The Bookshare Bulletin: News and Events for the Bookshare Community
Issue 1 :: Fall 2008

Upcoming Events

  • Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD), Oct. 27th-29, San Francisco, CA
  • New Hampshire Best Practices Conference on Education for All Children, School Administrators Conference, Oct. 30th-31, Concord, NH
  • Tennessee School for the Blind Statewide UNITY Conference, Oct. 30th-31, Nashville, TN
  • PaTTAN Assistive Technology Conference, Nov. 4th - 7, State College, PA
  • Accessing Higher Ground Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference, Nov. 11th-14, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
  • The National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) Conference, Nov. 20th-21, Washington, DC
  • Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference, Jan. 28th-31 2009, Orlando, FL


The Bookshare Bulletin was sent to you because you wished to receive information about or you subscribed at our website.

If you no longer wish to receive The Bookshare Bulletin, you can unsubscribe here.


Welcome to The Bookshare Bulletin Member Tyler Norwood and his teacher Nina Clinton at the Corte Madera School in Portola Valley, CA Member Tyler Norwood and his teacher Nina Clinton at the Corte Madera School in Portola Valley, CA

It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you in the extended community to the premiere edition of our newsletter, The Bookshare Bulletin. Our team has put together a great collection of articles describing how is making an impact today and where it’s headed in the near future. In this issue of The Bookshare Bulletin you’ll learn what’s new with, how you can help, and how you can benefit. You’ll hear about our outreach programs and read how has made a difference in the lives of our Members.

Rapid Growth of the Library

Here in Palo Alto, California, the home of our virtual bookshelves are brimming with a wide assortment of texts from best sellers to the latest technical books, beloved children’s literature and an array of textbooks. Many delighted Members have told us that we now have more books in our rapidly growing collection of 41,000 titles than they will read in a lifetime! We are grateful to our community of volunteers and staff members who have been working hard to add these books to the library. Our team has been partnering closely with authors and publishers who support the Bookshare mission and contribute digital content and global permissions for books available to readers worldwide.

Request a Book

Now that school is open, our 37,000 Members, many of them students from Guam to Maine, are welcome to browse the library and download an interesting title. The first student book reports will be due soon! If you’re a student or teacher requesting a book specifically needed for school, go to the front of the line with mail to: Remember to browse the list of new books on

New Website Later This Year is a unique and powerful phenomenon. The Bookshare Bulletin will help keep you up to date about fast moving developments in the months ahead. A magnificent new website is in the final stages of development. It will provide easy-to-use signup tools for account information and outstanding accessibility features that benefit all of our members. It’s going to be irresistible. We plan to send you several messages so you'll know right away when the new site goes live.

Many New Schools and Students

We would like to extend a special welcome to the many schools, students, parents, teachers, and educational specialists who are part of the Bookshare for Education community. Our support for all students in the U.S. with print disabilities is made possible by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). This support is greatly enriched by the publishers who work directly with to add their titles to the library as rapidly as possible.

So here’s to all of our readers around the world who find the accessible books they are seeking at Thanks to all of you in the extended community, our Members can now download the latest bestsellers before anyone else in their book club or classroom has even cracked the spine.

With warmest regards,
Lisa Friendly
Director of Operations

- Back to Top -

U.S. Government Award Supports Free Student Memberships Member Saleena Cerrillo has free access to thanks to the Office of Special Education Programs Member Saleena Cerrillo has free access to thanks to the Office of Special Education Programs.

Jessica Pinto, an eighth grade student at the Kennedy Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico has big plans for her summer reading. A new Member, Jessica is reading three books from the library including Of Mice and Men which was assigned for her English literature class. While cerebral palsy places some limits on her mobility, Jessica reads books with ease on a laptop that sits on a tray attached to her wheelchair. Jessica can enlarge the font on the screen and press the scroll button to advance the text instead of depending on another person to turn the pages. "A lot of my teachers have been supportive of Bookshare because they think it's awesome," says Jessica. "A lot of kids think it's awesome too."

