Membership Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I live outside the United States; can I still join Bookshare®?
  2. How do I know if I qualify for Bookshare services?
  3. Who is credentialed to determine whether an individual has a print disability?
  4. When you say that a non-student can join for $50 a year, do they also have to have a print disability?
  5. Can parents sign up their own child for an individual membership?
  6. Is there a fee to use Bookshare for an individual who does not have a print disability?
  7. Does the individual have to be in school to be a Member?
  8. Do you need to renew a student membership each year?
  9. How many books can I download?
  10. How do I know if the people served by my organization qualify for Bookshare services?
  11. Who is credentialed to say a person has a print disability?
  12. Our organization joined Bookshare and we sent a roster of qualified Members to you. Can the individuals independently access the books or do they need to go through us?
  13. Can organizations that are not educational institutions, such as libraries, still sign up for organizational memberships?
  14. Can non-educational institutions (libraries, rehab agencies, community-based organizations) that serve both students and non-students qualify for OSEP-funded organizational membership?
  15. How does Bookshare preserve a student’s confidentiality?
  16. What about Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?
  17. When does a student membership expire?
  18. How do Primary Contacts and Sponsors update Member information from year to year?
  19. If a student becomes a Member through a school, does he or she remain a Member after graduation?
  20. With an organizational or group account, can all staff Sponsors download books for any of the qualified students at that school?
  21. Is funded membership available for Adult Education as well?
  22. Can a student or parent without access to a computer read books provided by a school district?
  23. We previously registered for an organizational membership and didn’t find time to use the service; can we re-register?
  24. Will Don Johnston software be free?
  25. As a TVI (Teacher of Visually Impaired) can I do some ordering from home or just from school?
  26. Do you have hard copies of information you can send to organizations to distribute to qualified families?
  27. If Bookshare services are “free” for qualified students with disabilities, why is there a cost for certain download packages?
  28. Can individuals who support users with disabilities sign up for a membership with Bookshare?
  29. If we sign up for an organizational membership, can we download a copy of Victor Reader Soft for each Member who has print disabilities?
  30. What happens when students move to another school within the district?
  31. What is Bookshare’s credit card guarantee?
  32. What is Bookshare’s cancellation policy?

1 I live outside the United States; can I still join Bookshare®?

I live outside the United States; can I still join Bookshare®? Yes, international Members can access over 5000 books. Bookshare is continually working with publishers to obtain international permissions for more books. Visit the International page for more information.

[Back to top]

2 How do I know if I qualify for Bookshare services?

How do I know if I qualify for Bookshare services?

See Qualifications.

[Back to top]

3 Who is credentialed to determine whether an individual has a print disability?

Who is credentialed to determine whether an individual has a print disability?

See Qualifications.

[Back to top]

4 When you say that a non-student can join for $50 a year, do they also have to have a print disability?

When you say that a non-student can join for $50 a year, do they also have to have a print disability?

Yes, any individual with print disabilities can join Bookshare. The price is $75 for the first year to cover the initiation fee, and $50 each year after that. These individual Members must submit a Proof of Disability.

If you do not have a print disability but would like to volunteer with Bookshare, all you need to do is register for an individual account. You do not have to pay the membership fee and you will only have access to the freely distributable titles (e.g. public domain or Creative Commons licensed) in the Bookshare library. By volunteering you can help build this library of accessible reading material. Learn more about volunteering.

[Back to top]

5 Can parents sign up their own child for an individual membership?

Can parents sign up their own child for an individual membership? Yes, parents can sign up their own child. To qualify for a free student membership for U.S. students, parents can enter their child’s school information during the sign up process. All memberships for U.S. students and schools are currently free through an award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

If the child is under 18, the parent needs to sign and return the Individual Membership Agreement (listing the child’s information). The parent then manages the account for the child. If the child is over 18, he or she needs to agree to the terms of membership. The child also needs to submit a Proof of Disability form signed by a qualified professional. See Qualifications for more information.

