The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the UK’s charity for those with sight loss, has announced that its Talking Books service, “which provides 4,000 audio books every single day to people with sight loss, will be entirely free for all blind and partially sighted people from today.” Previously, subscribers had to pay a £50 ($75.56) annual fee for access to the service’s c.23,000 titles.
This news was shared in the context of HarperCollins’s commitment to the program. “HarperCollins which counts Hilary Mantel, Bernard Cornwell and David Walliams amongst its authors, has become the first publisher to commit to delivering every new title to the RNIB library on the date of general publication; providing equal and immediate access to current bestsellers for blind and partially sighted readers,” stated the release. The service is available only to UK subscribers, but “anyone who is registered as blind or partially sighted can borrow up to six Talking Books at any time, completely free-of-charge.” The RNIB calculates that this comprises “more than 360,000 people registered blind or partially sighted in the UK.”
Neil Heslop, Director of RNIB Solutions, said: “At RNIB we feel passionately that reading can change the lives of blind and partially sighted people. After losing my own sight at a young age, I personally know how important the connection to the written word is, both for education and leisure. I am delighted that HarperCollins has chosen to support RNIB Talking Books and help improve accessibility through the library, we hope that other publishers will follow their lead. We’re committed to providing a world-class service which makes a huge difference to many people.”
Needless to say, free audiobooks are available at LibriVox and elsewhere, albeit generally those in the public domain. However, according to the RNIB, “almost 30,000 blind and partially sighted adults and children use Talking Books, and the RNIB library is the largest of its kind in Europe. Readers can access the audio books on CD or USB or as a digital download.”