People with sight loss in the UK can now access thousands of audio books through Alexa

September 9, 2021 7:19 am Published by

Photo of a virtual assistant technology called Alexa and developed by Amazon

Customers of the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) Talking Books library are now 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.

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. 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.

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This post was written by Aurelien Dayde