Thanks to support from the U. S. government, Jessica's membership to is not only awesome, it's free! In 2007, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education awarded Benetech's project $32 million over five years to expand the availability of accessible electronic books and the software for reading those books. now gives all qualifying students in the U.S., regardless of age, access to the library without charge. The OSEP award will allow to add more than 100,000 new educational books to the existing collection of over 41,000 titles.

OSEP's visionary funding of the program, known as Bookshare for Education, provides students of all ages with free memberships, specialized tools for reading books, and in many cases, pays for the acquisition of the books themselves.

"Jessica's a very smart child. She's been on honor roll two years in a row, she's going to go to college and she has a bright future," says Mary Pinto, Jessica's mother. "Assistive technology is going to afford her that and Bookshare is going to be fabulous."

- Back to Top - Partners With The Hadley School for the Blind

Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman with members of The Hadley School staff at their office in China

Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman with members of The Hadley School staff at their office in China

In September, announced a partnership with The Hadley School for the Blind, the largest worldwide distance educator of blind and visually impaired individuals, their families, and professionals who work in the blindness community. Based in Winnetka, Illinois, the school serves more than 10,000 students annually in all 50 states and 100 countries.

Under this partnership, The Hadley School will scan the supplemental reading materials for their students and contribute the books to the library so their students can access them easily. The Hadley School will link their courses directly to the library and to the webinars that provide information on how to use the service. will supply links to the school’s course offerings and provide these and other accessible texts for all qualified Hadley students.

Key members of the Hadley and staff will also receive training to participate in joint presentations and learn more about each organization. For instance, staff participated in The Hadley School’s Ambassador training and Benetech plans to contract with The Hadley School to offer their “Blindness Basics” course to all new employees. Members of the Hadley staff will receive instruction on creating new accounts and accessing the collection. Keep watching The Bookshare Bulletin for a special section on updates to The Hadley School’s extensive online courses and seminars. Founded in 1920 by William Hadley and Dr. E.V.L. Brown, The Hadley School offers classes free of charge to its blind and visually impaired students and their families and affordable tuition classes to blindness professionals.

- Back to Top - in the Classroom Member Saleena Cerrillo and her teacher Nina Clinton Member Saleena Cerrillo and her teacher Nina Clinton

Seventh grade students Tyler Norwood and Saleena Cerrillo did not look forward to their reading assignments last year. The two students, who attend the Corte Madera School in Portola Valley, California, say it was difficult for them to stay focused and hard to remember details from books that they needed to include in their writing assignments.

All that changed when Kim Brown, an assistive technology specialist for the Portola Valley School District, downloaded books from onto Norwood and Cerrillo's school laptops and introduced Kurzweil 3000, a software program that reads the books aloud in a human voice. "When I have the program reading the book to me, I can visualize what's going on in the story so it's a lot clearer," says Norwood. "I understand it more and I can plug it into my mind so I can remember it." Member Tyler Norwood Member Tyler Norwood

Norwood is one of nearly 37,000 Members who are reading Bookshare's digital texts with assistive technology. files are easily converted to assistive technology best suited to a student's particular needs including large print, Braille, synthesized speech, CD, DVD and/or MP3 digital audio.

Norwood and Cerrillo's special education teacher, Nina Clinton, says combining onscreen digital texts with an audio program is superior to books on tape because it allows a multi-modal approach that permits students to see the words as they listen along. Given a choice between taking a test in print and hearing the scanned test via the Kurzweil reader, Clinton says all her students opted for the audio version. The students in her class have the intelligence to learn, says Clinton, they just learn differently.

"Some kids have trouble tracking, their eyes don't work the way they should and they get lost on the page. And some kids don't learn well auditorally, they have to see it," says Clinton. "This gives them an opportunity to access information they wouldn't otherwise have and an opportunity to show how well they can perform. It makes a huge difference in their learning, their success and self-esteem because they can be successful in their reading and writing."

Administrators at the Corte Madera School say they have been surprised at how fast has caught on with students and teachers. Brown has developed an assistive technology lab class to teach students how to use the tools. Educators sitting in on the classes have been struck by how focused the student readers have become.

