Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities. The Bookshare library provides qualified members legal access to more than 43,000 books and 150 periodicals that can be converted to Braille, large print or synthetic speech. People with print disabilities include readers who are blind, or have impaired vision, learning disabilities or a physical disability that prevents them from reading a traditional printed book. To meet the requirements of copyright law and Bookshare’s agreements with publishers and authors, Bookshare members must provide proof of a qualifying print disability. The Bookshare library is located at www.bookshare.org.
Originally created in 2002 by a community of volunteers, Bookshare is operated by Benetech, a nonprofit technology company based in Palo Alto, California. In 2007, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education awarded Bookshare $32 million over five years to expand the availability of accessible digital 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. Bookshare members who are not students pay a $25 set-up fee and a $50 annual subscription for unlimited access.
Funding from the Uhe U.S. Department of Education gives all qualified disabled students
in the U.S., regardless of age, access to the Bookshare library without charge.
Since the OSEP award, hundreds of schools have signed up their qualified students for Bookshare, and many parents have registered their disabled children for individual Bookshare memberships. The Bookshare staff works with state education agencies and schools to get digital books to students in a timely manner. Bookshare is now adding 1,000 books and textbooks a month to its collection and expects to offer 100,000 new educational books and serve hundreds of thousands of users by 2012.
Bookshare’s digital texts allow readers to easily navigate to specific pages or search for an individual word. Accessible textbooks offered by Bookshare help students with print disabilities keep up with their classmates and study independently. The collection also includes a wide range of general fiction, nonfiction, children’s literature, educational books and bestsellers.
The New Bookshare Library
In 2008, Bookshare completely rebuilt its online library of accessible books and expanded its collection of textbooks. Bookshare has now relaunched with state-of-the-art web technology that simplifies the reading experience. Improvements in accessibility and ease of use now make it easier for individuals to get the books they need quickly. The new Bookshare library implements many of the current best practices for website accessibility and puts most features of the library within two or three clicks. New accessibility features include enhanced navigation, membership management and account sign-up tools, streamlined search, and additional options for Braille readers.
The new Bookshare library implements current best practices for website accessibility and puts most features of the library within two or three mouse clicks.
Heading Level Navigation: All website pages are structured with headings and subheadings to make it easier for people using ebook readers to navigate from section to section. Ebook readers are software tools that read text on the screen in a synthesized voice.
Skip-to-Main-Content Link: Each page has a “Skip to Main Content” link for ebook readers, allowing members to skip all the navigation links at the top of the page and go straight to the content. Pressing the Tab key takes Bookshare members straight to the main content, and pressing Enter prompts the ebook reader to begin reading the content.
Improved Navigation: The new library uses drop down menus for the main navigation, eliminating long lists of links. These drop down menus are recognized as headings by ebook readers, allowing members to easily navigate from heading to heading, and through sections of content. Those using the Jaws screen reader can press the “3” key to go to each content area, and the down arrow to move through the subsections in that area.
Built-in Support for People with Low Vision: New page design allows members to zoom in or out on a page with all items on the page scaling accordingly, even images. Members with low vision can enlarge the font and images to a size that is comfortable and still maintain the integrity of the page and its contents.
Customization of Braille Line Length: When Bookshare members download a book in BRF (digital Braille) format, they can now vary the number of characters on a line to match the display on their Braille device. Members can go to My Account, select the Preferences tab and set the line length. This setting will remain in place for all books downloaded until members change it. Customizable line lengths also help with production of embossed Braille.
Tables Used Only for Tabular Data: Tables are not used for page layout, but only for data that is best understood in columns and rows.
Enhanced Search Features
The new Bookshare library offers several ways to search for books. Searching for a book or periodical now requires just two clicks. New search features include:
• Quick Search: This streamlined search page is much simpler and easier to use and works well with ebook readers:
-There is no top navigation or header to skip over to reach the content.
-Search results are displayed in a simple Google-like format that offers quick access to the download links and the book information.
-Members can bookmark the search page and come back to it whenever they want to find a book quickly.
• Standard Search: Members can type a title or author in the search field at the top of any page on the Bookshare website. Results are displayed as a
table or a list and can be sorted by title or author. Members can also narrow their search with the “Relevant Authors” field, which displays the authors
who appear most often in the results.
• Advanced Search: Members can click Advanced Search for a full-fledged search page that allows them to search by title, author, ISBN, book type,
international availability, book quality and/or language. Members can sort and filter the results and display them in a table or list view.
Improved Book Quality
Bookshare is committed to maintaining the highest quality in its library of accessible books and actively solicits quality reports from members, including teachers and students. The Bookshare staff is in the process of rescanning all books that do not meet the “Excellent” quality criterion of 99.9% character accuracy or above. If members find a book with significant errors or one which does not match the quality label, they can submit a quality report by using the “Report book quality issue” link on the specific book information page. Bookshare will fix errors as quickly as possible and replace the book in the library. NIMAC-sourced textbooks will be completed within a week. Educational and general reading books will be fixed as soon as possible.
Unzip Instead of Unpack
Bookshare has upgraded its compression/encryption technology to use standard Zip compression. This simplifies the process of downloading books. Users no longer have to download and install the Unpack Tool.
New DAISY Reader Software
Bookshare now offers two complimentary software applications known as ebook readers that read text in synthetic speech for members with visual impairments and learning disabilities.
• Victor Reader Soft Bookshare Edition. This new and improved ebook reader
from HumanWare is easier to use and includes more functionality. It is
designed for people who are blind or have low vision. If members use
Firefox as their web browser, they can open books directly with Victor
Reader Soft Bookshare Edition as they download them.
• READ:OutLoud Bookshare Edition. The new version of this DAISY reader
from Don Johnston is designed specifically for people with learning
disabilities and features word spotlighting, eHighlighters, a browser, an
online dictionary, reading guides and note-taking capability. Once members
have downloaded a book, they can open it directly from within
READ:OutLoud Bookshare Edition.