March Madness – Reading Edition!
March is National Reading Month, so the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Helpdesk is celebrating March Madness – Reading Edition! This month, we will be sharing reading-related resources all month long. Additionally, on Sunday, March 19, from 8-9 pm, we will host a Student Zoom Meeting featuring Accessible Reading Tools. We look forward to enjoying March Madness with you!
- March 7: Free and Low-cost Braille Books
- March 14: Bookshare’s New App: Bookshare Reader
- March 21: Voice Dream Reader
- Accessible College Textbook Program
In this second installment of our “March Madness – Reading Edition!” series, we explore the new, free reading app from Bookshare: Bookshare Reader.
Bookshare is a service that provides accessible books to qualifying individuals. Bookshare provides a wide range of titles including textbooks, bestsellers, children’s books, career resources, and more. To find out more, check out our Bridges Blog post: Bookshare.
Accessing Bookshare Books
Once you have a Bookshare account, you can access books by either downloading or streaming them. When you download Bookshare titles, you may choose the file format in which you want to access the book using print, enlarged print, audio, and Braille. These file formats include (though not every format for every title): EPUB, DAISY, DAISY with images, BRF, Microsoft Word, DAISY with audio, and MP3.
About Bookshare Reader
Reading Bookshare Books
Like other reading apps, Bookshare Reader allows the user the ability to change the speaking rate and to change the voice itself. In addition, a reader can navigate Bookshare books by using headings coded into the book. However, the coding is not perfect, so navigation can, sometimes, be more problematic.
How Can I Use Bookshare Reader?
Bookshare Reader can be used in multiple ways. Using your Windows OS, MacOS, or Chrome laptop, you can run it through an internet browser on Bookshare (by choosing “Read Now” when you select a book). You can use the same method to stream books on your phone, or you can download and use the iOS Bookshare Reader app or the Android Bookshare Reader app. There is also a Bookshare Reader Skill on Alexa-enabled smart devices and speakers, and you can search for and read Bookshare books using this skill.
Bookshare Reader is new and improving. It’s free, geared toward people with all print disabilities, and customizable by the consumer.
Why Should I Use Bookshare Reader?
If you’re wondering why yet another reading app has been created, Bookshare Reader has advantages that other options, including the commonly-used alternative, Voice Dream Reader, do not. For example, as long as one has a Bookshare account, it is entirely free. Further, with Bookshare Reader, the text is presented in such a way as to be more readable by your device itself, or by Bookshare’s own voices. Please note: if you use Bookshare Reader on your iOS phone, you must make sure that VoiceOver is off while the reader is speaking, or else the voices will clash. But at the same time, this makes it easier to read out loud by going line-by-line. In the end, Bookshare Reader provides an additional option to use, and individuals can choose which app to use and when to use it to meet their individual needs and comfort levels.
Try It and Help Make It Better
Most new software has hiccups, and that’s to be expected. While it is frustrating that one needs to turn off VoiceOver to use the Bookshare Reader app, it’s a problem that can be fixed.
One might ask why the problem exists in the first place. Well, even though Bookshare is focused on individuals with print disabilities, blind and low vision users are in the minority of Bookshare users. There are many more individuals with learning disabilities and typical vision who use Bookshare. Maybe that’s why the VoiceOver bug wasn’t fixed before release.
But not to worry … we can help! Bookshare cannot improve its instructional materials or its content without feedback from its constituencies. So if you notice something that could be better, please reach out to us at the Free Bridges Helpdesk or to Bookshare directly; we never know how much better things can get unless we try.
Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@IMAGEmd.org
- Text or Leave a Voice mail message: (410) 357-1546
- Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page or Facebook Messenger
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.