"I was amazed to see how engaged they were and the types of books they have I have never seen them reading before," said Joel Willen, principal of the Corte Madera School. "I have been in education a long time and I think this is something incredibly powerful that I wish I had as a teacher a long time ago. It is really going to revolutionize learning for a certain group of kids."

- Back to Top -

Bookshare Around the World

A young student at the Mand School on Pohnpei Island in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Did you know that the community has a roving international ambassador? Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman travels around the world meeting with Members and partners who are helping to build the international library. Benetech not only operates the library, it also works with educators and government representatives who want to make available in their countries. Jim’s travels for this past year took him from India to Austria and even to the islands of Micronesia!

Micronesia: Books in Local Languages

Ambassador Jim’s globetrotting started off with a bang this year when he called on key federal and state education leaders in Pohnpei, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Traveling with host Carlina Henry, Jim met with author and senior official Rufino Mauricio at the Micronesian Library of Congress in the capital city of Palikir. Mr. Mauricio, who wrote a history of the FSM, strongly supports’s goal of building an accessible digital library with texts in the local languages.

During a visit to the Mand School on the south side of Pohnpei Island, Jim met a community originally from the island of Pingelap where 10% of the population have a hereditary condition called achromatopsia. Both students and teachers at the school have the condition that causes complete colorblindness and low vision. The school provides special education services for these students. Jim presented the school with books in local languages that the team had scanned or rekeyed in order to deposit the books into the library. Jim also visited a future technology center in the state of Chuuk, which will provide access to PCs and specialized assistive technology for the blind.

Jim’s final stop on his Micronesia trip was the U.S. Pacific Island Territory of Guam where he joined the first leadership meeting of the Pacific Consortium for Instructional Materials Accessibility Project, or Pacific CIMAP for short. The Consortium is made up of six island nations, commonwealths or territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau. Representatives from the Consortium conveyed their strong support for and the continuing availability of accessible texts in local languages. By the end of Jim’s journey to the western Pacific, nine educational organizations signed up for and are looking forward to getting their students the books they need!


Ambassador Jim embarked on another interesting journey this year to the South Indian city of Chennai to attend the National Seminar on Print Access For All. The event was organized by the dynamic founder of the nonprofit organization Vidyavrikshah, Mr. Krishnaswamy, who has made the delivery of accessible digital texts his personal project since his retirement as a senior police official. According to Jim, Mr. Krishnaswamy has played a key role in helping Bookshare serve readers in India, thanks to’s India project manager, Viji Dilip, who joined Jim in Chennai.

During the seminar, Jim presented’s efforts to build a global accessible library. He met key people from C-DAC, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, including the Director General, Mr. Ramakrishnan. C-DAC supports Indian language technology development and has a strong interest in helping people with disabilities. IIT-Madras, the institution that hosted the seminar, also showed off the nifty accessible language technology now used in media applications by TV networks.

While at the Chennai seminar, Jim met with Dipendra Manocha, one of Benetech’s top partners in bringing to India. He also sat down with publishers and the leadership of the Worth Trust who are scanning and submitting books for “I left the seminar with a lot of confidence that the critical mass of leaders pulled together by Mr. Krishnaswamy were going to do great things for blind and disabled people in India!” wrote Jim in his blog entry about his journey. You can read a terrific article on the seminar in Chennai written by the newspaper The Hindu entitled Publishers Urged to Reach Out to Print-Disabled Population.


In July, Jim returned from yet another overseas presentation to the International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs. An academic conference on access technology, the event attracted researchers trying out new technologies for people with disabilities. Jim spread the word that is now available to people outside the U.S, including 3,000 titles with international copyright permissions already in the collection and many more from publishers following soon.

Jim gave the opening keynote at the conference that reflected his main focus on “Raising the Floor” to provide accessible technology for every person in the world who needs it. After his presentation, people from all over Europe talked to Jim about their dreams for improved accessibility. Jim met the developer behind WebVisum, which is receiving much attention from blind people for its ability to make CAPTCHAs (those annoying squiggly words you have to type to access many websites) accessible. Jim also met a professor from Portugal whose student developed EasyVoice, software that makes it possible for someone who cannot speak to use Voice Over IP via Skype to talk to people through a voice synthesizer.