[Back to top]

6 Is there a fee to use Bookshare for an individual who does not have a print disability?

Is there a fee to use Bookshare for an individual who does not have a print disability? Because Bookshare operates under a specific amendment to the copyright law, individuals without print disabilities are not eligible for membership, and will not be able to receive copyrighted content from Bookshare. Freely distributable titles (e.g. public domain or Creative Commons licensed) are available for download without membership.

[Back to top]

7 Does the individual have to be in school to be a Member?

Does the individual have to be in school to be a Member? No, non-students can register with Bookshare, as long as they have a qualifying print disability. Because Bookshare’s federal funding covers students and educational agencies only, non-students pay a small membership fee to receive unlimited access to the library.

All memberships for U.S. students and schools are currently free through an award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

[Back to top]

8 Do you need to renew a student membership each year?

Do you need to renew a student membership each year? Yes. Members will be prompted to renew their membership within six weeks of expiration. If you are a U.S. student with a free individual membership, just log in, select My Account, go to the Student Status option and enter the appropriate information.

All memberships for U.S. students and schools are currently free through an award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

[Back to top]

9 How many books can I download?

How many books can I download? The default number of downloads per month is 100 books. Individuals wanting more may increase this default by contacting Bookshare.

[Back to top]

10 How do I know if the people served by my organization qualify for Bookshare services?

How do I know if the people served by my organization qualify for Bookshare services?

See Qualifications.

[Back to top]

11 Who is credentialed to say a person has a print disability?

Who is credentialed to say a person has a print disability?

See Qualifications.

[Back to top]

12 Our organization joined Bookshare and we sent a roster of qualified Members to you. Can the individuals independently access the books or do they need to go through us?

Our organization joined Bookshare and we sent a roster of qualified Members to you. Can the individuals independently access the books or do they need to go through us? Individuals initially registered on an organizational account get their books through the organization. They are also able to get independent access by applying for their own individual membership. This permits them to independently access the Bookshare library with their own individual passwords. Members who are already listed as having a qualifying disability with an organizational account are not required to submit additional proof of disability. If any of your Members are under 18, they will also need parental permission.

[Back to top]

13 Can organizations that are not educational institutions, such as libraries, still sign up for organizational memberships?

Can organizations that are not educational institutions, such as libraries, still sign up for organizational memberships?

Yes, any organization serving members or clients with print disabilities can join Bookshare as an organizational Member. Organizations that are not U.S. schools can pay for individual memberships for their students or clients (U.S. $75 for the first year and $50 each year thereafter) or purchase blocks of book downloads ($300 buys 30 downloads). Learn more about joining Bookshare.

Libraries that are affiliated with the NLS (National Library Service) can certify their patrons that have qualifying disabilities.

[Back to top]

14 Can non-educational institutions (libraries, rehab agencies, community-based organizations) that serve both students and non-students qualify for OSEP-funded organizational membership?

Can non-educational institutions (libraries, rehab agencies, community-based organizations) that serve both students and non-students qualify for OSEP-funded organizational membership?  In general, Bookshare prefers to see these institutions help qualifying students get individual memberships (with parent/guardian approval for students less than 18 years of age). These institutions can help with the individual student memberships by submitting written (or faxed) proof of disability from qualified certifying professionals. When individual memberships are not a feasible alternative, such organizations can set up an organizational account just for the student members in order to benefit from the OSEP funding. The account for qualified students should be named with “-OSEP” at the end of the agency name, for example, “Community Center of Columbus - OSEP.” If the organization would like to register organizational members who are not students, they can set up a second organizational account with a different name for these members.

[Back to top]

15 How does Bookshare preserve a student’s confidentiality?

How does Bookshare preserve a student’s confidentiality?

Bookshare maintains the confidentiality of student data by limiting access to the information to the educational agency serving the students and by having contracts with each agency Bookshare serves. View Bookshare’s privacy policy.

By making agreements with each state, local education agency, district and school Bookshare serves and by its strict privacy policy requiring protection of student data, Bookshare believes that it qualifies under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As an agency under contract with educational agencies, Bookshare has the same obligation to protect student personal data as the education agency. For educational agencies that still prefer to keep student names private, Bookshare allows student numbers or pseudonyms in place of student names if the educational agency submits a Confidentiality Rider form.

