Benetech Unveils Bookshare Reader Suite for Smart Speaker, Web, and Mobile

New suite of free reading software for school, work, and leisure breaks down barriers for people with dyslexia, vision loss, and other reading challenges

Today, Benetech announced a free reading software suite to enable inclusive access to information for people with reading barriers: Bookshare Reader for Web, Bookshare Reader for Alexa, Bookshare Reader for iOS, and Bookshare Reader for Android. This suite of free tools, available summer 2022, will make reading accessible books easier than ever before.

Through Benetech’s Bookshare service, people with learning differences, visual impairments, physical disabilities, and other reading barriers can find millions of accessible reading materials, including novels, textbooks, academic journals, newspapers, magazines, and more. Access to Bookshare is free for all US schools and students with qualifying disabilities, and it is available to non-students for a subsidized yearly fee. This new suite gives Bookshare users a free, standard set of reading tools that they can customize to read in ways that work for them.

“Benetech developed the Bookshare Reader Suite to increase equity in access to reading and learning for people with reading barriers, especially those who do not have regular access to the internet, or time and resources to invest in supplemental assistive technology,” said Ayan Kishore, CEO of Benetech. “From preschoolers to older adults, anyone with dyslexia, vision loss, or other reading barriers will benefit from this suite of inclusive and modern reading tools.”

Bookshare Reader logo. Alexa speaker, a laptop and a mobile phone each have the reader suite open on the book, Frog and Toad.

Bookshare Reader for Smart Speaker

With just their voice, users can open the Bookshare Reader for Alexa and listen to virtually any book, magazine, or newspaper that they like in high-quality text-to-speech audio. The Bookshare Reader skill is available to use on any Alexa-enabled device, including smartphones with the Alexa app.

Additional features under development include:

  • Live support with in-app calling: Call Bookshare customer support directly from the Alexa app.
  • Connect with the Bookshare community: Use the Alexa skill to call into Bookshare community events, such as the monthly Bookshare Book Club, and connect with fellow readers.

Now in beta, the reader can be found in the Alexa skills store and is available to any individual Bookshare member. Future releases will provide access to students and educators on school organizational accounts.

“Just as it has done for me, I truly believe this skill will give more reading independence to thousands of others,” shared Darrin Reid, a Bookshare user who is beta testing the Alexa skill. “If you can talk, you will be able to read.”

Bookshare Readers for Web and Mobile

Bookshare Readers for web, iOS, and Android, provide a consistent user experience across a standard set of easy-to-use reading applications. The new readers feature intuitive controls and enhanced configuration features.

  • Customization Settings: Mix and match colors for background, text, and highlighting, and choose from expanded voice options. 
  • Enhanced Math Support: the new Bookshare reader will have the capability to read equations in accessible math books using MathML.
  • Read Anywhere: Download books to a smartphone or tablet to read anytime, anywhere using the Bookshare Reader Apps for iOS and Android.

The new web-based reader is now in private beta testing in select school districts across the nation.

“Bookshare is a resource that we’ve relied on for years in our district to get qualified students access to educational materials in the alternative formats that they need to learn and achieve,” said Emily Cooper of San Diego Unified School District. “The intuitive design and features of the new reader make it easy for our students to read independently.”

The web reader and mobile apps will be available to the public in summer 2022.

Development of Bookshare Reader for Alexa has been generously supported by the Consumer Technology Association Foundation and Ability Central. Development of the Bookshare Web Reader and Mobile Applications is supported by the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Projects.

Learn more about Bookshare Reader for Smart Speakers: https://www.bookshare.org/cms/get-started/reader/smart-speaker

Learn more about Bookshare for schools: https://www.bookshare.org/cms/bookshare-me/schools/bis2022/teachers

Learn more about Bookshare for students and parents: https://www.bookshare.org/cms/bookshare-me/schools/bis2022

About Benetech

Benetech is a nonprofit dedicated to reducing social and economic inequity in partnership with the communities that we serve through software for social good. Benetech’s initiatives are transforming how students, jobseekers, and older adults across the globe read, learn, and work. Benetech believes that access to information is a human right, and no person should encounter barriers to education, literacy, or employment due to differences or disability. Visit www.benetech.org

About Bookshare

Bookshare, a Benetech initiative, makes reading easier with the world’s largest ebook library for people with reading barriers. Members can access over a million titles and read their way with specialized formats that enable users to customize their reading experience. Visit www.bookshare.org