Jim hopes to add new Members from many new countries as a result of his visit to Austria and plenty of future conversations with committed technology developers who are creating new tools to meet their needs. It may be a small world, but many of our international partners have big visions for the future that they are delighted to share with Jim, our intrepid, roving Ambassador.

- Back to Top -

Bookshare Receives Awards from AT&T and the National Federation of the Blind

Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman

Benetech's library has received several recent awards for its service to the disabled community. In March, Benetech received the AT&T Technology Innovation Award which recognizes an outstanding assistive technology company that has created a lasting impact.

"Organizations from AT&T to Benetech have an opportunity and responsibility to serve people with disabilities," said Colin Petheram, Director for AT&T California, as he presented the award. "Benetech is being recognized tonight for innovation and leadership that has made a crucial difference in the lives of disabled people."

The AT&T award was presented to Benetech at the Alliance for Technology Access 20th Anniversary Gala Celebration that took place during the Technology and People with Disabilities (CSUN) Conference in Los Angeles, CA.

In July, was recognized by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which awarded Benetech for its outstanding contribution to improving the lives of blind people in the United States. With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the U.S. Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman received the NFB's first-ever Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award during its annual convention in Dallas.

"Under Jim Fruchterman's leadership, has dramatically expanded the number of books and periodicals available to the blind," said Gary Wunder, NFB Secretary and Chairman of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee. "By significantly enhancing access to informational and recreational reading for all blind Americans, has made an outstanding contribution toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on the basis of equality, and the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award recognizes this contribution."

The award is named for Dr. Jacob W. Bolotin (1888-1924), a pioneering blind physician who lived and practiced in Chicago during the early part of the twentieth century and was an early advocate for the full inclusion of the blind in education, employment and community life.

"Our goal is to empower people with technology," said Fruchterman who accepted the award on behalf of the entire community. "We're raising the floor, providing access to technology that allows people to live powerful, independent lives. We won't rest until everyone who needs this technology has it."

- Back to Top - Reaches Out to States, School Districts and Schools

In anticipation of the new school year, launched a major campaign to reach schools and teachers and encourage them to sign up their qualified students to get books for the new school year. During this initiative, we have worked closely with many state educational leaders and organizations. The campaign included online webinars in a number of states to help teachers learn how to sign up and use In addition, we travel to many regional conferences to present the benefits of the library for students.

The first phase of this campaign reached more than 80,000 educators. Hundreds of schools have signed up thousands of students with print disabilities to be sure their students get timely access to the books they need this school year.

In the Back-to-School contest that was part of this campaign, a few lucky, randomly chosen schools won assistive technology devices to help students read books outside the classroom. The team will continue to reach out to schools and teachers throughout the school year and help qualified students get access to accessible texts.

- Back to Top -

Latest Bookshare Statistics is growing quickly! Here are some of the latest statistics about our Members and our library.

Total Memberships: 32,938 Members Within Organizational Memberships: 28,213 Individual Memberships: 4,725

Number of Books in the Library: 41,000+

- Back to News & Announcements -

Webinar Bookshare Training

Need more information about how to sign up for or download books? offers free online webinars for educators, parents and members.

Using an online digital library is a new experience for many people who want to become a Member. The webinars are designed to explain the features of, so becoming a Member and using the library is easy. Topics cover as many of the most frequently asked questions as time allows, including the history of, who qualifies for membership, how to sign up, and how to search and download books. You’ll get your questions answered by our panel of experts: founder Jim Fruchterman and members of the staff.

You can listen to recorded versions of the latest Webinars, “ Ready, Set, Read” and “ 101.”

Please check the website for information on how to register for the upcoming webinars.

If you would like the team to conduct a training session for your state, region, or district, please contact and we will customize a webinar for you.

- Back to News & Announcements -

Coming Soon! New Website

Early this winter, we will be launching the new website. Our team has been working hard to create a sleek, redesigned site with lots of improved features for our Members and visitors. The new site will provide more accessibility, more search functions, better membership management and easy-to-use signup tools.

Watch for our update messages before the new site is launched so you know what to expect and when to expect it!

- Back to News & Announcements -

Bookshare Is Hiring! is a great place to work. Check out our current openings on the team.

