Bookshare Offers Global Solution to Unlock Access to Books

By Brad Turner, posted on

At Benetech, we believe that access to information is a universal human right. However, according to the World Blind Union, nearly ninety-five percent of books and published materials cannot be read by people with disabilities. Our work is focused on making reading accessible to everyone around the world.

How do we accomplish this goal?

Starting with Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with disabilities that interfere with reading, we are implementing a multi-dimensional strategy that solves the legal, logistical, and technical challenges of bringing the world’s books to people who are blind, dyslexic, or have another disability that prevents them from equal access to print. The Marrakesh Treaty, which became effective in 2016, establishes a framework for accessible books to be created and made available, both domestic and cross border, for the benefit of people with disabilities worldwide. As more countries ratify the treaty, we move ever closer toward ending the “book famine.”

Marrakesh treaty announcement

Bookshare provides an indispensable model, and potential partner, for organizations hoping to implement Marrakesh access in their country. Key components of this model include:

  • Direct-to-consumer access – Bookshare enables readers to search for an accessible book from anywhere in the world and download it in a variety of formats. The book is available to read in a few seconds on a wide range of electronic devices.
  • Legal access – Bookshare supports national and international distribution of books by accommodating publisher requirements and national copyright exceptions simultaneously, providing the largest collection of books available in each country
  • Customizable delivery – Bookshare technology supports worldwide delivery of books and customizes what is available and visible to users in each country
  • Dual membership models – Bookshare supports two flexible user models: eligible readers can download titles themselves or librarians/educators can manage the users in their organization
  • Secure DRM – Bookshare’s Seven Point Digital Rights Management Plan ensures that copyrighted works are distributed only to qualified individuals with bona fide disabilities
  • Share collections – Bookshare can federate a local collection with other collections, thereby making a larger collection available to readers in ratifying countries.

The Marrakesh Treaty provides a framework for ending the “book famine” for people with print disabilities. As an increasing number of countries ratify it, the creation and transfer of accessible books provides a path to millions of books available to millions of people around the world who cannot otherwise read. Many wealthier countries have tens of thousands of books, and in Bookshare’s case, hundreds of thousands, to share. Benetech, through Bookshare, offers the technical infrastructure and expertise to create, transfer, and manage collections that meet the reading needs of people with disabilities, the organizations that support them, as well as the rights of content creators.

We encourage you to read the detailed approach in this guide:

Bookshare: A Global Approach to Bring Accessible Books to People with Disabilities