Tribute to Robin Seaman

By Betsy Beaumon, posted on

Our whole Benetech family is saddened by the sudden passing of our friend and colleague, Robin Seaman, on Monday, January 7. Robin was a shining example of both commitment to making the world a better place and a warmth and humor that made her beloved by all who knew her.

Robin was a pioneer in the ebook world, having worked at Nuvomedia on the Rocket eBook in the late 1990s, long before most people thought about reading books on electronic devices.  She had an illustrious career in publishing prior to that as well, including IDG Books Worldwide, HarperCollins, and Oxford University Press, and had many friends and fans in the industry. It was only natural, then, that an organization with a mission of providing access to published works through ebooks and in need of someone to connect them with publishers, would be a perfect fit for Robin.

Robin Seaman

She joined Benetech in 2008 to work on growing the Bookshare library of accessible ebooks for people with reading barriers, and the rest, as they say, is history. However, it’s a history that is worth highlighting to honor Robin and her amazing legacy. It also emphasizes how much impact one person can have when she leverages her considerable skills, works very hard, and teams up with a like-minded group with a shared mission and complementary talents.

In 2008, Bookshare had about 10,000 books in its collection, mostly in English, and available primarily in the United States. Today it has over 687,000 books in 44 languages and is used in 80 countries around the world. Over 90% of those books came from publishers, through over 850 relationships forged by Robin. This volume of content matters because everyone deserves to read what they want for pleasure, education, employment, and civic engagement. Bookshare’s 600,000+ users have reading barriers and cannot read standard printed books due to dyslexia, learning disabilities, visual impairments, and/or physical disabilities. Ebooks that can talk, output braille, and be read in enlarged font with dynamic highlighting bring millions of books to this community every year.

I have been using Bookshare since 2011 and it has dramatically changed the way I read. Once I got Bookshare, I could carry my books around on an eReader or tablet and download a book almost instantly. I started reading more and was able to join more discussions in class. – Veronica L.

While working diligently to grow the Bookshare collection further, including major strides in books published worldwide, Robin was also committed to the long-term mission of accessibility for all, beyond Bookshare. She was instrumental in deepening and expanding standards and partnerships in the world of digital publishing to achieve the goal that all books and other publications that are born digital must be Born Accessible. This is our mantra, and we will carry on this work that Robin was so passionately pursuing.

Finally, as a colleague and a friend, Robin was incredibly special. She radiated warmth, was always positive and supportive, and had a wickedly refined sense of humor. She was that rare person who could be both classy and fun, subtle and gregarious, effervescent and down-to-earth. Our team will remember her for countless meaningful interactions, introducing us to the best partners and advisors in the publishing field, and for a certain intern who remains steadfast in our midst. Robin’s impact, both personal and professional, will be felt for years to come.

Our hearts go out to Robin’s family and dear friends in this difficult time. To share remembrances of Robin, please go to her memorial page on Ever Loved.