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We’re Experiencing Exponential Growth at Bookshare!

2014 August 7
by Bookshare Team Member

We’ve reached two major milestones in our work to advance reading equality to underserved populations, and we’re shouting it out to the world!

Colorful text in variety of fonts reads... "Life is a Journey, make sure to pack enough books."

Colorful text in several fonts and sizes states…         “Life is a journey, make sure to pack enough books!”

First, the collection now surpasses a quarter of a million titles, 286,033 to be exact as of today. We achieved this milestone thanks to the sheer dedication of volunteers, our staff, and partnerships with over 500 leading publishers, like Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Wiley, and many others who donate their digital files.

Did you know that Bookshare also has well over 14,000 textbooks in the collection? Yes, that’s true! We also have vocational, research, teacher-recommended titles, and popular books.

The second milestone is that Bookshare now serves over 310,000 people with print disabilities! This includes students and adults in the U.S., as well as individuals in over 50 countries! This year, we also formed partnerships with Wounded Warriors and to provide library memberships for qualified Veterans.

Memberships are free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities thanks to awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Members get access to free reading tools that read our accessible ebooks in formats like DAISY Text, DAISY Audio, Braille Ready Format (BRF), and MP3.

Jim Fruchterman, our CEO, founded Benetech, Bookshare’s parent nonprofit organization. His goal with Bookshare was to create a digital library that would give blind users the freedom to read independently, to be more included in society, and to strengthen educational and employment opportunities. Jim says, “These milestones represent a giant leap forward in the number of students and individuals we serve. With the collection expanding daily, we can ensure equal access to the books our users need for education, employment, and social inclusion.”

Leading our charge is Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program. Betsy says, “It’s a privilege to know that we’re making a major, positive impact toward reading equality with titles that touch so many people, interests, and needs. We celebrate these milestones with members, students, and their teachers, as well as partners and publishers, universities and schools, our staff, advocates, and volunteers who all work together to make this mission possible.”

You can read Bookshare’s official news release on the PR Web news wire, and as always we appreciate your retweets, pins, and Facebook shares. Thanks!

HathiTrust Victory Advances Accessibility

2014 July 31
Jim Fruchterman

Jim Fruchterman

The recent Authors Guild v. HathiTrust case provides a victory that advances accessibility for people with print disabilities. This post originally appeared on Jim Fruchterman’s Beneblog.

On Tuesday, June 10, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York made a major ruling that emphasizes the legality of fair use for book digitization. In Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, a unanimous three-judge panel concluded that digitizing books in order to enhance research and provide access to individuals with print disabilities is lawful on the grounds of fair use—that is, a limitation and exception to the exclusive rights granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work (Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law). This is an immense victory for fair use as the basis of a balanced intellectual property system, and we, at Benetech, are delighted by it and by its tremendous positive implications for the public interest.

What is this court case and why do we care so much about it? As a non-lawyer, let me explain from the point of view of a technologist who cares passionately about accessibility for people with disabilities.

The HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL) is a partnership of academic and research institutions that had created (with help from Google) a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world. It allows users to search book content that contains a match for their search terms. To most patrons, HDL merely delivers titles and page numbers as results, but the University of Michigan’s Library, one of the HathiTrust members, does allow access to the full text of copyrighted works for people with qualifying print disabilities. In September 2011, the Authors Guild sued the HathiTrust, alleging massive copyright violations. A federal district court ruled against the Authors Guild in October 2012, finding that HathiTrust’s process was fair use under U.S. law. One of the key justifications that the court used was the value of the scanned books for people who are blind, who could benefit so much more from an accessible digital version of a library book (which can easily be turned into braille or read aloud) than from a physical copy sitting in a dusty stack. The Authors Guild then appealed the ruling.