- Back to News & Announcements -

Volunteer for

Scanning and Validation manager and former Volunteer Carrie Karnos ensures that each book in the digital library is proofed for errors

Scanning and Validation Manager and former Volunteer Carrie Karnos ensures that each book in the digital library is proofed for errors.

Many of the books in the library are scanned by our dedicated community of volunteers. Any U.S. resident over 15 years of age can volunteer -- all you need is an Internet connection and basic computer skills, combined with a love for books and a passion for making a difference. Typically, volunteering with involves two main actions: scanning and validating. Here's how it works. volunteers who wish to scan and submit new titles to the collection scan the books in their homes, at local libraries, or other places where they have access to digital scanners. Some volunteers use commercial grade scanners, while others purchase their own consumer flat bed scanners. Depending on your scanner, it can take from a few minutes to several hours to scan a book.

After scanning a book, the volunteer saves the file in rich text format (RTF). This file is then submitted along with a synopsis and basic information about the text, through the "Submit Book" link on the website. Because the OCR software is not perfect, the scanned book file must be proof-read or "validated." The book file is made available on a download list where another volunteer can "grab" it to proof-read and make the necessary edits. After the book has been validated, it is uploaded to the Approval queue where a staff member completes a final check on the contents. If it is found to require further editing, the file is returned to the download list, and an automated note is sent to both the submitter and the validator informing them of the corrections to be made. Once a book meets our high quality standards it is made available in the library.

If you wish to communicate directly with our volunteer community, feel free to join our lively online volunteer discussion list. To subscribe, send an email message to with the word Subscribe in the subject line. Or you can visit the chat room that includes book clubs for a number of literary genres.

The community includes several hundred volunteers, about seventy percent of whom are blind and thirty percent sighted. One of our super volunteers, Grandma Cindy, keeps lists of who is scanning which book to avoid duplication of effort.

Grandma Cindy has compiled a list of all the benefits she has enjoyed since becoming a volunteer. Here are her reasons for volunteering. Perhaps you have some of your own!

  1. I've met a lot of people I really like and admire, who not only brighten my day with their humor and writing and thinking abilities, but also help me to appreciate my health and not complain about minor aches and pains.
  2. I get to read twice as many books as I would otherwise because I read as I validate and also read on my own.
  3. I've been introduced, because of validating, to authors and books I never would have thought of reading and learned from some of the nonfiction, about things I would never have otherwise.
  4. Because I've validated books written by so many different writers, fiction and nonfiction, my ability to recognize good writing from bad has improved.
  5. I feel my life is worthwhile because I'm doing something to benefit others and not just sitting around spending my retirement years in frivolous pursuits.

- Back to News & Announcements -

Suggest Educational Books

A key part of our Bookshare for Education project includes the addition of at least 100,000 educational texts to the library. Supported by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs, this project is a wonderful opportunity to significantly increase the number of accessible books that readers with print disabilities can use in the classroom.

We invite teachers and schools to help us expand our collection of educationally valuable books by contributing your recommended student reading lists. We turn to these reading lists when deciding which books to purchase and scan for the collection. Many publishers are also contributing books in digital formats and we welcome your suggestions on which books to target and prioritize. is committed to remaining a community library with a book collection shaped by our community. If you are a student, parent, teacher, educational administrator, or anyone with special insight into the books students need, please share your reading list with us. You can write to us regarding this topic at

- Back to News & Announcements -

Help Us Maintain the Quality of Our Books

One of the important goals of is to continuously maintain the quality of books in the collection. We define excellent quality books as those that contain text that is 99.3% to 100% accurate. This level of accuracy is the same or better than most printed books. We want to make sure that people with disabilities have access to books that are free of errors and a joy to read.

If you become aware of a book in the collection that contains inaccurate text, please let us know and we will make the corrections needed. To report an error, send a message to with the following information: book title, author, ISBN number and the nature of the error. We will let you know as soon as the inaccuracy has been corrected. Thank you for helping to ensure that our readers continue to get the high quality books they deserve. Our new web site will include a form that will help make reporting these errors even easier.

- Back to News & Announcements -