Merriam-Webster Signs Agreement to Provide Digital Files with Worldwide Rights to Bookshare

Students and Individuals with Print Disabilities Will Have Equal Access to Critical Educational Reference Works


For all Bookshare-related questions, please contact:

Valerie Chernek



Meghan Lieberwirth


Springfield, MA and Palo Alto, CA, April 14, 2010 – Merriam-Webster, America's foremost publisher of language-related reference works, has signed an agreement to provide Bookshare with worldwide rights to its entire collection of key references works.  This contribution will expand the Bookshare library which today serves over 90,000 members with print disabilities, such as blindness or low vision, a physical disability or a severe learning disability that affects reading. 

"Getting dictionaries into accessible formats opens up new avenues for individuals with print disabilities to look up words and information,” said Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, the non-profit organization that operates Bookshare.  “As more publishers follow in the footsteps of socially responsible publishers, like Merriam-Webster, we will see all individuals having equal access to all categories of print content."

"We are pleased to enter into this agreement which will expand access to key Merriam-Webster titles for all people who seek to improve their skills and understanding of the English language," said John M. Morse, President and Publisher of Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

Since 1831, Merriam-Webster has published a wide range of quality language-reference products, including dictionaries for all age ranges, bilingual dictionaries, dictionaries for English-language learners, geographical and medical dictionaries, and dictionaries of English usage.  Non-dictionary publications include thesauruses, manuals and handbooks for writers, and vocabulary builders. The first three dictionaries from the Merriam-Webster collection contributed to Bookshare are titles commonly used by students in school from elementary grades through their postsecondary years:

•    Merriam-Webster’s Elementary Dictionary – Introduces young students (grades 3-5) to a wealth of instructive and engaging information.  This dictionary includes 36,000 entries, 600 full-color illustrations and thousands of examples of words used in context.

•    Merriam-Webster’s School Dictionary – Developed for students in grades 9-12 and includes 100,000 entries, 1,000 illustrations and 15,000 usage examples.  Synonyms and word history paragraphs help to clarify contextual meaning for deeper understanding.   

•    Merriam Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary – A leading college-level dictionary, updated annually, includes over 225,000 definitions ranging from the technical vocabulary of science to the everyday language of today's culture.  Recent additions include new words that reflect concern for the environment, such as carbon footprint and green-collar; government activities, such as earmark and waterboarding; health and medicine, like cardioprotective, locavore, naproxen, neuroprotective; pop culture, such as fan fiction, flash mob, and online activities, like sock puppet, vlog ,and webisode.

Bookshare will convert the dictionaries into the latest DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Ready Format) formats.  DAISY files are electronic files that allow easy navigation through a book or chapter.  This versatile format supports individual reading styles and enables multi-modal reading using simultaneous text and computer-generated speech.  The dictionaries in the DAISY format will be available with or without images.

Publishers interested in contributing digital files to Bookshare to provide timely access for individuals with print disabilities should contact Robin Seaman, Publisher Liaison.  For a list of publishing partners, please visit the Bookshare website.    

About Merriam-Webster, Incorporated

Merriam-Webster Inc. acquired the rights to revise and publish Noah Webster's dictionaries in 1843. Since then, Merriam-Webster has maintained an ongoing commitment to innovation, scholarship, and love of language. Today, the company continues as the leader in both print and electronic language reference publishing with reference products, learning tools, and word games. Visit

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online accessible library for people with print disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility issues so that individuals with print disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as people without disabilities. In 2007, Bookshare received a $32 million five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualified print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 65,000 books and serves more than 90,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit which creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs.


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