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Alternative Format Books

Books are available in forms other than the standard hard copy print version. These are called alternative format books.  Be sure to check that the “Alternative format” is also accessible (e.g., able to be read aloud by a device or screen reader software). Individuals need to choose an alternative format that fits their needs and preferences.

Topics explored below include:



Use the following information as a guide for alternative format books.

Reasons individuals use alternative format books:

Print Disability: A print disability can be a learning disability, a visual impairment or a physical disability. Although the range of disabilities can be very different, they all share one characteristic: individuals diagnosed with a print disability cannot access print in a standard hard copy print version. Not all alternative format books are accessible.

Cost: Many eBooks cost less than the hard copy print version. Also, options exist to digitally rent the books instead of paying full purchase price.

Ease of Use/ Convenience:  Alternative format books (Braille excluded) are often lighter, more compact, and easier to transport than standard hard copy print versions.

Common types of alternative format books are:

Audio Books:  A recording of a book being read. Audio books are typically provided by cassette tape, CD, or internet download.

DAISY Books: A specific format of audio books. DAISY digital talking books offer the benefits of regular audiobooks, but also include ease of navigation like with a word document.

Braille or Digital Braille:  A raised dot system utilized by individuals with sight disabilities to read. Digital braille format can be used with refreshable braille displays or printed out with a braille printer.

eBooks:  An electronic version of a traditional print book sold by organizations that can be read by using a personal computer or by using an eBook reader.  EBooks are typically delivered in the proprietary format of the providing organization (e.g., Amazon Kindle, CourseSmart, Sony Books, Barnes and Nobles Readers, etc.)

eText: A copy of a standard hard copy print book provided by a publisher in an electronic text format. Whereas an eBook is created and formatted specifically for purchase by individuals, eText documents are typically  provided in unformatted Word or PDF files and may not include all the visual information available in the standard hard print version. These files can be read aloud using screen reading software (e.g., WYNN, Jaws, Natural Reader). Programs, like ZoomText, WYNN, and MAGic can allow access for individuals with sight impairments by allowing manipulation of the presentation of the text in larger print, color contrast of print/background, or spacing (i.e. white space). 

Organizations that provide alternative format books: 

CourseSmart: www.coursesmart.com – An organization that works with publishers to provide books in a downloadable format, available on computer and some eBook readers. Contact http://www.coursesmart.com/accessibility for specific (Purchases are digital rentals, with the books available for a period of time)

Amazon: www.amazon.com – Provides eBooks usable by Kindle eReaders and free applications for Android, iPad, Mac, Blackberry, and Windows PC, and Windows Phone. The Kindle eReader device is not required to make use of the free downloadable applications for the above listed devices.  (Books are available for purchase)

Amazon Kindle for PC with Accessibility plugin--Created to allow for screen reading of texts on Windows PC, regardless of whether Text-to-Speech is activated by publisher. Works with JAWS (Available to all OSU students through the Assistive Technology webpage.)

Learning Ally (formerly RFB&D):  www.learningally.org –Provides books in Daisy Downloadable, Daisy CD, or Windows Media Audio (WMA) audio format.  (Available for individuals with print disabilities; Books free with paid membership)

Bookshare: www.bookshare.org  -- Provides downloadable books in Daisy and Braille Ready Format (BRF).  (Available for individuals with print disabilities; Books free with membership; currently free membership to students)

LibriVox: www.LibriVox.org -- Provides free audio recordings of public domain books. (Free for download)

Project Gutenberg:  www.gutenberg.com  – A collection of eBooks available for download in various formats. (Free for download)

Inkling: www.inkling.com – Provides some textbooks for iPad.  (Requires download of app and paid purchase of individual books)

Louis Database of Accessible Materials, American Printing House for the Blind: www.loius.aph.org – The Louis Database has a collection of braille, audio, large print, and electronic file formats.  (Fee for each book downloaded)

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped: www.loc.gov/nls/ -- A collection of audiobooks available in braille and audio format. (Books are available for free for individuals with print disabilities)

Google eBooks: http://books.google.com/ebooks -- Collection of eBooks that is slowly expanding in scope to include non-fiction and scholarly works. (Books are available for purchase)

Acquiring Alternative Format Books: 

Utilize the ISBN (on back of book, either 10 or 13 numbers) for the search to obtain correct edition of book.

1)      Check directly with Publisher for eBook version. http://www.publisherlookup.org/ can be utilized to find Publishers’ home pages. Also, check with CourseSmart to see if eBook is available for rent as an eBook.

2)      If you have an eReader, check with these organizations for eBooks:

iPad→ iBooks, Inkling


Nook→Barnes and Noble


Google→Google Books

 Students with print disabilities in need of accessible formats need to check to ensure the book is accessible to meet their needs. For example, when purchasing an eBook from Amazon, check to see if Text-to-Speech is enabled. 

3)      If you are a student with a print disability, check with Learning Ally, Bookshare, and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. If you are not yet a member, Student Disability Services can serve as verification if we have documentation of print disability for you.

Steps for obtaining Accessible Text through Student Disability Services 

Available only for students with print disabilities registered with our office and have alternate format books as an accommodation. If you are unable to find a book on your own in accessible text, we can assist with obtaining an eText version. Students are required to provide proof of purchase of the book, which can often be more expensive than the above listed options.

  1. INFORMATION: Contact SDS with course number, titles, author, edition, publisher & ISBN for each book. This information is needed to ensure that the correct edition is obtained.
  2. SEARCH: SDS will contact publisher to obtain eText version of books. If no eText exists, SDS will have to scan and edit text in house. This process will require the syllabus for the class to better ensure timely delivery of appropriate materials.
  3. DELIVERY: Student comes to office with receipt of book purchase. After turning in receipt and signing copyright agreement, student will be given book via USB or CD.
  4. ACCESS: Assistive Technology is available for free by SDS to access alternative format books. Assistive Technology can be found at access.it.okstate.edu. An OSU OKey account is required for download.


Contact SDS with any questions you might have about alternate format books or assistive technology at 405-744-7116.