Reading Without A Book

Reading Without A Book
Person Reading Book Outside
If you ever wanted to know how to access reading material in alternate forms – this is the article for you!  This article focuses on those with physical disabilities, but many of the options would be helpful for anyone who cannot access standard printed material.

Here in central Texas we have had an extremely hot and dry summer.  We still have August and probably the better part of September until we will get some relief.  A great way to beat the heat is to stay indoors and catch up on your reading.

For people with physical disabilities, the simple act of curling up with a good book or magazine can be difficult or impossible.  But, thanks to technology, there are many options to maintain your ability to access reading material.
There are a few commercially available page turners on the market, but in my opinion, they do not work very well.  And for the very high price ticket, it is not worth the investment.  With a physical page turner you are limited to one book at a time, and you are limited to those physical books that the device was designed to work with.
Example of a Page Turner for Physical Books
Example of a page turner for physical books.

A better way to access printed material is through audio recordings or electronically.

Picture of person listening to headphones.
For those that would like to listen to books, audio books are readily available from your local library.  Any commercially available book that has been turned into an audio book is just waiting for you to check it out!  Now, if your tastes are more varied and the books or other materials that you are looking for are not available on standard audio books, then you have to look into alternate formats.  There are a number of resources that provide audio recordings of books, magazines, newspaper, and textbooks – see listing below.

If you enjoy the act of reading print over listening to text being read, there are many options for reading books and other materials electronically.
Picture of Books Coming out of a Computer

There are some software programs that allow you to “read” any text file, and some of them have books for sale. If you do a web search for “ereader software” you will find a host of options.  Two software programs that are easy to use and allow you to purchase books are,

Another option is the Kindle reader software.  This allows you to read books available from the Kindle store and certain other formats.  There are some free titles available through the Kindle store.

Over the last few years, there have been a number of devices called eReaders that allow you to take a whole library of books with you wherever you go.  Some examples of these devices are the Kindle, Sony eReader, iPad, or the Nook.  At this time, the ability of these devices to be accessible to people with physical disabilites is limited.  If someone is not able press physical buttons or physically access a touchscreen (depending on the device), they may not be able to use it.  This is a quickly changing industry, and there will be many changes to these products over the next few years.

Picture of a few of the more popular eReaders

Here are some other resources for getting access to books:

Some of the resources listed below require that you have a “print disability.”  This simply means that you are not able to access standard books due to a disability.  The service may ask you to have a form signed to verify your disability.

FREE → Texas Talking Book Program
1-800-252-9605 (toll free in Texas)
Provides books in audio format that can be played on a special reader that is loaned to you free of charge.  Books can be downloaded online or delivered to your home for free.  Their collection also includes popular magazine subscriptions as well as a spotlight on Texas books.

FREE → Learning Ally
Offers textbooks, fiction, non-fiction, and other materials to anyone who is unable to access standard books.  Books are listened to on the computer with free software, special book reading devices, or with an iPhone/iPod/iPad app.

FREE → National Library Service
Offers audio books free of charge to people with disabilities.

FREE → NFB Newsline
Offers access to newspapers, magazines, TV listings, and current national news all through your telephone.

FREE → Project Gutenberg
Offers famous and freely available important texts, over 10,000 books currently available.

FREE → LibriVox
Offers free and audio version of public domain books.  Offers podcast.

FREE → Classic Bookshelf
Offers classic books with the ability to change the color and font of the reading material.  Many people have trouble reading electronically but with this website you can set the font and the color to your liking.

FREE → Internet Archive
Offers books, audio, video and more for free.  Books can be viewed online or downloaded for later use.

FREE → Audio Bible
Provides a free copy of the Bible on Cassette Tape/CD/MP3 to anyone who cannot physically access the Bible and other religious materials; available in many different languages.

FREE → Gizmodo Freeware Free Audio Book Listing
Extensive list of sites that offer free audio books

FREE/PAY FOR SERVICE → Various Magazines
Whether you like reading People Magazine, The New Yorker, or Newsweek, most magazines have some sort of online presence, and you can access articles online.  So just go to the magazine’s website to see what is available.

Has free online ebooks.  This website has a host of books available to view for free on their website, including comic books.  You can download the books onto your computer for a fee.

Digital versions of magazines.  You pay for a subscription, which is usually a discounted rate from the paper version.  iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app available.

Is a large database of books scanned by users that can be read on the computer screen and/or listed to on a computer or iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app.  There is an annual fee.

PAY FOR SERVICE → Audio-to-Go – 888-829-7867
Offers books on tape or CD that are shipped to your home for a monthly fee.  They specialize in out of print and hard to find editions.

Offers digital audio books, radio shows, and audio versions of poplar magazines and daily newspapers for a monthly or yearly fee.  The items are downloaded to handheld devices or personal computers.

If you would like access to the daily newspaper, there is a program called radio reading services where volunteers read your local newspaper and other materials over the radio.  You need to apply for this service and you will need a special radio, but then you just tune in and listen!  Some of these services offer internet streaming as well.

North Texas Radio for the Blind
Provides a broadcast of reading service for may popular newspapers and other print media, a special radio is required to pick up the signal in the Dallas area.  Internet streaming is also available, for a yearly fee.

Recording Library of West Texas
Radio reading service for Midland/Odessa.

Owl Radio
Radio reading service for San Antonio.

Elpaso Lighthouse for the Blind
Radio reading service for El Paso.

Taping for the Blind
Radio reading service for Houston.  This organization will also create a custom audio book if it is not available in any other form.

There are so many ways for people with disabilities to access books today that there is no excuse to get behind on your reading!

Here are some other resources to check out:
Other resources:

This list is just scratching the surface of what is available.  What resources/methods do you have for accessing books in alternate formats – leave a comment below and share!