The Bookshare Bulletin: News and events for the Bookshare Community
Issue 4 :: Fall 2009

The activity at Bookshare this Fall is non-stop and we’re busier than ever with new books, features and software. We’re excited to announce additional publishers and universities as well as conferences and webinars. Membership is now over 60,000 and we have 57,000 books in our collection.

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A Fall Update: New Software for Bookshare

Can the Bookshare you already know and love get any better? The short answer is yes. We’ve added some exciting new capabilities in the last few months and have more planned. There’s something for everyone.

Textbook Search Improved

Are you a K-12 educator looking for NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Access Center) textbooks? You probably remember how hard it was to just figure out how to find out which textbooks were available.

Now, it’s much easier; you just go to Bookshare. Any Bookshare member authorized to download NIMAC books can now use our new “one-step” search that allows you to simultaneously search through Bookshare and the NIMAC. If the book is in the NIMAC, you’ll get a “Request Book” button or guidance on how to get the book — depending on which state you’re from. One-step search should get textbooks to students much more quickly: in under a week in some cases or no more than two weeks.

Digital Images

Many Bookshare Members told us that digital images topped their wish lists. Well, wish no longer. Digital images are here. All NIMAC textbooks are available for download as a DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) file with — or without — images: your choice. We’ll also start including image descriptions in other books.

Don Johnston's Read:OutLoud and Dolphin Easy Reader text to speech software already display the images but do not include descriptions. If you want to know how the assistive technology you use will support images, please contact your vendor. Have faith — assistive technology is increasingly incorporating digital images.

More Powerful Search

Have you ever wished you could search Bookshare for all references to a certain topic? Maybe you’ve been baffled about the source of a famous quotation. This fall, Bookshare is launching full-text search.

When students need to conduct research for a school report, they can now search all books in our collection simultaneously.

A search for “William Shakespeare,” for instance, will return all books with William Shakespeare in the title or in the text of the book — as well as Shakespeare’s works. Watch for the Bookshare Blog to learn how to use full text search and for more information. Note that you still will be able to search by author, title, or ISBN.

Software for Bookshare

Don Johnston has introduced a Macintosh version of its Read: OutLoud Bookshare edition software. The program is specifically designed for people with learning disabilities.

Humanware has upgraded VictorReader Soft Bookshare edition to version 2.6. We’re encouraging everyone who uses this software to download the latest version.

For more information on software tools, go to

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Bookshare Volunteers

If you thought volunteering at Bookshare only meant scanning and proofing books, you haven’t met our summer volunteers. Of course, our crew of nearly 30 in-person volunteers did some scanning and proofing, joining the ranks of some 1,700 virtual volunteers. But this summer, those visiting our cozy Palo Alto, California offices, also helped us market, develop our business and engineer our services. You name it — they did it.

Volunteers have now scanned and proofed more than 23,500 books.

Here are three snapshot profiles of individuals who lent us their time and skills over the summer.

Satej Soman

Satej Soman

Satej Soman will be a high school senior this fall.  His previous experience proofreading scanned books for the National Institute for the Blind in Mumbai, India, led him to Bookshare. He pretty much hit the ground running, assisting us with processing books submitted by our outsourcers and helping with inventory checks.

When Satej is not volunteering, he is listening to music, biking or reading. He plans to volunteer with us again next summer.

Vonn Xavier

Vonn Xavier

Vonn Xavier, a Stanford University communications student, spent her summer helping us process vendor submissions and working on a draft of a manual for vendors assisting with Bookshare’s collection development. When Vonn is not volunteering with Bookshare she’s finishing up her senior year at Stanford. Her impetus for volunteering? “I believe in Benetech’s mission to serve humanity with technology,” she says. “And, I love books.”

Kartik Gopal

Kartik Gopal

Kartik Gopal just graduated with a master’s degree in management from Stanford and is currently involved in a start-up venture of his own that seeks to put technology to meaningful use for people with visual disabilities. Kartik is working with Bookshare on a launch plan for Route 66 — an exciting Internet-based initiative that will provide reading and writing instruction to adolescent and adult beginning readers with developmental delays. With his 13 years of semiconductor engineering and management experience across India, Germany, Singapore - as well as his skills as an amateur bike racer, a marathoner and a mountaineer — Kartik brings a unique blend of skills with him.

