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Sight loss charity offers free audiobooks via Alexa

People with sight loss can now instantly access tens of thousands of free audiobooks through Alexa, made available by a national charity which supports blind and partially sighted people.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has been providing its Talking Books service since 1935. The service was started by Captain Ian Fraser, a soldier who lost his sight when he was wounded during a battle in the First World War. Frustrated at the slowness of learning braille, he had the idea for Talking Books.

The Talking Books service provides people who have sight loss with thousands of audio recordings, on-demand and entirely free to borrow. The service currently has a collection of more than 34,000 fiction and non-fiction titles for adults and children.

During the pandemic, users of Talking Books described the service as a lifeline, with 1.33 million books sent out over the course of the last year. Up until now, the books have only been available on CD or USB via the post.

However, now users can access the RNIB’s collection of Talking Books instantly through Alexa, eliminating the waiting time between ordering and getting access to the audio.

David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB, commented:

We are extremely pleased to announce that Talking Books customers can now access the 34,000 books in the RNIB library by asking Alexa. RNIB’s Talking Library is 86 years old yet continues to adapt to the changing landscape of how our library users want to use their books. Voice activated technology is bringing us closer to a world where blind and partially sighted people can consume books on a level playing field with sighted people.

Users will be able to say “Alexa, open RNIB Talking Books” and then find recordings using the title, author and keywords. RNIB will also continue to provide talking books via their USB and CD postal format.

Sally Gardner, an award winning children’s author whose books are part of the RNIB’s collection, commented:

“Anything that brings the world of talking books faster to blind and partially sighted people, and also to the dyslexic community, is something to be celebrated.”

The RNIB was founded in 1868 to provide support and advice to those with sight loss. Today, the charity also campaigns for improved safety and accessibility in various areas of society where blind or partially sighted people face barriers or difficulties.

To find out more about the RNIB’s Talking Books service, visit: