Project Details



Making copyrighted books freely accessible to those with approved disabilities.

By Beneficent Technology, Inc.

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @Bookshare

Organisation URL:
Organisation Twitter: @Benetech

  • Education
  • Social Exclusion
  • Audiovisual
  • Social Software

“The world was hers for the reading.” So writes Betty Smith of her 11-year-old character Francie, who relies on her imagination and her love of reading to help her escape from the poverty that defines her daily existence in the early 20th century novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Reading offers us a window into the human experiences of others; they help us understand the world. Instilling an ability to read and love of reading is a core part of our education system. But for many young students, learning disabilities mean that reading is not a pleasure, and for others with visual impairments or blindness, reading is not even a possibility.

Step in Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library of copyrighted books. Bookshare has over 220,000 titles (see for latest number of titles) downloaded over one million times. It works under an important exception to US copyright law that allows digital versions of copyrighted books to be made freely accessible to those with approved disabilities. It’s a life-changing service for the visually disabled, who currently have access to less than 5% of books that they have requested.

Many of Bookshare’s 250,000 members are young people, students who struggle with reading comprehension due to learning disabilities. Take Dane, a 5th grader who struggles with reading independently and was at risk of failing the year. In addition to providing books in Braille and larger text, Bookshare also uses software that allows kids like Dane to both visually read text on screen, but also hear the text read aloud over audio files. The synced service helps with comprehension and has led to improvements in literacy and academic attainment for many students. Through Bookshare, Dane has read his first novel independently and seen impressive results to his grades.

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Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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