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Giving Thanks, Looking Ahead: An Open Letter to the Bookshare Community

Betsy Beaumon head shot
Betsy Beaumon, General Manager, Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program

Dear Friends,

I always appreciate hearing from our members and getting a glimpse into how Bookshare is making a positive difference in their lives.

Oftentimes, the stories our members share with us are deeply moving, but there’s something especially rewarding in hearing someone new to our community commenting on what they’re able to accomplish with Bookshare.Consider the following statement that one of our members has anonymously shared with us:

“I recently activated my account, and am thrilled with your service and how it works seamlessly with my iPad. This is the first time I have been able to read books unavailable [as commercial digital spoken audio products] in over fifteen years. In addition, your service is enabling me to develop a career that would otherwise be impossible. I am very grateful for Bookshare!”

This note is a powerful reminder of how grateful I am for you—our Bookshare members, parents, educators, volunteers, donors, and partners—and for the tremendous achievements we have accomplished together over the past year.

Thanks to your support, Bookshare is now serving more members than ever with a collection of hundreds of thousands of accessible ebooks, and with tools that offer a “read now” experience on multiple devices of their choosing, whether at school, at home, at work, or on the go. We just launched a major update to the Bookshare website, carefully making major improvements to it in order to better support our members and enable them to get even more out of our vast and growing collection.

We aren’t stopping here, though. We believe that our technology and services offer a new world of opportunity for millions of readers around the world, and are setting our sights on further revolutionizing the fields of accessibility and education. These goals are embodied in the mission of Benetech, the nonprofit parent company that operates Bookshare and that advances the use of technology as a force for social good. We’re therefore expanding not only the scale of our work through Bookshare but also our scope across the Benetech Global Literacy Program.

This means that our team is taking on multiple new, cool projects. For example, we’re working hard to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for students who have visual disabilities or learning differences. We just launched a new project to explore new ways in which 3D printing technology in libraries and museums can be used to improve learning and accessibility in a range of educational contexts, especially in STEM classes. Earlier this year, we began developing a cloud-based app to help publishers and educators deliver accessible math.

As these projects illustrate, we’re extending what we’ve learned from our extensive work with Bookshare to help publishers and other content creators realize the promise of the digital age and ensure that all content that’s born digital is also “born accessible.” We’re also expanding the proven Bookshare model internationally, so that people with disabilities all around the world, including many who currently have little or no access to education, benefit from the same service that our members enjoy in the United States. In fact, Bookshare is the only major library of its kind that’s actively delivering services in conjunction with partners across the world.

Thank you to our thriving Bookshare community for everything you have done to make these efforts possible. As we look forward to 2015, we know that much work remains to be done—people to empower, places to reach, new accessibility tools to explore and build, and new partnerships to develop in order to better address the global need for accessible content. All this mission-focused work goes beyond what we’re funded to do, and we definitely need your generous help to carry it forward: to provide additional books; create unprecedented opportunities to benefit from accessible math; extend our services to developing countries; and keep improving and increasing the ways to use Bookshare.

This giving season, you may be receiving communications from our team with an appeal for financially supporting Bookshare. Please take a look and give whatever you can to allow us to continue these efforts and do even more, for more people. We build our technology-for-good products and reach dollar-by-dollar, and therefore every gift of any size makes a difference for the individuals we serve.

I look forward to continuing our shared journey, and to accomplishing much more together over the coming year and beyond. Thank you in advance for your support.

Warm regards and happy holidays,

Betsy Beaumon

General Manager, Bookshare

Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech’s Global Literacy Program


  1. Gerardo Corripio

    Almost one year; December 17 2013 will be a day I’ll never forget, when I received my go-ahead to start using Bookshare! not only browsing as the weeks while waiting for the paperwork and other requirements to be fulfilled, but downloading books too! What a joy being able to for the first time, instantly be able to search, download and begin reading a bestseller! Here in Mexico, getting hold of English books be Psychology which is my field of study, bestsellers and other titles, isn’t easy! Yes maybe buy them online via Audible and other methods involving paying online, but nevertheless with Bookshare, it’s as if one can enter a library or Bookstore, not only browse to one’s content, but also download and instantly begin reading! The Spanish colection is also growing, which is great! thus permitting Spanish-speaking blind people to take advantage of Bookshare! so and because Thanksgiving in the US is approaching, thanks for all you do for blind people across the world! At least for me, there’s a before and after having joined Bookshare! No more longing to only dream of being able to read a book heard of via a Psychology podcast, or on a general culture radio show on which they interviewed the author; Bookshare generally has it ready to instantly download and read! thus being in the same level of culture and conversation starters/participation as the sighted public! Thank you Bookshare! may I keep on being a member many years to come!, not only downloading/reading, but also spreading the word among Spanish (and why not, English) blind future Bookshare users, of all I’ve gained from being a part of Bookshare! You definitely changed my life! both professionally and personally. Muchas gracias Bookshare, por todo! Thank you Bookshare for everything!

    • Bookshare Team Member

      What a great Thanksgiving post Gerardo! We are thankful for our members and appreciate you taking the time to write to us and mention our collection of Spanish titles. Our very best to you for continued success in all your endeavors.

  2. tina

    I’ve been part of bookshare for I think 11 years and have really enjoyed it and the number of ways it allows for reading. i use it a lot theese days on my android phone thank you for go read and look forward soon for trying the webb based reader with my new laptop. I wish the days were still here where we could send in print books for scanning, but understand things change but i see much more now that i can download than ever and just love having so many sources of reading material. I think it’s wonderful bookshare plans to expand this globally to as many as possible.

    • Bookshare Team Member

      Hi Tina! It’s great to hear from a long-time member! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the devices that you use to read accessible books. Please do check out the Bookshare Web Reader too! We think you’ll like it. So glad you are enjoying the library. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday!

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