As the parent nonprofit organization of the Bookshare online library, a leading provider of accessible books to people with print disabilities in the U.S., we at Benetech were concerned that the Authors Guild’s arguments in their appeal would remove the legal authorization for the services that we provide, relegating people with disabilities to second-class status. I was an expert witness for the National Federation of the Blind (which had joined HathiTrust as a defendant) in the district court case, and Benetech filed an amicus brief in the HathiTrust appeal case supporting the decision of the district court. You can read more about our position in the Amicus Brief, which we filed jointly with our peer organization, Learning Ally.

Now, a year later, the Court of Appeals agreed: the HathiTrust creates immense public value and its core activities entirely comply with copyright law. They decided that it is fair use both to create a full-text searchable database of copyrighted works and to provide those works in alternate formats that are accessible to patrons with disabilities. Furthermore, they even decided the Authors Guild did not have standing to bring the suit in the first place.

With regards to fair use for accessibility, it is encouraging to see the court citing the historic legislation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, thus advancing a view of fair use that’s consistent with the norms that Benetech has long advocated for. We saw this view underscored in last year’s Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled—an international copyright treaty that would make copyright exceptions for people with disabilities a global norm and allow organizations like ours to share accessible books across national borders.

Given the Court of Appeals’ momentous ruling in the HathiTrust case, Benetech stands on firmer ground than ever as we deliver our Bookshare services under the protection of fair use, in addition, of course, to Section 121 of the U.S. copyright law, also known as the Chafee Amendment. A full explanation of how Bookshare is made legally possible by these two copyright exceptions can be found in my January 2014 post, The Case for Copyright Exceptions and Fair Use.

This fair use victory is crucial not only for our present work, but also for our social mission at large and for the future of our work under our Global Literacy program. In particular, we’re excited about the promise that the appeal court’s ruling holds for the expansion of our efforts to improve access to images. Before this case, I’m not aware that there had been an explicit discussion of the legality of the practice of granting individuals with disabilities access to images in alternate formats. The Court of Appeals explicitly included image accessibility in its ruling. It states the following about the HDL’s digitation process:

The image files will provide an additional and often more useful method by which many disabled patrons, especially students and scholars, can obtain access to these works. These image files contain information, such as pictures, charts, diagrams, and the layout of the text on the printed page that cannot be converted to text or speech. None of this is captured by the HDL’s text‐only copies. Many legally blind patrons are capable of viewing these images if they are sufficiently magnified or if the color contrasts are increased. And other disabled patrons, whose physical impairments prevent them from turning pages or from holding books, may also be able to use assistive devices to view all of the content contained in the image files for a book. For those individuals, gaining access to the HDL’s image files―in addition to the text‐only files―is necessary to perceive the books fully. Consequently, it is reasonable for the Libraries to retain both the text and image copies.

From Benetech’s perspective, this is truly a groundbreaking decision, as we have been working at the frontier of image accessibility through our DIAGRAM Center—a research and development hub dedicated to making it easier, cheaper, and faster to create and use accessible digital images. The imperative to make images accessible to individuals with disabilities is becoming increasingly pressing as digital content is quickly shifting to include richer, more visual components, and is especially critical for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. The DIAGRAM Center’s community is in the midst of efforts to make image accessibility significantly less costly by turning inaccessible images, such as equations in a digital math book, into machine-readable information. Section 121 doesn’t explicitly discuss image accessibility, and we’d been hoping that fair use covers much of the DIAGRAM Center’s work. The appeal court’s ruling has now addressed this and we are much more confident that the legal framework for our efforts will be grounded in the provisions of fair use.

At Benetech, our goal is to advance a world in which the benefits of technology touch the lives of all people, not just of the richest and most able five percent of humanity. No matter what area we work in, we need intellectual property laws that balance the interests of society with those of creators. For this IP system to work for all it’s critical that copyright exceptions such as fair use be defended as a laboratory for innovation. We are delighted that the Court of Appeals has done just that by championing a robust view of fair use that encourages technological advances, rewards creativity, and benefits society. With the leverage of technology and the foundation provided by well thought-out IP laws, we can inspire both economic growth and social good.

