I learned about Bookshare in 2004 just before my senior year of high school. Bookshare wasn’t free for qualified students back then, so I paid for my first subscription with money I received for my high school graduation. I joined six weeks before I started college, knowing I would need as many sources of accessible materials as possible.
While there weren’t many textbooks, I thought I would find materials that would help with research papers. However, another use was rather surprising. For a political science class, I was required to read the newspaper, e.g. The New York Times, several times per week and write a summary of what I read. I got accessible versions through Bookshare, which was a life saver as the university library of course only had print copies. Throughout, I’ve used the computer technology books from O’Reilly for school, work and personal projects.
During college, I learned how to use the scanning/ocr software for the inevitable handouts and textbooks that my college could not provide electronically. Not knowing where my ability to scan books would lead, I decided to practice as a volunteer for Bookshare and soon got to know some of the team. It wasn’t too long before the Director of Operations hired me as an intern in Operations and I had the opportunity to assist with a variety of projects. With my college computer science coursework, the engineering team began to give me some projects too, and then, after graduation I was hired as a developer.
I’m now in graduate school in computer science and had to write a paper for my algorithms course. I started by going to the university library to find what resources they had. In addition to a few electronic resources, I picked up a couple of hard copy books and resigned myself to using my dusty scanner. However, before beginning the painful page-by-page process, I tried the Bookshare Advanced Search form. Using full text search, I quickly zoomed in on a handful of promising titles, much to my surprise. I ended up using more sources from Bookshare than my university library! That was one of those ‘ah ha!’ moments for me personally–being able to fully understand what my daily work enables firsthand.
This January, a few days into a short minimester class, our instructor mentioned we might also look at another textbook as a reference. This time I didn’t panic.-I searched and found a slightly older edition on Bookshare that worked perfectly for the assigned chapter. Bookshare continues to provide me with titles I need. I continually download books for work, school and pleasure.