The use of pseudonyms, while on one level protecting students’ privacy also adds complications to the students’ ability to obtain book in accessible formats. Students listed under a pseudonym wanting individual memberships (rather than having books downloaded for them), or transferring to another school are likely to have to resubmit their proof of disability by themselves or through their new school. On the other hand, students registered under their own names can continue their Bookshare membership from school to school, and request their own memberships, because Bookshare has their proof of disability. Please contact Bookshare for further details.

Bookshare suggests that schools discuss the release of information issue at the Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting and ask parents (or guardian) to sign a release allowing the referral to be made in the child's name to Bookshare and others. This will enable Bookshare to contact the parents (or guardian) directly to set up an individual account for the student.

[Back to top]

16 What about Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?

What about Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?

Bookshare believes that its policies are compliant with FERPA because they are quite similar to the guidance provided to another institution by the Department of Education:

  • Bookshare has an agreement with each education agency it serves, and acts as a contractor or agent for such agencies in the provision of accessible materials, an important educational responsibility.
  • Bookshare’s agreements with agencies place access to student data under the direct control of the agency, and the agency designates who at the agency is allowed to access the data. In addition, Bookshare requires such agency-authorized staff to acknowledge the terms of Bookshare’s agreement with the agency before they can access student data.
  • Bookshare has a strict policy against sharing data with third parties. All Bookshare employees and consultants sign confidentiality agreements and are regularly reminded of their confidentiality obligations. In addition, access to student data is limited by those staff with a need-to-know.
  • When users are logged in with Bookshare, the site uses SSL security technology to securely communicate all information, including student data.
  • Bookshare is required by law to only serve students who have a disability that qualifies under the Section 121 of the federal copyright law.

Within the public educational system, Bookshare believes it is critical to be able to exchange information inside each state among its SEAs, intermediate units, LEAs and schools. Bookshare needs to work with these agencies to accurately count students served, measure response times and other key factors required by IDEA and Bookshare’s cooperative agreement with OSEP. Access to confidential student data is important for obtaining the data Bookshare is required to provide, and to reduce duplicate counting of students. All of this information sharing is within the “school official” limitations of FERPA.

[Back to top]

17 When does a student membership expire?

When does a student membership expire?

Student memberships are valid for one year. Members will be contacted before their subscriptions expire. Bookshare does ask schools to confirm that students are still enrolled once per year. Bookshare’s award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) pays for memberships for U.S. students through September 30th of each year. At some point in the future, should OSEP no longer fund memberships, schools and students currently getting free memberships will have to pay for them. OSEP funding is projected to continue through at least 2012, but is subject to the annual budget process.

[Back to top]

18 How do Primary Contacts and Sponsors update Member information from year to year?

How do Primary Contacts and Sponsors update Member information from year to year?

Organizations can update or delete Members from their roster online as needed. They can add additional Members at any time. For educational organizations, Bookshare suggests looking over the roster at the beginning of each school year to make sure it is up to date.

[Back to top]

19 If a student becomes a Member through a school, does he or she remain a Member after graduation?

If a student becomes a Member through a school, does he or she remain a Member after graduation?

Students who had individual memberships through a school will be able to continue their memberships when they leave school, either by purchasing an individual membership if they are no longer students, or by requesting a new student membership online if they go on to another school. Students who have had memberships managed by a school will need to register for individual membership in order to download books after leaving the school. If Bookshare has the name of the school and the name of the student on file, the student will not need to submit a Proof of Disability. If the student was registered under a pseudonym, he or she will need to submit a new Proof of Disability.

[Back to top]

20 With an organizational or group account, can all staff Sponsors download books for any of the qualified students at that school?

With an organizational or group account, can all staff Sponsors download books for any of the qualified students at that school? How does that work?

Yes. Any staff member named as a “Sponsor” by an organization can download books for all of the students registered under the organizational account. To download a book, a staff member selects a student from the student list. That downloaded book is specifically for that student.

[Back to top]

21 Is funded membership available for Adult Education as well?

Is funded membership available for Adult Education as well?

Bookshare memberships are now free to qualified U.S. students, in K-12, post-secondary, continuing and adult education programs. Membership fees are completely funded by an award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for the duration of the award.

[Back to top]

22 Can a student or parent without access to a computer read books provided by a school district?

Can a student or parent without access to a computer read books provided by a school district?

Students without computer access can read Bookshare books in a number of ways. Braille or large print users can get their materials embossed or printed by the school or accessible media center. Digital content can be put on media (like CDs) and played in inexpensive players. Some schools have the ability to create MP3 files that can be played on MP3 players or most cell phones.

[Back to top]

23 We previously registered for an organizational membership and didn’t find time to use the service; can we re-register?

We previously registered for an organizational membership and didn’t find time to use the service; can we re-register?

If you’ve previously registered with Bookshare, there is no need to re-register. You can update your old account and reactivate services by contacting Group Accounts. Bookshare has made many changes to this website to make it easier for Members to use. In addition, Bookshare offers webinars on how to search, download and unpack books, as well as highlights of how to register.

[Back to top]

24 Will Don Johnston software be free?

Will Don Johnston software be free?

Yes, both applications for reading books in the DAISY format (Read:OutLoud and Victor Reader Soft) are free to all registered Bookshare Members and member organizations.

[Back to top]

25 As a TVI (Teacher of Visually Impaired) can I do some ordering from home or just from school?

As a TVI (Teacher of Visually Impaired) can I do some ordering from home or just from school?

Yes, educators can download books for their students at home and burn them on a CD or copy the files to a flash drive if they wish. While Members cannot share their username and password with others, they can use their username and password from any computer.

[Back to top]

26 Do you have hard copies of information you can send to organizations to distribute to qualified families?

Do you have hard copies of information you can send to organizations to distribute to qualified families?

Yes, Bookshare has general information brochures for distribution. Additionally, all forms and information pertaining to membership can be found on this site. If you need to request materials, please contact Bookshare Events.

[Back to top]

27 If Bookshare services are “free” for qualified students with disabilities, why is there a cost for certain download packages?

If Bookshare services are “free” for qualified students with disabilities, why is there a cost for certain download packages?

Bookshare serves multiple organizations with various membership types. Organizations that do not qualify for free memberships funded by the award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), are asked to pay a membership fee or pay for blocks of book downloads, to help cover the costs of operation of Bookshare.

[Back to top]

28 Can individuals who support users with disabilities sign up for a membership with Bookshare?

Can individuals who support users with disabilities sign up for a membership with Bookshare?

Bookshare is only available to individuals with print disabilities and organizations serving those individuals. Organizations can designate any of their staff to download books for their qualified students or clients. Parents, guardians or care-givers of an individual with print disabilities are allowed to access that individual’s account only for the purposes of providing books for that individual, and not for their own use.

[Back to top]

29 If we sign up for an organizational membership, can we download a copy of Victor Reader Soft for each Member who has print disabilities?

If we sign up for an organizational membership, can we download a copy of Victor Reader Soft for each Member who has print disabilities?

Yes; you can download Victor Reader Soft (a DAISY reader) or Read:OutLoud to any computer your readers will be using.

[Back to top]

30 What happens when students move to another school within the district?

What happens when students move to another school within the district?

If you’ve registered as a district, there is no need to delete the student from your roster as long as the individual is a student within your district. You can simply update the student’s information on your roster online. If you’ve registered at the school level and the student changes schools, the new school will need to sign up with Bookshare or add the student to their roster in order to continue provide the student with books.

[Back to top]

31 What is Bookshare’s credit card guarantee?

What is Bookshare’s credit card guarantee?

In the event that unauthorized charges appear on your credit card, through no fault of yours, as a result of using the Bookshare site, and your credit card company holds you liable, Bookshare will cover your liability up to $50.00. You must notify your credit card provider in accordance with their reporting rules and procedures and cooperate with Bookshare to stop the fraudulent use of your credit card. This is the same guarantee provided by Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Drugstore.com.

[Back to top]

32 What is Bookshare’s cancellation policy?

What is Bookshare’s cancellation policy?

Bookshare has a 45-day cancellation policy. If you pay for a membership and decide you don't like it for any reason, you can cancel for a full refund within the first 45 days. After 45 days, your membership fee will not be refunded.

[Back to top]