Bookshare and Hachette Book Group (HBG) announced today that they have entered into a partnership to provide digital books for Bookshare’s accessible online library for people with print disabilities. This partnership has two components that break new ground in the publishing industry. First, Hachette has agreed to donate digital files for all 1,700 currently digitized frontlist and backlist titles. Secondly, Hachette will refer all customer service requests for accessible books to Bookshare for fulfillment.
The Bookshare library provides legal access to more than 43,000 books and 150 periodicals that are converted to Braille, large print or synthetic speech. Thanks to Bookshare, a person with a print disability can read a newspaper the same day it hits the newsstand or download a best-selling book simultaneously with its release.
Fewer than five percent of the books needed by people with print disabilities are currently available in accessible formats. An award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) allows Bookshare to expand its collection through publisher partnerships and to grow the number of users who have access to the service. The award also provides free access to qualified students of any age.
Bookshare members download books, textbooks and newspapers in files protected by its Digital Rights Management system to ensure the security of publishers’ copyrights. Members read the texts using adaptive technology, such as software that reads the book aloud (text-to-speech) or converts the text to an enlarged font, or hardware devices that allow the book to be read on refreshable Braille displays. Members can also print digital books as embossed Braille.
Bookshare’s conversion and distribution of accessible books from publishers’ digital files significantly reduces the time and expense required by publishers to provide books in accessible formats for people with print disabilities.
In 2008, Bookshare was completely rebuilt with state-of-the-art web technology to make it significantly easier for people with print disabilities to access the books they want and need. The new design implements many of the current best practices for website accessibility and simplifies the process of reading digital texts.