Bookshare Accessible Online Library October 30 2014, 0 Comments

by Glen Wagner

Struggling readerImagine you are a high school student who has continually struggled with reading due to dyslexia.  While focused intervention has helped you cope, reading is still an uncomfortable process and it takes you three to four times as long to read something as your peers.  At school your friends keep talking about the latest novel turned block-buster movie, but how the novel is so much better.  You tune them out because you just don't read for fun - it's too much work.

Then a school librarian introduces you to Bookshare - an incredible online library stuffed with all the latest novels, your text books, even classic literature you've wanted to read.  As you explore further, you find there are reading apps, such as Open LORE Read, designed specifically to help you with your reading disability. Within a few days you discover the joy of becoming so absorbed in a great novel that you can't put it down! Such is the dream of Bookshare and their partners like Open LORE.


Benetech logoIn 1989 a new non-profit organization was formed under the name of Arkenstone (yes, the same name as the great jewel discovered beneath the roots of the Lonely Mountain in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.  For 11 years, Arkenstone produced over 35,000 reading machines for the blind.  In 2000, this successful enterprise was sold, the company name was changed to Benetech, and Bookshare was born.

Bookshare logoBookshare is a Global Literacy Initiative of Benetech, and describes itself as an accessible online library for people with print disabilities; however, it is much more.  Bookshare fosters a community of publishers, technology partners, and educational sponsors together with their online e-book delivery platform to provide accessible forms of content to those with print disabilities "at the same time as their peers."

Operating in the U.S. under copyright exemption (the Chafee Amendment), Bookshare also obtains publisher permission to make books available outside of the U.S. for people with print disabilities.  The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has provided funding to ensure the service is available free to qualifying U.S. students.

How Does it Work?

Anyone can navigate to Bookshare and browse for books.  The website has been recently updated.  On the homepage type in the book title, author, or ISBN and click search.  You will be presented with a list of matched titles.  The advanced search feature is very powerful and you can look for books based on publisher quality and whether the book is freely available or if you need to be a qualified member.  Over 4,200 titles are freely available to everyone.

Bookshare website search

Titles can be downloaded in a variety of formats such as DAISY, BRF, plain text, or HTML.  Open LORE Read is compatible with the DAISY format.  You simply download the file by clicking the DAISY icon, then add the file by clicking the Add Book icon in your Open LORE Library.

Open LORE will be releasing an integrated Bookshare feature in the near future where readers can access Bookshare directly from Open LORE reading software.  Current Open LORE Read customers will be able to upgrade for free when this version is available.

Who Can Qualify?

Image blurring words on a pageFull access to all Bookshare materials is limited to those with qualified print disabilities.  Print disability is defined by Wiktionary as "Disabled in such a way as to be effectively unable to read print material, whether due to blindness, dyslexia, or another disability." Bookshare supports those who are blind, have physical disabilities, or learning disabilities that are confirmed to impact a person's ability to read print.

Click Who Qualifies to navigate to Bookshare's Member Qualification page.  Our next Bookshare blog post will be how Open LORE customers can qualify, which is also detailed on Bookshare's website.

What does it cost?

Dollar sign iconAs mentioned above, due to the OSEP grant, Bookshare's service is free to qualifying U.S. students.  Likewise U.S. schools can set-up Bookshare as a service for their qualifying students for free.  For other qualifying members the service is $50 annually with a one time $25 set-up fee.

Click What does it cost? to learn more.