4 Public Libraries Expand Free Access to Bookshare

Qualifying students with can access free audiobooks and digital text-to-speech (TTS) books through Bookshare. Non-students, however, always had to pay for the service...until recently.

Now, some non-students with documented print disabilities can get free access to Bookshare through their public library. That means if you have a young adult with dyslexia who’s not in school, he may qualify for free audiobooks and digital TTS books. And if you have dyslexia, you may qualify, too.

Bookshare is a program of Benetech, an Understood founding partner. Four library systems worked with Benetech over the last year to offer free access to non-students who qualify. They are:

  1. The New York Public Library (NYPL)
  2. Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services
  3. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
  4. Free Library of Philadelphia

For non-students to qualify, they must be a member of one of the four libraries (have a library card) and have a documented print disability.

Bookshare is the largest online library of accessible reading materials. The service is free to all U.S. students with documented print disabilities. That includes dyslexia. But the fee for non-students is $50 per year (with a $25 setup fee).

“We are thrilled to partner with these libraries,” says Lisa Wadors Verne, program manager at Benetech. “These partnerships will expand reading opportunities for patrons who need accessible books.”

NYPL became the first large system to offer access to Bookshare last November. (It’s also a partner in the Open eBooks app, a separate project that offers free digital books to students in need.) The libraries in Georgia and Pennsylvania followed this past summer.

Wadors Verne hopes more library systems will begin to offer Bookshare. But it will only happen if patrons ask for it, she says: “If you or someone you know could benefit from free accessible books, talk to your local library and let them know about Bookshare.”

About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.