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Electronic Text [E-Text]

Defining Electronic Text [E-Text]

  • The use of electronic digital text (E-text) is a convenient and popular method of disseminating information in print formats on the web.
  • If the document is not readily available in any electronic form, it can be converted to e-text by using an optical character reader and a scanner to create an electronic version and then proofread and edited to eliminate scanning errors. This can be a time-consuming process, especially for longer documents.
  • There are many advantages to the use of E-text. The main advantage of E-text is that it can be easily stored, can be searched and indexed, and can be converted to large print or hard copy Braille through use of a translation program.
  • E-text can also be used with screen reading software to output the text to a speech synthesizer or refreshable Braille display and partially sighted individuals can use E-text by taking advantage of built-in options within many standard software applications (e.g. adjusting font size) or through the use of specialized screen magnification software.
  • But to be useful as a method of providing accessibility, E-text must be appropriately formatted.

E-text Exists in Many Formats

  • Plain E-text (usually known as ASCII or DOS text) is the universal standard for exchange of text documents and can be used by almost any word processing program. Such files typically have a ".txt" extension.
  • One drawback to the use of plain “.txt” E-text is that most formatting (tables, columns, headers, tabs, bold, italic, etc.) will be lost.
  • In some instances it is possible to avoid losing the documents’ format by using files in other common formats such as Microsoft Word 6 or above (“.doc”) or rich text format (".rtf").
  • There are also a variety of proprietary file formats that cannot be used by screen reading software.
  • For example, documents produced by many sophisticated page layout and design programs (i.e., FrameMaker, QuarkExpress, PageMaker) or documents saved in Portable Document Format (PDF), cannot be directly used with screen readers. In such cases, it will be necessary to convert the file into a format that is accessible.
  • E-text in proprietary formats used by publishers or manufacturers of electronic digital text may contain cryptic formatting for security purposes or may have been converted to E-text using an image transfer application (“.tiff”). If the text requires a proprietary viewer, it may be difficult or impossible to convert the file into a useable format.

Providing E-text for Distribution on the Web

  • It is generally recommended that scanned documents be saved in the format which best preserves the “look and feel” of the original document.
  • Maintaining or restoring structural integrity requires that the contents, headings, indices, footnotes, and other structures are accessible and provide for fast and efficient reading and comprehension.
  • If the E-text was obtained through scanning or was converted to ASCII from some more sophisticated or proprietary format, there is a high probability that some reformatting will be necessary to restore or simulate the structural integrity of the document.
  • For persons who are blind, some elements of page formatting such as page borders, different type sizes and fonts styles contribute little to document content. Depending on the nature of the document, this may or may not be a problem.
  • On the other hand, in some instances it may be important for the reader to know that information is presented in columns or that major headings are underlined. Such important information should be preserved in the finished document or manually restored when the scanned file is cleaned up to eliminate scanning errors.

When Supplying Print Materials for E-text Conversion

  • Be selective.
  • Choose original print materials free from extraneous markings such as information handwritten in the margins, handwritten underlining, or fragmented fonts.
  • Take steps to replicate the original material so that the copy has no or few shadows imprinted from the Xerox process; for example, the center fold and border shadows that occur when a book is not pressed tightly to the Xerox glass and exterior light leaks into the copying process and leaves black or gray smudges on the copied document.
  • Be prepared to wait for those original or copied documents that will require manual restoration, editing, or page formatting prior to the documents being added to the web electronic resource collection as an accessible document.

Example:

  • Bad E-Text

These are examples of bad pdf files viewed at 100% magnification. (click an image to view it normally.)

click to enlarge bad e-text at 100% magnification.
click to enlarge bad e-text at 100% magnification.
click to enlarge bad e-text at 100% magnification.
click to enlarge bad e-text at 100% magnification.

These are examples of bad pdf files viewed at 200% magnification. (click an image to view it normally.)

Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 200% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 200% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 200% magnification.

This is an example of a bad pdf file viewed at 400% magnification. (click an image to view it normally.)

Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 400% magnification.

Notice how the words and sentences are fragmented and broken apart. This is very hard to translate into text let alone read.

  • Better E-Text
These are examples of better pdf files viewed at 100% magnification. (click an image to view it normally.)
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 100% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 100% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 100% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 100% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 100% magnification.
These are examples of better pdf files viewed at 200% magnification. (click an image to view it normally.)
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 200% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 200% magnification.
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 200% magnification.
This is an example of a good pdf file viewed at 400% magnification. (click an image to view it normally.)
Click to enlarge a bad example of e-text at 400% magnification.

Do you notice how this e-text is clean and posistioned properly compared to the bad e-text which is very hard to read? This is what is needed when e-text needs to be translated, a clean copy that is readable.

Editor’s Note: Major portions of this document were developed by the Community College Chancellor’s Office based on the recommendations of a Special Alternate Media Workgroup established by the Consultation Council to advise the Chancellor on this subject. The original document was published by the Chancellor’s Office, California Community Colleges, 1102 Q Street, Sacramento, California, 95814-6511. The original document can be obtained by contacting the Chancellor's Office at (916) 322-3234. ©2000 by the Chancellor's Office, California Community Colleges.

Readers are advised that the document herein has been edited for structural information purposes and clarity for use for the CSULB campus community. Additional information regarding this document may be directed to Penny Peterson, HTC Coordinator, at penny@csulb.edu.

* For an expanded explanation on this procedure, click here.


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