Common Sense Review
Updated February 2014


Unique digital library gives access to those with print disabilities
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Common Sense Rating 5
  • The Bookshare homepage provides different entry points.
  • The site's membership options page explains who qualifies for free access.
  • The library goes beyond learning materials to pure pleasure reading.
  • The Getting Started page offers support.
  • You can download books directly from the search results.
Once registered, students with disabilities have access to a huge library they can read for themselves.
The registration process must be followed with care.
Bottom Line
This fantastic digital library service provides a powerful sense of independence for students with print-related disabilities.
Adirondack AccessAbility Inc.
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 5
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

It's as engaging as browsing in a library or bookstore -- kids who love to read will be thrilled at the selection.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

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

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 5

Excellent online help and an FAQ page are available on the website, as well links to demonstration videos on membership, searching, downloading, and reading.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

​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.

On the site, there's a Getting Started section that covers how to find, download, and 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.

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What's It Like?

Bookshare is 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. Also, under a Department of Education grant, library access is free to schools and students -- others will pay a $50-per-year membership fee.

Downloaded books (including textbooks, kid-friendly novels, news media, and more) can be read with a Web browser, free computer applications, or mobile device apps. Books on the site come in two file formats: DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Refreshable Format). 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 more than 200,000 titles that may have otherwise been inaccessible.

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Is It Good For Learning?

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 kids 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 kids 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 with print disabilities the same independent reading and learning experiences as their peers.

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See how teachers are using Bookshare

Lesson Plans