Library ebooks

Some ideas on how to help blind and partially sighted people use your eBook library service.

Know the benefits

Library ebook services are a great opportunity for blind and partially sighted people, but as with any new technology there are some hurdles to leap over first.

eBooks can be read using an eBook reader (like the Kindle) or using an eBook app on computers, mobile phones or tablets (like iBooks on the iPad). Depending on the device or app being used you can:

  • enlarge the print size
  • zoom in on a particular passage or phrase
  • change the colour of the screen, so that print is either black on a white background or white on a black background
  • use text-to-speech to have the book read aloud.

A bit more detail is available in the RNIB factsheet: The benefits of eBooks and on the RNIB eBooks and digital website

Running ebook sessions

We recommend working closely with customers who are new to ebooks so that you can share experiences and work together to solve problems. This might take the form of:

  • one-to-one help
  • group advice sessions
  • online help and factsheets

There are many ways to run advice sessions. You might want to consider the following formats:

  • Device taster sessions – gather eBook readers, apps and software to demonstrate the technology and let your users get hands on experience
  • Download sessions – demonstrate using your eBook service with assistive technology. If you have the facilities you can run this as a teaching session
  • Consultation sessions – invite users to bring their own devices in so you can help them with problems
  • Combined sessions - either combine the above three ideas or make sure that there is an accessibility element to any other events or outreach work you do, even if the work isn't primarily aimed at blind and partially sighted people; spread the word of accessible eBooks as widely as possible

It’s a good idea to do a dry run with staff members first to iron out any problems. Set a challenge to use your eBook service with screen reading technology and the screen turned off – this is a great way to learn about how the technology works in real life. Some sessions might require the use of access technology such as screen readers or magnifiers, see our advice on using computers.

You might want to consider inviting your supplier or other experts to get involved with the sessions. The following organisations can provide support for people with sight loss with technology:

  • RNIB Technology Support Squad
    RNIB's Technology Support Squad is a free national service that can help blind and partially sighted people set up and use technology: computers, eBook readers and access technology. Contact: RNIB Helpline 0303 123 9999 or email
  • AbilityNet
    AbilityNet provide a free helpline which offers expert advice and information about how disabled people can use computers and the internet. Contact: 0800 269 545


Things to be aware of

  • Talking about ebooks can get complicated really quickly so try not too get bogged down in the details.
  • Follow our tips on good customer service and guiding someone with sight loss.
  • Try to maintain a light tone, keeping things as simple as possible, even if this is easier said than done! Sharing the discovery of new technologies can be fun.
  • Getting to grips with ebooks can be a slow process at first but reassure users that things are much easier once you get going.
  • Improvisation, adaptation and learning new things are part of the initial challenge but the effort is worth it.

Useful factsheets and websites