Darren, Academic researcher

People with good vision can forget that it is not easy to just visit a library or bookstore

RNIB Bookshare is an essential, highly valued and critical resource for students of all levels. As well as giving access to class texts, study resources and reference material, it also allows the more advanced students (and curious readers) to consider a much broader series of resources.

People with good vision can forget that it is not easy to just visit a library or bookstore and browse quickly through a series of books to determine if they are of interest or relevance. Even with electronic resources and indices, such as Google Scholar and Amazon, they are not necessarily so user- and visually-handicapped friendly on many levels. Audiobooks may be an intermediary step, but try searching through a 500-page audiobook for a reference and then accurately copying it out! 

Services such as RNIB Bookshare, and the valued support of publishers, really make a difference to reading and study opportunities. Even with resources in an electronic format, reading, writing and editing can be a much longer process, so anything that helps make ‘the printed word’ more accessible is welcome and invaluable. For many, it can make the difference between studying and reading, or not.

The staff and volunteers at RNIB Bookshare work diligently to try and make the world more equal. Those publishers who see the benefit and support RNIB Bookshare (and other similar libraries around the world) should be recognised for their support and public-spiritedness.

In many jurisdictions, laws do allow for printed books be scanned into an electronic format for the visually impaired, and this can take much time after publication and still be of a lesser quality with possible errors. A proper, formatted electronic file from publishers means that the visually impaired reader gets the material at the same time as their sighted counterparts, in the same quality and on the same terms; it slightly levels up the natural inequality they already face!

What is more, it is not a lot of work to send your material to RNIB Bookshare, with various submission and automation options existing. By creating a direct relationship with RNIB Bookshare, you can, in fact, save your time and resources in dealing with various requests from libraries and support services asking for accessible formats. It is great PR too since many RNIB Bookshare readers will be using your author’s texts in their research, and through citations, other sighted readers will be curious and checking out the books too!

Are you not convinced? Take a book you have not read or something you’ve not consulted for a long time.

1. Close your eyes, open a page at random, what information is on both open pages?

2. Ask someone to read those pages aloud to you, with your eyes closed try and write some notes whilst the person is reading the text at a normal speed?

Open your eyes again. Think about that experience. How might you cope if you had to read books for fun that way? How might you study, possibly considering dozens or hundreds of books for possible inspiration and support? How about contacting RNIB Bookshare and discuss how to make your material available to a pre-qualified group of visually handicapped readers.