Hot Off the Press! Bookshare’s Summer 2014 Bulletin

2014 July 28
by Bookshare Team Member
Image of Header of Summer Bulletin, books with a laptop and the words News for Bookshare Bringing Reading to Life

Header of the Bookshare 2014 Summer Bulletin

Bookshare members and supporters, the Summer 2014 Bulletin is out, and you can catch up on the latest happenings at Bookshare and Benetech, our parent nonprofit. What’s in the news?

  • Bookshare is celebrating two major milestones—serving more than 310,000 people with print disabilities and providing access to over 250,000 titles. Wow!
  • There’s still time to enter the Summer of Sleuths reading contest. Enter before 5 PM on August 1 for a chance to win awesome prizes!
  • Get great tips on using Bookshare from our Support Team.
  • Learn about our Parent Ambassador Program and great professional development opportunities for educators.
  • Learn how you and your company can support Bookshare with matching gifts.

Read the Summer 2014 Bulletin today and please subscribe to our blog!

For real-time news, we encourage you to subscribe to this blog. Just enter your email address in the upper right corner to receive a notice of the latest Bookshare blog. You can also stay connected on social media for product updates, cool stories, events, and popular book titles. Thanks for sharing our Summer Bulletin, retweeting the news, and pinning your favorite Bookshare images!


NEW! Bookshare Parent Ambassador Program

2014 July 25
by Bookshare Team Member
Image of Lisa Wadors

Lisa Wadors, Manager of Bookshare’s Parent Outreach Program

A post by Lisa Wadors Verne, PhD, Manager of Bookshare’s Parent Outreach Program.

Over the years, we’ve met many amazing parents who advocate on behalf of their children for accessible books, reading technologies, and educational resources like Bookshare. As a result, we’ve published some great stories about dedicated moms and super dads who have performed heroic acts to ensure their children get equal access to learning.

We know that there are many more parents doing similarly amazing things for children with print disabilities every day. They may tell other parents about how their child uses Bookshare at home, advocate at their child’s school to get free and helpful resources like Bookshare, and even train other parents or teachers at school or at conferences around the country. To support these parents, we’ve launched our first Bookshare Parent Ambassador Program.

a large group of individuals of all ages

Join Bookshare’s New Parent Ambassador Program!

The goal of this program is to bring together parents and caregivers to share information and best practices for using Bookshare and reading technologies with their children. The program will help parents collaborate with school administrators to get Bookshare access at school and support families who are new to Bookshare who want to sign up for Individual Membership.

The Parent Ambassador Program is modeled after the Bookshare Mentor Teachers program, which has over 600 mentors around the country. This growing network of educators and specialists talk with and train other teachers in schools. They work one on one with students and visit neighboring schools to guide them through signing up their school or district to become an Organizational Member of Bookshare.

You can make a positive difference in the lives of children with print disabilities byjoining our new Parent Ambassador Program now! We promise to value your time and make your commitment as rewarding as possible.

Stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels for the latest news, popular bestsellers, product updates, support tips, member stories, events, and much more.  Thanks for sharing news about this program in your tweets and pinning your favorite Bookshare images!


Bookshare’s Braille Gets an Upgrade!

2014 July 16
by Bookshare Team Member
Image of the Braille Alphabet represented in a sequence of dots.

Braille Alphabet represented in dot sequences.

Notice anything new about how you read Bookshare titles in braille? It’s gotten even better. Reading in electronic braille is popular among many of our members, who download titles in BRF, or braille ready format, on compatible reading tools.

The Bookshare team is committed to braille literacy and providing braille content that is high quality and timely. If you want to learn more about Bookshare’s position on braille literacy, read this post titled “On the Future of Braille: Thoughts by Radical Braille Advocates,” written by Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program.