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Professional Development Workshops

Educators: you told us in our recent survey that you want professional development to help you understand how to use Bookshare and assistive technology. When asked about your plans for spending stimulus funds, you told us that you want to know how to improve education for students with print disabilities. You also told us you’d be interested in professional development from a non-profit such as Bookshare.

In response, we are developing professional workshops that qualify to be funded under the stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Here is information about our first two workshops.

Aligning Assistive Reading Tools to Student Needs

This course is designed to review a broad range of assistive technology software and devices available for students with print disabilities. The goal is to identify the appropriate technology to meet the unique needs of each student.

Through an interactive curriculum, course participants will learn how to use software and devices from a variety of vendors. They will then be able to use their knowledge to make educated decisions about matching the right devices and software to individual students. In addition, every participant will leave with action plans they can take back to the classroom to ensure lasting results after the workshop is over.

Bookshare in Depth

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use Bookshare with their students.

This course is designed to cover all levels of use. Through labs and exercises, participants will learn how to create and manage class rosters as well as how to search, request, and download books. In addition, every participant will leave with lesson plans they can take back to the classroom to ensure lasting results after the workshop is over.

Bookshare’s support extends beyond the workshop. We include online follow-up coaching after each course. Coaching will focus on each participant’s progress and his or her implementation of action plans.

Watch for more information. Remember these workshops qualify for ARRA funds.

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University Partnerships Growing

When a student at Michigan State University needs a book transformed from pulp into a flexible electronic format, the staff at the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities jumps into action.

Tom Hwang

Tom Hwang

They search the Internet — including Bookshare — to see if the book already exists or if they need to process it themselves, says Tom Hwang, specialist with the Resource Center.

Normally turning a book into an accessible electronic form involves cutting the spine off a book, scanning it and then making sure that the scan is correct. That’s something that can only be done by humans. The process can take an hour for a super clean, very simple book.

Complex books, on the other hand, take much longer. A scientific textbook can take up to 200 hours to produce with descriptions of all of the tables, charts and graphs.

So it’s a big time saver when Bookshare already has a book in its collection.

Bookshare is “a treasure,” Hwang says. “I feel it’s quite a blessing for students to have the Bookshare resources available.”

Until recently, the process of sharing went one way. University students with qualifying disabilities have always had access to Bookshare’s 57,000-plus book collection. Now, books are flowing two ways, thanks to Bookshare’s growing university partnership program.

When a university partners with Bookshare, it shares its accessible materials with Bookshare, as appropriate under the terms of U.S. copyright law. The partnership helps other universities. If one university scans and contributes a book, other universities don’t have to duplicate the effort. However, the real beneficiaries of the university partnerships are the students who have access to a much larger collection of books that they can use in their classes.

Currently, Bookshare has 14 university partners with more universities expressing interest in the program all the time. These partners are Alliant University, Indiana University, Arizona State University, Hadley School for the Blind, De Anza Community College, Michigan State University, George Mason University, Landmark College, Monterey Peninsula Community College, Texas A&M, University of California, Berkeley , University of Idaho, the University of Montana and Ohio State University, which boasts the largest population of students with disabilities.

Sarah Terry, auxiliary services administrator for the Office for Disability Services at Ohio State University, says Bookshare and programs like it represent the future.

“I have no reason to believe that Bookshare will not become an extremely viable component to students having accessible materials, whether they are textbooks or supplemental course materials in the future,” Terry says. “They won’t be the only player in the field but they’ll probably be one of the biggest ones supporting students.”

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International Program Expands

Before Bookshare came to India, Balasubramanian Kannan would painstakingly chop and scan his own books — 20 pages at a time.

Balasubramanian Kannan

Balasubramanian Kannan

“It took 15 to 20 days to complete a book,” says Kannan, a stenographer from Chennai, India.

