U.S. Trade and Textbook Publishers Partner with Bookshare

By Benetech, posted on

Agreements Increase the Quantity of Digital Accessible Books for Individuals with Print Disabilities

April 29, 2009, Washington, D.C., The National Press Club — In an effort to improve the availability and quantity of digital accessible educational books, textbooks and trade books, Bookshare, the world’s largest online accessible library for individuals with print disabilities, today announced partnerships with leading U.S. trade and K-12 publishers. Two dozen publishers have signed agreements with Bookshare to provide digital content, which over time will add tens of thousands of books in accessible formats to the Bookshare collection. These publishers include Brookings Institution Press, De Capo Press, HarperCollins, Modern Language Association of America, O’Reilly Media, Random House, Scholastic, The Hachette Book Group, and Townsend Press.

Contributions of high-quality digital books from U.S. publishers will reduce the burden of scanning and proofreading traditionally done by volunteers nationwide as one of the few means of making printed material available for individuals with disabilities. Agreements with publishers, many of which include permissions to distribute worldwide, will add a wealth of accessible books to Bookshare, including children’s books; general trade fiction and nonfiction; national bestsellers; academic, scientific and technical books; and textbooks for students in grades K-12, higher education, graduate school, and continuing education. By providing Bookshare with digital files, publishers can rely on the organization to distribute books to qualified individuals and fulfill their compliance obligations under the Chafee Amendment of the U.S. Copyright Law (17 U.S.C. § 121). One publisher has already turned to Bookshare to respond to the numerous ad hoc requests for accessible books from U.S. schools, universities, organizations and private citizens.

“Digital media is the future for learners and individuals with print disabilities,” said Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech®, the Silicon Valley nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare. “Fewer than five percent of books are available in accessible formats today. Working directly with book publishers, we have an extraordinary opportunity to knock down the barriers and raise the floor of access to ensure all individuals have access to print publications at the same time.”

Using proprietary conversion tools, Bookshare can easily convert EPUB (e-book standard) files and other formats received from publishers into accessible formats such as DAISY 3.0 (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Ready File), saving publishers the time and expense of producing accessible formats. A further benefit of partnering with Bookshare is the Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology that Bookshare adds to every book downloaded by a member to protect publishers’ copyright interests and guard against illegal sharing.

Thanks to a $32 million award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSEP), Bookshare is now free for all qualified U.S. students who are blind, have low vision or who have a physical or reading disability. Bookshare’s collection includes more than 46,000 titles and is growing at a rate of over 1,000 books per month from contributions from publishers, universities, downloads processed from the NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center), and scanned books contributed by volunteers. The Bookshare library is expected to increase to over 100,000 books by 2012 with publisher and university contributions augmenting the books from the extended volunteer and nonprofit network. To download books from Bookshare, a qualified professional must certify that the member has a print disability. U.S. K-12 schools, organizations, universities, colleges and individuals with print disabilities around the world can become Bookshare members. Members may download two free accessible ebook readers, READ:OutLoud from Don Johnston, Volo, IL and Victor Reader Soft from HumanWare, Quebec, Canada.

Publishers interested in contributing to the Bookshare library should contact Ms. Robin Seaman, Publisher Liaison, through http://www.bookshare.org/contactUs.

View a complete list of partnering publishers at:http://bookshare.org/about/communityPublishers#PublishingPartners

About Bookshare

Bookshare, www.bookshare.org, is the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility issues so that individuals with print disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as people without disabilities. In 2007, Bookshare received a $32 million five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualified print disability. The Bookshare library now has more than 52,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, benetech.org, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs.