Unique digital library gives access to those with print disabilities

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 15 reviews

Privacy rating

Expert evaluation by Common Sense



Subjects & Skills

English Language Arts

Great for

Differentiation, Instructional Design, Special Needs

Price: Free, Paid
Platforms: Web

Pros: Once registered, students with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers have access to a huge library.

Cons: A little patience is needed when accessing or downloading texts, as there is some lag time.

Bottom Line: This fantastic digital library service provides a powerful sense of independence for students.

Schools and teachers can sign up for a free organizational membership. School personnel should develop rosters of students who are eligible for Bookshare access. Teachers can download books for their students, and students can also have individual memberships that they use from home for recreational or personal reading. Right on the homepage, you'll find the Quick Start Guide for Teachers. This is a great place to start, as it will guide you through the steps to get it all set up.

There's also a Get Started section that covers how to sign up, how to find books, and how to read books, as well as links to some of the available reading tools. Teachers can download books from required reading lists, and then model for students how to read them using available technology. Also, it's always a good idea to keep parents up-to-date; send information home so that parents and caregivers can help students find and download books in their areas of interest. You may find that the Help Center section of this site is also helpful for accessing reading tools and providing answers to questions that teachers and other users may have while using the site. Under My Bookshare, you'll also have access to a Download Reading Tools section that can prove useful and very practical in identifying the best reading tools for students. Specifics on pricing, platform, and special features are included for a wide range of tools based on readers' preference.

Bookshare offers an expansive online library of digital books for people with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers. Under an exception to copyright law, if someone can provide proof of a qualifying disability, they can get Bookshare for free. This could include blindness or low vision, a learning disability, or a physical disability that makes it difficult or impossible to read standard print. Library access is free for schools and students under an OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education) grant. Individuals, including adults and seniors, pay an annual membership cost of $50. A privacy policy and details on how information is collected and used -- most importantly children's privacy -- are available on the site.

Bookshare's accessible books can be read in a variety of ways. Downloadable books (including textbooks, kid-friendly novels, news media, and more) are made accessible through high-quality text-to-speech voices, or you can hear and see highlighted words on-screen, or read with digital braille or enlarged fonts, physical braille or large print, directly from an internet browser or a mobile app on a smartphone or tablet, and more. Books on the site are available in multiple accessible formats including braille, audio, and two formats for accessible text: DAISY and ePub3. Students will need access to tools that are compatible with these files; students could have books read to them in a variety of ways, or even converted to embossed braille. Used with these tools, Bookshare allows students the independence to read close to a million different titles that may have been inaccessible otherwise.

While there are many sources for digital textbooks and educational materials out there, Bookshare makes all types of reading materials, even consumer fiction and nonfiction, accessible to those with reading barriers. This puts it in rare company, and even among other providers focused on accessibility, it excels in terms of the raw amount of available texts. Logging in and learning to use the site is straightforward and relatively user-friendly. New books and publications are added frequently, so students who have learning and reading challenges won't feel behind their peers on the latest addition to the Percy Jackson or Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Once they qualify for a membership and have the entire library at their fingertips, students can learn just about anything. Bookshare's selection has nearly everything a standard library does, from astronomy to zebras, and students can explore their favorite subjects with ease. This level of accessibility can rekindle enthusiasm for any student with a print disability, including those with learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, physical limitations, blindness, or low vision. With Bookshare, you can provide your students the same independent reading and learning experiences as their peers.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Students who love to read will be thrilled at the selection, but the design isn't up to par with that of other digital libraries.


Students can search the library by subject, author, or title, making choices and gaining a new sense of empowerment and equity with their peers.


Excellent online help and a Get Started page are available on the website, as are demonstration videos on how to read books and other essential topics that can help new users become more familiar with the site's functionality.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Helpful resource that benefits those who have reading related impairments or disabilities

I think Bookshare is a great tool that helps those with qualifying abilities. During my initial research, I thought that it wasn't optimal that it was not automatically offered to those with intellectual disabilities. But there is other software that exists that can help students with intellectual disabilities, so there are alternatives.

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Privacy Rating

Data Safety How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users.
  • Personal information can be displayed publicly.
  • Unclear whether user-created content is filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.

Data Rights What rights do I have to the data?

  • Users can create or upload content.
  • Processes to access or review user data are available.
  • Processes to modify data are available for authorized users.

Ads & Tracking Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Personal information is not shared for third-party marketing.
  • Unclear whether this product displays traditional or contextual advertisements.
  • Unclear whether this product displays personalised advertising.

Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.

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