In October 2008, not quite a year ago, Bookshare came to India and now Kannan. Who is blind, can often find the books he is seeking already transformed in to an accessible formats. He is full of gratitude — especially because Bookshare is giving him access to computer programming books, which he needs to make a career change.

“We appreciate your efforts to bring popular books,” says Kannan. He adds a humble request: He wants “more and more books in the Indian section.”

In fact, this is exactly what Bookshare is trying to do. Not only is Bookshare now in India, but it is making inroads to other countries as well, including Kenya and Nigeria. Unfortunately, bringing books to countries outside of the United States can sometimes be a complicated process.

In the United States, an exemption in the copyright law allows authorized entities to reproduce or distribute electronic copies of published books for use by people with qualifying disabilities such as blindness. There is no such law in India. In fact, in India, you cannot just take a book, chop it and scan it and put it online. Instead, you have to talk to every single publisher and author to get permission. The process is slow, but working.

Bookshare is growing every day. We now work with many big publishing houses and an equal number of small publishers. About 70% of our current Members in India are visually impaired and the remainder have physical and learning disabilities.

In addition, Bookshare recently partnered with the DAISY Forum of India to reach out to even more Members. Anyone who has a membership in Bookshare’s India program also automatically becomes a member of The DAISY Forum of India. Member organizations of the DAISY Forum of India produce and maintain libraries of digital talking books, Braille books or ebooks. Bookshare Members will automatically have access to their collection.

We’ve had some major wins. Recently, one of the biggest publishers of Indian literature, Sahitya Akademy, gave us permission to reproduce all of their books. In addition, we have books from Oxford University Press, Orient Blackswan, Seasons Publishing, Westland Publishing, Sheth Publications, Zubaan books, Leadstart Publishing, Book Box and Pratham. We have more than 300 books published in India that have been added to our global collections.

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Readers Voice Contest Extended

Calling all Kindergarten through grade 12 readers! The Bookshare Reader’s Voice Contest has been extended. You now have until Halloween, Saturday, October 31, to enter.

Don’t be afraid. This is not a Halloween trick — and you could get a huge treat. The prizes are a choice of the Victor Reader Stream or a ClassMate Reader, both portable, digital audio book player, from HumanWare. You just have to be a Bookshare member in elementary through high school.

To participate, download books and write short reviews (about 100 words), telling us why you liked (or didn’t like) the book, discussing your favorite character and letting us know if you’d recommend the book. We know you’ve been doing some summer reading. So now is your chance to have it pay off.

Winners will include those who read the most books and write the most reviews.

All Bookshare Members, from kindergartners to high school seniors, are eligible. Please help us spread the word. If you have not registered, sign up! If you know a U.S. student in grades K-12 who is a Bookshare member and loves to read, let them know about the Reader’s Voice Contest. Learn more.

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Upcoming Events


  • Bookshare Reading Series: How to read on Macs with Read:OutLoud
    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - 12:00 PM PT
    Register here
  • Bookshare and the University Student - What's New for Fall?
    Thursday, October 8, 2009 - 1:00 PM PT
    Register here

To see archived Webinars, go to:

Conferences and Events

  • October 7-9, 2009
    Bismarck, ND - Title I/Special Education Fall Conference
  • October 15-17, 2009
    Bloomington, MN - Closing the Gap
  • Oct 17-20, 2009
    Salt Lake, UT - The National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • Oct 18-20, 2009
    Alberta, Canada - Canadian Vision Teachers’ Conference
  • Oct 18-21, 2009
    San Diego, CA - California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability
  • Oct 23-24, 2009
    Niagara Falls, NY - 2009 New York State. Council for Exceptional Children annual convention
  • Oct 28-31, 2009
    Schaumburg, IL - Assistive Technology Industry Association, conference, Chicago
  • Oct 28 - Nov. 1, 2009
    Portland, OR - Council of Great City Schools annual fall conference
  • Oct 30-31, 2009
    Harrisburg, PA - Pennsylvania Learning Disabilities Association of America

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