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Back to School? Access thousands of accessible books through Bookshare!

Students who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted often require access to material in alternative, accessible formats. There are many resources available out there, and the AEBC, including its Access to Information Committee, is on a mission to spread the word about some of them!

This blog post will tell you a bit about Bookshare, a provider of accessible online formats for thousands of books. Whether you are a student, a professional or simply someone who loves to read - then this may be just the jackpot of literary treasures that you've been wanting.

Note that this post is written from a Canadian perspective and from the point of view of someone who is blind and uses the JAWS screen reader to access the Bookshare website.

What is Bookshare?

Bookshare is an accessible online library for people with print disabilities. Its catalogue includes thousands of titles, spanning a wide number of genres including fiction (novels, poetry, and more) and nonfiction (such as textbooks used at the college and university level). Though there are many more titles that are unfortunately still unavailable to us as Canadians due to copyright restrictions, there are still thousands of titles you can already access from good ol' Oh Canada.

Bookshare allows you to download books in DAISY Text, DAISY Audio (synthetic voice), MP3 (synthetic voice), or Braille Ready Format.

You can find Bookshare by going to

How to Become a Canadian Member?

Go to this website to learn if Bookshare is for you and for full details on how to become a member. The below provides a brief overview, but you'll want to go to Bookshare for the latest, up-to-date info.

As stated on the Bookshare website as of the date this post is being written:

In order for you to become a Bookshare member, an expert must confirm that you have a print disability that prevents you from reading traditional print materials. Anyone in the world with a qualifying print disability may join Bookshare.

Further, they state...

A person who is blind or has low vision and who is unable to read standard print qualifies for Bookshare as long as a competent authority confirms that the person is legally blind. Legal blindness is a standard built into the law. Examples of Competent Authorities:

  • family doctor
  • ophthalmologist
  • optometrist
  • teacher of the visually impaired
  • special education teacher
  • National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, or similar government body outside the U.S

Currently, individual subscription for Canadian members includes a $50 annual fee + a $25 set up charge.

Some organizations provide discounts or cover the cost of yearly subscription for their members. If you are a member of the CNIB Library, you may be interested to know that they are currently offering free one-year subscriptions to their clients!

Follow this link for full, up-to-date details on how to subscribe to Bookshare through CNIB or your public library:

Here's the info from the CNIB Library website, as of the date this post is being written:

  1. Complete the Bookshare online sign up form for individuals (login required). (Note that there is a direct link to the form they refer to here, which you can access when logged into the CNIB Library. Follow the link provided above.)
  2. When you submit your form you will be taken to the "You're Almost Done!" page. Select the Personalized Proof of Disability Form link.
  3. Complete the Personalized Proof of Disability Form and email to

When you create an account the confirmation message from Bookshare will instruct you to enter a credit card number. You may ignore this instruction. Bookshare will check with CNIB directly to confirm that the cost of your subscription is covered. Note that Bookshare may refer to CNIB as “CELA” in correspondence.

If you don't currently use the CNIB Library but have a visual, physical or learning disability that prevents you from reading print, register for your public library's CELA service and follow the Bookshare sign-up instructions on the CELA website.

How do I search for Books?

Once you are a member, go to the Bookshare website and log in. If you search for titles before you are logged in, you will see titles that you don't necessarily have access to in Canada. If you search for titles once you are logged in, the search results will be filtered to only include those titles you can actually download and access through your Canadian subscription.

To log in, go to the "log in" link. Jaws users: press insert F7 to generate a list of links, then the letter L until you hear "log in" and then enter to activate this link.

You'll now be on a page where you are asked to enter your username and password into the respective form fields. Jaws users: To quickly navigate to these fields, ensure that you're at the top of the page (control and home keys pressed down together) and then press F until you hear something along the lines of "email or username". Enter forms mode and insert the information, tab to the password form field and insert your password, and finally tab to the sign in button and press enter. note that there is also a checkbox that you can activate so that your log in info is stored and remembered on the computer you are using, if you wish.

Once logged in, there are several ways to search for titles. This post will focus only on simple searches accessed through the main search field. Note that you can also browse by subjects or use the advanced search features, though these topics are beyond the scope of this post.

To perform a simple search, find the search field on the Bookshare home page. Jaws users: Ensure that you're on the top of the page (control plus home keys together) and you can press F to quickly jump to the search field. Here, you can enter the title, author or ISBN of a book you are searching for. Press enter when done typing and you will now be on a page containing your search results.

If using Jaws, you can use the letter H to navigate by heading to hear each title in the search results list. If you hear a title that interests you, you can use your down arrow to hear a brief description of the book and to access the download option.

To download a book, access the combobox which is found below each title in the search results list to select the format you wish to download (for example, electronic braille, audio, daisy text, etc) and then tab to the download button and press enter. Usually, downloaded files are saved in your downloads folder on your computer. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to explain the process of downloading files from the internet, but the Bookshare website contains tons of information on how to access and download their books on both a computer and through mainstream apps on tablets and other devices.

And with that, you're on your way! If you have additional questions, feel free to visit the Bookshare website. or, if you feel that an AEBC teleconference workshop focusing on Bookshare in greater depth would be useful, feel free to share that too. Happy reading!


This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.
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