About the Upgrade

In a recent update, our development team fixed a lingering issue that nagged our braille readers. Members who previously downloaded and read our titles in BRF would encounter extraneous dot fours adjacent to punctuation symbols that were often mistranslated. This interrupted an otherwise smooth reading experience. We are pleased to say that this problem has been eliminated, and Bookshare members who read titles in BRF can now enjoy a significantly improved braille reading experience. We’ve also made improvements to our systems that produce BRF files and updated our LibLouis conversion software to enable future improvements. Our goal is to keep getting better, so if you want to share some ideas on how we can improve, please comment in this blog.

What are Bookshare members saying about the braille upgrade?

Bookshare member Sharon von See says, “I’ve been able to download a few novels in Bookshare and have found the translation of the braille to be much improved! It’s a wonderful resource for braille readers to download and read literature at the push of a button.”

Rob Turner, a Bookshare staffer and braille reader says, “Reading braille books is much smoother now that the extra dot fours and mistranslated punctuation marks are gone. I read lots of Bookshare titles, so I appreciate this update.”

P.S. For specific issues with particular books, please submit a book quality request so our team can follow up.

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"For more product and support updates, cool member stories, events and popular books, stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels.

Third Grader Reads Fast with His Fingers and Inspires Teaching Assistant to Learn Braille

2014 July 3
by Bookshare Team Member
carissa and brennan

Teaching Assistant, Carissa Reed and Brennan Draves in the classroom.

Brennan Draves, a third grader at Mackensen Elementary School, who also receives educational services at Bay-Arenac ISD in Michigan, reads his assignments fast with his fingers. He uses a BrailleNote device and books from Bookshare. Carissa Reed, his teaching assistant, says, “Brennan is a whiz when it comes to learning! He’s just an awesome and intelligent little guy and a sponge for information. He inspires me and everyone he meets!”

Brennan has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and blindness. Brennan says, “Bookshare has made my homework easier. With my BrailleNote, I skip the notes in the beginning and go right to my reading assignment. I’m reading faster and my book bag is lighter too, now that I don’t have to carry heavy Braille books around.”

As a paraprofessional teaching assistant, Ms. Reed works with general and special education teachers across seven schools to support students with vision impairments like Brennan. “He is a big reason why I learned Braille,” she says. “And why I signed our district up to get books from Bookshare.

Ms. Reed learned how to use Bookshare by watching the “Learn It Now” video tutorials on YouTube. She also made cheat sheets of how the online library works to help other teachers. Many teachers who use Bookshare assist other teachers and take part in Bookshare’s Mentor Teacher Program.

Today, Brennan reads constantly and learns as quickly as sighted children. His reading skills are above average, and he has passed all of his Accelerated Reader tests. He is on track to be an honor roll student. “He makes me want to do my very best job of teaching and to go above and beyond my own expectations,” said Ms. Reed.

“This year, Brennan needed a textbook and 80 guided chapter books on historians, like Harriet Tubman and Alexander Graham Bell,” said Ms. Reed. “I requested the books and within a month, the staff notified me that they were available. I downloaded and organized them using the Reading List. This saved me time. Bookshare is a blessing for students and a cost saver for our district.”

Ms. Reed also works with students with print disabilities who use iPads to read. “The technologies have made learning a little faster and easier for them to download their assignments using Bookshare’s Read2go app. They fly through their homework, which gives them a bit more learning independence.”

Lindsay and Sloan in school

Brennan with his mom, Lindsay Draves at school.

Brennan’s mom, Mrs. Lindsay Draves, says, “Bookshare and the BrailleNote has made it possible for my son to be excited about learning. His love of reading and ability to absorb information enables him to do very well in school and he loves math and science. This year, he wrote his first digital book about his family, teachers, and friends. Ms. Reed is right, he’s just an awesome little guy and we are very proud of him!”

The Summer of Sleuths Contest Is Live. Enter Today!

2014 June 16

It’s time to solve some clues!

