First I’ll say how awesome (!) it was to attend a book signing for one of our own. I get to read Jerry’s work-in-progress almost every week at group, and I know he writes well. It was great to see that skill and work come to fruition: getting his novel published.

While at the signing, I sat next to a man who was blind. I sat next to him mostly because he was sitting on a very cushy-looking settee and, compared to an hour on metal folding chair, there was no contest. (Ok, he was also attractive in a 50-ish, ponytail kind-of way.) We chatted before Jerry spoke and talked about our preferred fiction genres, styles, and authors. I asked him if he could read and how did he read. He smiled and said that he could indeed read, read a lot, and currently used an optical character recognition (OCR) machine for books and OCR software on his computer. He told me how much better it is today compared to when he attended school and college, always requiring a reader (“Not that I don’t greatly appreciate what they did for me…”) and how much easier it is today and how he prefers having more control over his reading instruments.

I asked if the OCR had different voices to choose from and other options; did he prefer a woman’s voice or something like Jerry’s (deep, male, radio voice)? He explained that he did have a preferred voice among the many it had to choose from, and he would not pick a voice like Jerry’s (LOL), but more important to him was his ability to control the speed. Dramatic texture was not nearly as important to him as speed. I found this interesting, as I would have thought voice-acting skill was important.

Now that I’m doing some research on the web on OCR, I realize a couple things. He knows reading his way , and so he calls it reading. Why would he call it anything else? Just because he doesn’t use his eyes the way do — he still receives information from a book or magazine and processes it verbally. I had a bit of a perspective shift. We are so egocentric, aren’t we? The other thing I realized is that my preference for dramatic reading may stem from the choices I have. I have used “books on tape/CD” for long drives, and I have been acutely aware and judgmental of poor readings. For example, Lance Armstrong’s biography recording is done by a professional actor/reader. It’s so well done, that when I heard Lance speak after I finished the bio, I thought he sounded wrong. Contrast that to John Glenn’s biography recording. While he’s certainly lived an interesting life, he’s not a skilled or dramatic reader, and I don’t think he should have read his story himself. I found myself distracted from the content by his wooden delivery. I put books I read myself and recorded books into two different catagories. This is not a distinction this man can make.