The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has launched a new online library offering people with sight loss instant access to thousands of free books in formats they can read.
The new platform already has more than 26,000 titles making it the UK’s largest online library of Talking Books – the world’s first audiobooks, which were originally created by the charity for soldiers who were blinded in the First World War.
Funded by voluntary donations, RNIB’s Library service sends out up to 10,000 books per day and lent more than 1.5 million titles last year on CD, USB and digital downloads. This number continues to grow constantly, with the latest new titles including The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, Queenie by Kimberley Chambers and Westwind by Ian Rankin.
The service also has a number of Welsh language texts for users across Wales, including titles by Geraint Evans, Joanna Davies and Dewi Prysor.
It is hoped that this new platform, which aims to improve the current service, will provide even more blind and partially sighted people with access to reading at a time when lockdown measures due to the coronavirus have restricted outdoor activity.
Stephen Lawrence, 62, from Talbot Green, has been registered blind since 2014 and has found RNIB’s Talking Books to be a lifeline during the lockdown.
Stephen said: “I first found out about Talking Books a couple of years ago and they have changed my life. I was a pretty avid reader before I lost my sight. I would read anything from fiction to technical manuals that helped me keep up to date with my work as an electrician. It was so frustrating when I couldn’t read anymore. I felt like something had been taken away from me.
“But now I can enjoy books again and it has opened up a whole new world for me. I’m sent a list of new books every month that I can download or have sent to my house in the post. The Library has a great selection of books, I never struggle to find something I’m interested in.
“Talking Books are especially helpful for me now that the world has ground to a standstill. I am usually very busy and volunteer for RNIB Cymru, Macmillan and the Council of Wales, but now that we are all staying home I have found that taking the time to enjoy a good book has helped to keep me sane! I would urge anyone living with sight loss to give it a try.”
As well as Talking Books, RNIB’s Online Library offers a growing number of books in eBraille which means people can download titles and read them on an electronic braille display, such as the Orbit Reader 20.
RNIB Director of Services, David Clarke said: “Reading has become increasingly important to many blind and partially sighted people as a way of dealing with social distancing measures or self-isolation. By getting stuck into a good book, we are transported to another world – away from the stresses and strains of the current situation.
“That’s why RNIB wanted to change the way we deliver our Reading Services for the better, making it even easier for people to access the thousands of titles we offer. Our new online library takes advantage of the latest developments in technology and allows people to access our books using a range of different devices, while choosing from an even bigger collection.”
To sign up to the online library please visit the RNIB website, or call the RNIB helpline on 0303 123 9999 to find out more.