The Summer of Sleuths reading contest for U.S. Individual Members has officially launched! Put on your favorite detective cap, pull out your magnifying glass, and get ready to inspect some great detective books in Bookshare. logo for Summer of Sleuths Reading Contest

Through Friday, August 1st, contestants will download, read, and solve clues within great detective books from Bookshare. For every clue you answer correctly, you will be entered into a drawing for awesome prizes like detective gadgets, gift cards and free year-long Bookshare memberships! (Read our initial contest announcement to learn more about the contest).

Important Tips for Summer Sleuths

How can you make sure you have a fun and successful summer contest? Follow these tips!

  1. Make sure your Individual Membership is up-to-date. Sign up or renew today!
  2. Download the contest books for your contest level. Better yet, add them to a Reading List!
  3. Preview the contest clues, read the books, and find the answers.
  4. Submit your contest entries (you can submit entries all at once or start and save entries for later).
  5. Sign up for the notification list to get update and tips throughout the summer.

Most importantly, have fun!

Spread the Word!

Tell us what books you’re reading for the summer contest on Facebook and Twitter (make sure to use hashtag #SummerOfSleuths). You can also check out our Bookshare on Pinterest and share with other people with print disabilities and detective story enthusiasts!

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"Stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels for news of the latest thrillers and popular bestsellers, product updates, member stories, events, and much more to come.


From the Eyes of Fathers…Honoring Dedicated Dads!

2014 June 13
by Bookshare Team Member

We’re honored to feature two proud dads of Bookshare students. Mr. Drake Leong from Palo Alto, California, is the father of Kevin Leong, and Mr. Andrew Cooper from Austin, Texas, is the father of Ben Cooper. Both dads care deeply about their sons and are intimately involved in their education and use of Bookshare. These fathers represent the best in parental dedication to students with print disabilities. Today, we’re sharing their thoughts about their sons.

Image of Mr. Drake Leong

Mr. Drake Leong

Drake Leong

“Life before Bookshare was very difficult for my son,” says Drake. Kevin suffered an unexpected brain injury when he was little and had to relearn lots of things, including how to read. He could not read standard print in school because it was too difficult to keep up. “Using accessible books and an iPad, he is back on track and doing well in school.”

Kevin is a whiz on lots of different technologies. Sometimes he usImage of Kevin Leonges his iPad with Bookshare’s Read2Go app and finds it helpful to enlarge the font and set preferences to high contrast to read better. “Accessibility and portability are two very important factors in Kevin’s ability to learn and to be independent,” says his dad. “He likes to read digital books directly on the Internet with the Bookshare Web Reader and uses his iPhone to read on the go! It’s wonderful to watch Kevin’s progress and know that he is well on his way to accomplishing his dreams.”

Image of Andrew Cooper

Mr. Andrew Cooper

Andrew Cooper

“Bookshare has been a vital component to our son’s academic journey,” says Andrew Cooper. “Knowing and understanding Ben’s challenges with dyslexia was a first step to help our family identify the right solutions for him. We always knew that he was much smarter than his reading ability suggested and learned about this through scientific research conducted by Sally Shaywitz at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.  At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to educate children the best way we know how!”

Image of Ben Cooper

Ben Cooper

As a technology entrepreneur, Mr. Cooper knows firsthand that technology holds limitless possibilities for kids with print disabilities, such as blindness, low vision, a physical disability, or a severe reading disability like dyslexia. “People are just now learning about the benefits of accessible materials,” he says. “These resources made a world of difference for our son. Ben no longer guesses at words and can focus on understanding the content. His comprehension skills are at an advanced college level and we are very proud of him!”

Happy Father’s Day to All!

The Bookshare team thanks all moms and dads and knows that you support your children in incredible ways. Tell us your stories by posting a comment on this blog, and we will follow up. We also invite you to join engaging parent discussions on our social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

For those who want to help other families directly, learn more about our new Parent Ambassador Program. Parent ambassadors share, guide, and learn from other parents to find the best strategies, resources, and technologies to support their children with print disabilities.

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"Stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels for news of the latest thrillers and popular bestsellers, product updates, member stories, events, and much more.



