Website review by Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2017


Unique digital library gives access to those with print disabilities

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts

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Pros: Once registered, students with disabilities have access to a huge library they can read for themselves.

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 with print-related disabilities.

Schools and teachers can sign up for an 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 home page, 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 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 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.

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Bookshare offers an expansive online library of digital books for people with print disabilities. Under an exception to the copyright law, if someone can provide proof of a print disability, a Bookshare membership will be available to them 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 -- other organizations will pay $6-10 per book. Individuals, including adults and seniors, pay an annual membership cost of $50, plus a $25 setup fee. A privacy policy and details on how information is collected and used -- most importantly children's privacy -- is 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 just about 600,000 different titles that may have been inaccessible otherwise.

Bookshare is a fantastic resource and the only digital library of its kind. There are other sources for digital textbooks and educational material out there, but Bookshare offers accessibility for all types of reading, even just for pleasure. Logging in and learning to use the site is straightforward and relatively user-friendly. New books and publications are added frequently, so students with print disabilities 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 who have print disabilities the same independent reading and learning experiences as their peers.

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, regardless of print disabilities.


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
Monica Encarnacion School support staff

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Featured review by
Jen W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Avonworth Elementary School
Pittsburgh, United States
Bookshare's vision-all abilities should have access to reading materials!
Bookshare is a growing collection of over 300,000 titles. Several aides that have used this resource are amazed how many of the textbooks and class materials they can access through this website. Not only are books available, but so are newspapers and magazines. Bookshare is pretty easy to set up and get started. The majority of your time will be spent searching through the vast titles, unless you have a specific title in mind. Books can be searched by title, author and even ISBN. Bookshare offers ...
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