Bookshare Passes 150,000 Student Members & 125,000 Titles…Wins New Award to Extend Innovative Tools and Content from U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

For all Bookshare-related questions, please contact:

Valerie Chernek


October 11, 2011, Palo Alto, CA – Bookshare® a global leader in copyrighted, digital accessible books for people with print disabilities, is dramatically overachieving its five year collection and member targets at the close of its fourth year of funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Benetech®, the parent nonprofit for Bookshare, simultaneously received a new 1-year award from OSEP for a project called ‘LIT’ or Leveraging Impact Through Technology.

In the LIT project, Benetech will use technology innovation to scale up efforts that will maximize impact for years to come and ensure equal access to quality education by students with disabilities. The LIT project, in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), will advance the important work delivered under the Bookshare for Education (B4E) project in the areas of new content, tools and increased utilization, with a focus on these key areas:

  • Open-content, publicly available and freely shared image descriptions and reusable graphical models to enhance accessibility in *NIMAC books and Common Core titles.
  • A free, open source Android ebook reader and a free web-based ebook reader along with an accessible bookshelf in “the cloud,” enabling teachers to more easily assign books to students and enabling parents and students to add books, accessible from multiple devices.
  • Access to Bookshare books in mp3 and DAISY audio.
  • Free nationwide professional development designed to increase utilization, leveraging AIR’s experience in practice and delivery and Bookshare’s proven hands-on Professional Development Workshops.

The $3M award comes as Benetech celebrates rapid growth in multiple program areas. In its fourth year of the five-year B4E award, Bookshare now serves 150,000 students, 150% of its five year goal. Additionally, Bookshare passed its five year target of 80,000 new educational titles as record numbers of ebooks pour into the library from publishers and hundreds of student textbook requests are fulfilled every month.

Christine Bevilacqua, a NY special education teacher said this about her student, David. “He went from almost no participation in school to full inclusion after becoming a member of Bookshare. “Last year, he completed all five NY State Regents tests for graduation with exemplary results in English 97%, U.S. History 100%, and Global History 98%.”

Today, Bookshare’s collection tops 125,000 books, including NIMAC textbooks, teacher recommended reading, dictionaries and encyclopedias along with periodicals and best-selling titles. Over 168 publishers contribute books such as Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette. University presses and academic publishers include John Wiley & Sons and Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Chicago, Cornell and Stanford. International publishers include Taylor & Francis, Cambridge and SAGE Publications, Ltd.

“The LIT project will add many new innovations to the groundwork laid by the Bookshare for Education project, greatly increasing the benefits to students with disabilities for years to come,” said Betsy Beaumon, Vice President and General Manager of Literacy Programs for Benetech. “With the rapid growth of members, the variety of partnerships and our goals for improved content, tools and utilization, Bookshare members of any age will likely find the required materials they need for school and for pleasure.”

According to Kip Massey, Bookshare member, “Bookshare has changed my life, and undoubtedly the lives of every one of its subscribers, even if they’re too young to know it. It’s like taking somebody who grew up hungry and scraping bloody-knuckled for every meal, and turning them loose in a giant grocery store.” Through LIT, Benetech aspires to change the lives of many more students.


About Benetech

Benetech is a nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, California with a focus of technology to serve humanity. It pursues projects with a strong social conscience rather than financial return on investment. We harness open source technology to create innovative solutions to challenging issues in society. The Benetech/Bookshare service is the world's largest accessible online library of copyrighted books for people with print disabilities. Through an exemption in the U.S. copyright law, (17 U.S.C. § 121) known as the Chafee Amendment, Bookshare serves a community of individuals with qualified print disabilities, such as visual impairments, physical disabilities or severe learning disabilities that affect reading. Proof of disability is required for membership. Qualified individuals of all ages are welcome to sign up for an individual membership. Schools and organizations can also sign up for an organizational membership. 


About AIR – American Institutes For Research

AIR is one of the largest behavioral and social science research organizations in the world to bring the best of science available to generate the most effective ideas and approaches to enhancing everyday life. Founded in 1946 as a not-for-profit organization, AIR conducts work with strict independence, objectivity, and non-partisanship. The intellectual diversity of 1,500 employees enables AIR to work with experts from many fields in the search for innovative solutions to any challenge.



The content of this press release was developed under cooperative agreements H327K070001 and H327D110005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The contents, however, do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

*NIMAC – National Instructional Materials Access Center