Last week, Bookshare, a nonprofit company that makes books available to people with visual disabilities announced that they will be partnering with leading U.S. trade publishers, K-12 publishers, and 11 universities to make more books available to students. Contributions from publishers will include digital trade and textbooks, while the universities will provide access to the books that they scanned and formatted for students. Universities are able to scan the books because of an exemption to the U.S. copyright law which makes it legal for books to be scanned for those that have print disabilities. In the past, many scanning efforts have been duplicated across universities but with the new partnership all of the scanned and digital books will be available for access via the Bookshare online library. Bookshare will also handle the conversion of the digital files into accessible formats such as DAISY 3.0 (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Ready File). Bookshare’s library collection currently includes over 46,000 titles and is expected to increase to over 100,000 books by 2012.
In regards to working with the publishers to obtain the digital version of the books, Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, the nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare commented, “Digital media is the future for learners and individuals with print disabilities. Fewer than five percent of books are available in accessible formats today. Working directly with book publishers, we have an extraordinary opportunity to knock down the barriers and raise the floor of access to ensure all individuals have access to print publications at the same time.”