Support Question of the Month: How Do You Renew Your Individual Membership?

2014 June 10
Bookshare Logo for Summer of Sleuths Reading Contest - Image of a magnifying glass over paw prints.

Logo for Summer of Sleuths Reading Contest

Renew Your Bookshare Membership Now!

Our June support blog on how to renew your Bookshare Individual Membership is just in time for our Summer of Sleuth’s Reading Contest.

Have you tried logging into your account, but were unable to download books? It’s possible that your Bookshare membership has expired. Make sure your membership is up-to-date by following the easy steps below and join us for a super fun summer reading event! The contest begins on June 16th.

Steps to Renew as a Student Member:

1. Log into Bookshare, select “My Account” in your Task Bar.

2. Choose the “Student Status” link, update your school information, then select Submit.

Steps to Renew as a Non-Student Member:

1. Log into Bookshare and select “My Account.”

2. Select the “Subscription” link, then complete the Renew Your Subscription section.

If you’re logged into your account on a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone, it may be necessary to first log out and then log back in to your Bookshare account for your membership renewal to take effect.

For more information or to get answers to commonly asked support questions, visit our Support Center. It’s chalked full of great information! You can also submit questions to our support team directly. Please do share your questions with our Bookshare community by posting a comment in this blog, on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll address it in a future post.

people holding hands with the text "stay connected"Subscribe to our blog to get answers to monthly support questions and stay connected with Bookshare on all your favorite social media channels for product updates, cool stories, events and popular titles.

P.S. The Bookshare Web Reader could be an important tool for you in our Summer Sleuths Reading Contest.

Mr. Mercedes…NEW Stephen King Thriller!

2014 June 4
by Bookshare Team Member
Mr. Mercedes book cover. Image of an umbrella dripping with blood.

Mr. Mercedes book cover. Image of an umbrella dripping with blood.

Nothing will start your summer reading engine faster than a suspenseful thriller! And who writes them better than Stephen King? Fans of mystery and suspense fiction are revved up for King’s latest book, Mr. Mercedes, just released! We’re delighted to have this new thriller available to download in the Bookshare collection of over a quarter million titles! If you are a Stephen King enthusiast, the good news is that Mr. King has forged into a whole new category of books—crime dramas. This one is being described as his first true detective novel. For this reason, we felt driven to include it in our Summer of Sleuths Reading Contest, which features an array of detective and mystery books for U.S. Individual Members to relish this summer. Titles for U.S. Adult Readers Mr. Mercedes is one of 15 Summer of Sleuths titles that adults can enjoy reading for the contest. The book is in good company, with classic works by masters of mystery and suspense such as Lee Child, Harlan Corban, J.D. Robb, Clive Cussler, and James Patterson. Titles for U.S. Students in 9th Grade and Up Adolescent readers who participate in the contest can choose from an impressive list of thrillers, including Vanished, Paper Towns, Nobody’s Secret, and Alliance, to name a few. Titles for U.S. Students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade Younger students who are individuals members can participate in the Summer of Sleuths Contest  and navigate 15 equally intriguing mysteries with fictional young detectives such as Cam Jansen, Nancy Drew, Theodore Boone, and Encyclopedia Brown. Answer Clues to Win Contest Prizes! To participate in the contest, Bookshare Individual Members will submit answers to questions from these books. The more answers you submit, the better your chances of winning cool sleuth-worthy prizes! If you haven’t already done so, sign up for notification of the Summer of Sleuths Contest. Then, download books and search for answers to these clues and questions. You can submit your answers on the contest website between June 16th and August 1st. If you choose to read Mr. Mercedes, let us know if you think Stephen King will find a space in the superstore-sized parking lot of crime dramas. Tell us why on Facebook, Twitter (hashtag #SummerOfSleuths), and Pinterest. people holding hands with the text "stay connected"Stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels for news of the latest thrillers and popular bestsellers, product updates, member stories, events, and much more to come!