How Our Publisher Partnerships Enable Continued Connection and Learning

By Guillian Hetzler, posted on
Collage of Book Covers

In this period of uncertainty, reading is a lifeline. Whether pouring through pandemic research, or finding temporary escape in a New York Times Bestseller, we turn to books for information and comfort. For students during school closures, access to books enables continued learning. Through Benetech’s Bookshare initiative we are working to ensure that people with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy and other reading barriers can enjoy the education, community participation, and social well-being that access to books brings.

Publisher Partnerships Help Bookshare Scale

The demand for books by people with reading barriers has never been stronger. Bookshare has already seen a significant uptick in new members, adding 17,000 users in March. As we continue to scale to provide more books to more people with reading barriers, our publisher partnerships play a vital role. Thanks to donated files from publishers, we are able to offer such a rich, growing, and current collection of accessible books.

Benetech partners with over 900 publishers who donate their ebook files directly to Bookshare so that our users with reading barriers can access them. Publisher donations greatly decrease the time and work required to get a book up on Bookshare and available to our users, as it allows us to circumvent the chop and scan process for the vast majority of our titles. Thousands of books are added to Bookshare through publisher donations each week. In this period of time when we must remain physically distant, access to ebooks through these publisher donations is more important than ever, facilitating community connection and learning through access to books.

Keeping Students Learning

Book covers for Number The Stars, The Hatchet, and Wonder.
Many of our top student downloads in March were titles received from publisher donations, including Hatchet (Simon & Schuster), Wonder (Random House), and Number the Stars (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

With schools closing across the globe, students with reading barriers need books for school in formats that they can read on the devices that they have access to at home. The typical on-campus and in-classroom supports that students with learning differences are accustomed to may not be possible in this new environment, so schools, teachers, parents, and students, are working together to find new solutions to create positive learning environments at home.

Through all of this uncertainty, Bookshare has been a lifeline to learning. Through their Bookshare accounts, these students still have access to textbooks, school books, bestsellers, and just-for-fun reads to keep them engaged and learning. Our partnerships with educational publishers such as Macmillan Learning, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, W.W Norton, and many others help us ensure that students and teachers have access to virtually any book they seek.

In response to school disruptions, many publishers have taken additional steps to ensure that learning continues for all students, including providing free access to etexts, resources for teachers moving to online classrooms, and more. View our curated list of resources from publishers and libraries.

Comfort and Social Connection Despite Physical Distance and Uncertainty

Reading offers solace and escape for many, and through our publisher partnerships, members can access the books that they want to read for pleasure, from cookbooks to romance novels and everything in between. Thanks to our publisher partnerships, we often make new titles available the same day that they are released to the general public. This means that our members get to enjoy the same books as their peers, participating in the social chatter and buzz around new and noteworthy titles, and creating new opportunities for connection through discussion forums and book clubs.

Bookshare’s own Book Club meets monthly on Zoom to discuss a novel, often selected from best-selling new releases. Thanks to our partnership with Penguin Random House, in March we selected the newly released Weather by Jenny Offill, which led to a lively discussion among all participants. This month, Bookshare’s virtual Book Club is reading Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party (a title received through our partnership with HarperCollins).

While the Book Club was established with Bookshare members in mind, all are welcome to participate in the discussion. Curious to join our April meeting? Learn more and register today.

Social connection is more important than ever as many are staying home to stay safe. Timely access to books is a key way to ensure that people with reading barriers are included. We thank our publisher partners for their support of reading for all.

Bookshare More Important Now Than Ever

Thanks to our publisher partnerships, Bookshare is able to offer a vast collection of titles for education and personal enjoyment. While we are proud to support 800,000 users across the globe, this is only a small fraction of the total number of individuals with qualifying reading barriers who could benefit from a service like Bookshare. With your support, we can unlock reading for many more individuals with reading barriers.

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Guillian Hetzler is Director, Content Acquisitions at Benetech. If you are interested in partnering with Bookshare, please visit our partnerships page to learn more.