Blind and partially sighted people can now say “Alexa, open RNIB Talking Books” to get instant access to thousands of RNIB audio books.
Customers of the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) Talking Books library will be able to access their audio books by asking Alexa, as well as through RNIB’s usual library services. The Talking Books service has been described by many users as a ‘lifeline’ during the pandemic, with 1.33 million Talking Books sent out in the last year.
David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB, said: “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 Books library is 86 years old yet continues to adapt to the changing landscape of how our library users want to read their books.
“There are some great advantages to accessing your Talking Books this way. If you start a book but don’t like it, you can immediately choose another one rather than waiting for your next book to arrive in the post.
“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.”
RNIB worked with both Amazon and New Zealand based company, Sonnar Interactive to develop the Alexa Skill.
Dennis Stansbury, Alexa UK Country Manager, said: “We love hearing feedback about how customers use Alexa throughout their day. We are delighted that customers can now access thousands of Talking Books by simply asking Alexa, alongside setting reminders, listening to music and creating shopping lists.”
Users will be able to search by book title, author and key word. RNIB will continue to provide Talking Books in the traditional USB and CD format, and customers can still access RNIB advice and support services including Tech for Life.
Liam O’Carroll, who is blind, lives in South-West London. He is a keen reader and enjoyed testing the Alexa Talking Books skill for RNIB. Liam said: “It’s been fun to use, it’s nice and simple to set up. One of my favourite authors is James Herbert and I was able to easily search for books by him. My seven-year-old son also benefitted from the Alexa skill. He loves books by David Walliams and enjoyed using the skill to listen to them.”
Award winning children’s writer and illustrator Sally Gardner uses the Talking Books Library and has her books included in the library. She said: “This is a wonderful innovation with Amazon and anything that brings the world of talking books faster to blind and partially sighted people, and to the dyslexic community is something to be celebrated. I can’t wait to ask Alexa to give me a talking book from RNIB’s 34,000 Titles, now that’s what I call Magic.”
The Talking Books service has revolutionised reading for people with sight loss since it launched in 1935 to help soldiers who had been blinded in the First World War and were struggling to learn braille. The first ever Talking Book created was Harper Collins’ The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.
For more information, visit www.rnib.org.uk or call our helpline on 0303 123 9999.