Bookshare® is a web-based digital library that gives people with print disabilities the same ease of access to books and periodicals enjoyed by those without disabilities. In the United States alone, there are more than 10 million people who have a disability that prevents them from reading a traditional printed book. Bookshare allows a book to be scanned once and then shared in digital formats that are easy to download, search and navigate.
The Bookshare library provides people with print disabilities in the United States legal access to more than 50,000 books and 150 periodicals that can be converted to Braille, large print or synthetic speech. Originally created by a community of volunteers, Bookshare is a subscription-based service operated by Benetech®. Many of the titles in the Bookshare collection are available to people living outside the U.S. including books in Spanish.
The Bookshare Concept Is Simple
The Bookshare Collection
Bookshare texts and periodicals are organized in collections by subject
area, just as they would be in a physical library.
According to teachers, the textbooks offered by Bookshare help students with print disabilities keep up with their classmates. High-quality digital books in accessible formats also encourage students to study independently and develop their tastes in recreational reading outside the classroom. Bookshare’s digital texts allow readers with print disabilities to easily navigate to specific pages or search for keywords, making them much more usable than books on tape.
Bookshare works with state education agencies and schools to get digital books to students in a timely manner. The library also partners with authors and publishers who contribute digital content with global permissions to make books available to print disabled readers worldwide. These partnerships allow Bookshare to deliver the best quality content possible at the lowest cost. The Bookshare library also makes extensive use of textbook files provided by publishers using the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), to create high quality student-ready materials in digital audio, large print or Braille.
In addition to texts, the Bookshare website offers free assistive technology software that Members can use to read digital texts in a range of formats. Benetech advises the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) advisory committee which develops etext standards for K-12 textbooks. The company also works closely with assistive technology vendors and leading technology firms such as Amazon and Google to make books more accessible.
Free Membership For Students
In 2007, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education awarded the Bookshare project $32 million over five years to expand the availability of accessible electronic books and the software for reading those books. This funding gives all qualified disabled students in the U.S., regardless of age, access to the library without charge. Students can download and read as many books as they wish from Bookshare on their home computers. Funding from OSEP will allow Bookshare to add more than 100,000 new educational books to the Bookshare collection in the next several years.
Bookshare Continues To Grow
In 2008, Bookshare completely rebuilt its online library of accessible books and expanded its collection of textbooks. The new Bookshare library offers Members significantly improved accessibility to digital texts and ease of use. New features include enhanced navigation, refined membership management and account sign-up tools, and more powerful search functions for books in the collection. Enhanced services for the Bookshare volunteer community makes it even easier for Volunteers to submit and proofread books.
The Bookshare library has made a dramatic impact in the lives of people with print disabilities. Bookshare Members can now participate in everyday activities that many people take for granted such as reading a daily newspaper, keeping up with assigned reading in the classroom or enjoying the latest bestselling novel. Bookshare currently has more than 40,000 members and is rapidly increasing the number of schools and students who depend on the library for accessible books and periodicals. You can view or listen to a profile of Bookshare student member Alex Clark who talks about how Bookshare helped him improve his grades and introduced him to a world of books about sports.