Bookshare, Braille Institute Work Together To Increase Access to Braille Books
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Palo Alto, CA, July 30, 2002: Bookshare’s extensive online collection of electronic books can now be seamlessly ordered as hard copy Braille books, to be embossed and proofread by professionals at Braille Institute of America, Inc., significantly increasing access to books for Braille readers nationwide.
Bookshare® (www.bookshare.org), launched earlier this year by its nonprofit creator Benetech®, offers blind, dyslexic and other disabled individuals access to more than 10,000 digital books online, by enabling members of this community to legally share scanned books. Until now, Bookshare has operated exclusively as a subscription service, where members register on the website, provide proof of a qualifying disability and pay an annual subscription fee to access book files. Subscribers download books of their choice to listen to on their computers using a synthetic voice or to read using a refreshable Braille device.
“The problem of access to books by people with print disabilities is huge, with fewer than five percent of books available in Braille or audiotape,” said Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech. “This new partnership enables people to order hard copy embossed Braille books from the Bookshare collection. Now, whether people prefer reading digital books on their computers or reading right from a physical Braille book, their options for access are increased.”
“Literacy rates for blind individuals have been steadily declining, due in part to the enormous amount of time and talent it takes to create braille books, compared to audio. This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to bring together the power of Bookshare’s emerging technology and the traditional proofreading and production capabilities Braille Institute has well in place. Together we offer more choices to meet the needs of today’s Braille reader,” said Les Stocker, president of Braille Institute.
Braille Institute has been one of the leading blind service agencies and an advocate of Braille literacy since its founding in 1919. Through this partnership Bookshare can now make its books available to a wider audience, including school libraries, parents or friends wanting to give the gift of a book, or the individual Braille reader who prefers to purchase only a few books instead of the annual Bookshare subscription. The Braille Press is the largest publisher of Braille materials on the West Coast, producing more than 13 million pages of Braille a year for business, schools, government agencies and individuals across the nation with its team of certified Braille transcribers and proofreaders and its skilled production staff.
The books available from Bookshare originate primarily as scanned books submitted by members and volunteers. Tens of thousands of individuals with print disabilities across the United States regularly scan books to make them accessible for their own use. Bookshare leverages the collections of these individuals, eliminating significant duplication of effort so that the same popular book need never be scanned twice. Subscribers pay an annual fee of $50, with a one-time set-up fee of $25, to be able to access the full collection. The number of books that can be made available by Bookshare is limited only by the number of volunteers willing to scan and submit books. Designed to operate at “break-even,” Bookshare relies on volunteers and members of its online community to scan books on conventional scanners.
Available publications on Bookshare are organized just as they would be at your local library – by title, author, subject and genre. With the launch of this new partnership, ordering a book in hard-copy Braille can be done all in one visit, directly from the Bookshare Web site (www.bookshare.org). Users simply search for their book of interest and select the embossed Braille option. After filling out a simple online order form and submitting payment, the book order and any proofreading requested is sent to Braille Institute and the completed book mailed directly to the customer. There is no requirement to be a subscribing member to the Bookshare service to order embossed Braille books.
Each Bookshare book is rated for scan quality, indicating the number of text errors present: excellent, good or fair. Embossing, editing and proofreading services are available for excellent or good scan-quality books, and offered at three levels to meet the needs and budgets of a variety of clients:
Bookshare and Braille Institute comply fully with section 17 U.S.C. § 121 of the copyright law that stipulates that copyrighted literary works can be distributed by a qualifying nonprofit organization in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities. Books downloaded from Bookshare by subscribing members are protected with a digital rights management plan that includes file encryption, digital watermarks and fingerprinting to ensure that these books stay within the Bookshare community.
Bookshare was designed with input from The Association of American Publishers, The American Council of the Blind, The National Federation of the Blind and other leading disability organizations.
For more about Benetech and its current projects, please visit www.benetech.org.
To arrange to interview Benetech’s CEO, Jim Fruchterman, or Bookshare’s Senior Product Manager, Alison Lingane, please contact Jane Simchuk at (650) 644-3400.
For more about Braille Institute and its current projects, please visit www.brailleinstitute.org. For information about the Braille Press, visit www.braillepress.org.
To arrange to interview Braille Institute’s President, Leslie Stocker, or Nancy Niebrugge, director of Braille Publishing, please call (323) 663-1111, Ext. 3165.
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