is dedicated to making technology solutions available for social causes that the market does not support (human rights, the environment, literacy).  Bookshare operates under an exemption in the copyright law, the Chafee Amendment, which enables it to make books available for qualified members without publisher permission.  It is funded principally by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.  Bookshare has 155,000 members, 130,000 titles in its collection – 60,000 of which have been contributed by publishers -- and agreements with over 138 publishers in the U.S. and 30 publishers internationally.  It operates in a dozen countries around the world. 

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from U.C. Berkeley and a Master of Arts from Berkeley in Slavic Languages and Literature.

How Bookshare Can Contribute to the Board

How Our Work on the DIAGRAM Project Can Help the IDPF

·        Bookshare is in the second year of a five-year R&D initiative with WGBH’s Center for Accessible Media – NCAM -- along with the U.S. Fund for DAISY to create tools and practices to help publishers make images accessible.  We look forward to sharing these tools and practices with the IDPF and working with the organization to communicate these innovations to its publishing members.

Leveraging Our Publishing Partnerships to Promote the IDPF

·         My relationships with a broad swath of the publishing community and Benetech/Bookshare’s credibility as a trusted partner in making books accessible gives us a great platform to promote the goals of EPUB 3 and the work of the IDPF.

Creating Awareness of the IDPF with Publishing Associations

·         One of my key strategies for engaging the publishing community with Bookshare has been to connect with publishing associations from the AAP and its various divisions (particularly the AAP’s Professional and Scholarly Association)  to the AAUP to the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).  Through my relationships with the Directors of these associations and Board Presidents and Board members, I can speak to the organizations and their publishing members about the IDPF. 

·         Because I attend key professional meetings from each publishing sector, I can represent the IDPF to audiences that do not intersect regularly with the IDPF, particular publishers in the K-12 and university press sectors – areas where EPUB adoption has lagged significantly behind adoption by trade publishers.

International Outreach and the “International” Digital Publishing Forum

·         In addition to attending the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair – where I am often one of the few U.S. attendees at meetings around accessibility – as our international operations expand, I am traveling abroad to speak at accessibility conferences (Denmark this month) and Book Fairs not on the regular circuit (I’ll be leading a panel at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair on accessibility in the Arabic world) where I can give the IDPF greater visibility. 

·         The partnerships I’m forging with international publishing organizations (such as the International Publishers Association and the UK Publishers Association).

 Contributing Our Marketing Communications Skills to the IDPF

·         With an extensive background in marketing – writing, design, packaging and positioning – I am in a position to help the organization with communications, conference planning and execution, web copy,

On behalf of the team at Bookshare, we appreciate your consideration of our participation on the Board.



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