Scan/read systems, in which computers read aloud any kind of text that has been scanned, have become very popular in the last few years. In addition to being used by people who are blind and visually impaired, scan/read systems are now being recognized as a powerful reading tool for people who have learning disabilities. The one inconvenience, however, is the heavy time demands of scanning in page after page of text. This problem is exactly what Bookshare.org is designed to address.

Bookshare.org is a web-based system that supplies accessible books in digital formats for people with disabilities. These digital formats are the NISO/DAISY XML-based format for the next generation of talking books, and the BRF format for Braille devices and printers. The online community of Bookshare.org enables book scans to be shared, thereby leveraging the collections of thousands of individuals who regularly scan books for use with scan/read systems.

Bookshare.org takes advantage of a special exemption in the U.S. copyright law that permits the reproduction of publications into specialized formats for people with disabilities.

Who Can Benefit From Bookshare.org?

Anyone who has a disability that prevents them from reading ordinary newspaper print may wish to join the Bookshare.org community. This includes people who are blind or have severe visual impairments, people with learning disabilities which interfere with the ability to read print material, and people with mobility

limitations that interfere with holding or turning the pages of a book. Due to copyright laws, Bookshare.org users must be a U.S. resident and must submit proof of a disability that affects reading.

How Does It Work?

After providing written proof of a print disability and paying a modest annual subscription fee, users log onto www.bookshare.org and register. They then have access to the entire Bookshare.org collection and can select books to download in their preferred format.

Where Do The Books Come From?

The Bookshare.org collection is built and shaped by its community of members and supporters. By scanning a book to submit to the collection, a Bookshare.org volunteer or member can provide access to that book to other members. If you have digital copies of books that you have scanned in for your own use, you can submit them and enable others to benefit from your scanning effort. Bookshare.org also accepts original digital copies supplied directly from the copyright holder.

How Is Bookshare.org Different From NLS or RFB&D?

Bookshare.org provides a vast library of low-cost scanned books instead of a small library of high quality digital books.

Both the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS) and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) offer high quality digital book services. Contract narrators at NLS and volunteers at RFB&D record the audio books. The cost per book is quite high because of quality control requirements, and this limits production.

Bookshare.org cannot guarantee the quality of the books it provides because it is relying on its community of members and supporters to produce books by scanning. Many of these publications will be carefully proofread, providing high quality full text, with structure and audio. The great majority, however, will simply be scanned books, redistributed in a digital format. Compared to investing three hours to scan a book, as each of thousands of disabled people do daily, the opportunity to instantly get a book equal in quality to a personal OCR scan will lower a major barrier to access.

At the time of this writing, 11,674 books are available to members for download, and Bookshare.org volunteers are approving more each day.

What Does It Cost?

Individual subscriptions cost $25 to sign up, $50 for the annual subscription. Bookshare.org’s goal is to break even financially with modest membership fees and extensive volunteer support from its community of members and supporters.

How Can You Contribute?

More than 200 Bookshare.org volunteers scan, submit, and publish books. Find out how you can contribute to their efforts to grow Bookshare.org’s collection of accessible books by visiting the About Volunteering page on  www.bookshare.org.

Back to Index ..

Home button