RNIB has been the leading advocate for braille for more than 150 years. In 2021, we are renewing our commitment to providing embossed braille, particularly in children’s literature.
From April 2021, our Braille Library service will be improved to offer braille books produced on demand giving our readers access to a larger collection of books via home delivery. These will be A4 format, smaller and slimmer in volume so they can fit through letterboxes, making them easier to store or read on the go.
Combined with our growing collection of electronic braille library books - available on memory card and download - the upgrade represents a renewed commitment to braille literacy and offers readers greater choice than ever before. To explain what we are doing in more detail, a list of questions and answers about the changes is below.
As braille readers ourselves, we recognise braille is a vital literacy medium for tens of thousands of readers across the UK. However, the Braille Library in its current form is increasingly unfit for purpose for its library members. Large parts of our current collection are in old braille codes and most of the collection has not left the warehouse in years. Despite our best efforts, many books are sadly in a poor state of disrepair and over time have become unreadable.
Some Braille Library books are large, heavy, and difficult to return to the library. These books exclude some readers, especially those with physical difficulties. Braille books occupy miles of shelving that is complex and expensive to maintain. Popular books can involve waiting times, despite our best efforts, many readers will have to wait months for newly published book to become available in braille.
After careful research and evaluation of braille library services around the world, braille on demand offers the best opportunity for sustaining access to hardcopy braille for as long as is needed. Braille on Demand means that multiple people can read the same book at the same time and – for most publishers – RNIB can release braille books on the same week that print editions are published.
Yes, all RNIB library services will continue to be free.
RNIB recognises and champions the importance of braille in children’s literacy. When children are learning braille, the print quality is particularly important. A squashed dot can make a disproportionate difference when you are learning braille and this change will significantly improve the print quality of the braille books we supply to children. It will also improve the quantity, offering children a wider range of books to choose from.
The lighter format books will fit better in a school bag and use the same size of paper (staple bound A4) as books used by their sighted peers.
Most importantly, new books will be available on Braille on Demand at the same time as the version read by their sighted peers so that – for example – braille readers will not have to wait longer for the latest book in a saga to be available.
New books will continue be produced in UEB, but the books in our digital collection that are SEB will still be there to loan except for children’s titles where we are moving solely to UEB.
No. RNIB will not be applying limits to the number of Braille on Demand books people can have. However, our heaviest readers read around two books per week. We are not expecting people’s reading habits to change significantly, but if it means people are reading more, we’re sure we can accommodate this.
Turnaround is expected to be like the current library, around one week. In many cases delivery times will be shorter as the new service is not constrained by limited stock or late returns.
Braille Library members will notice the change in format when the new slimmer books start arriving. There is no need to take any action. New readers can continue to register through our website and the RNIB Helpline.
No, the two versions will overlap.
Ultimately, this move will massively increase the size of the collection and make it possible to make significant further increases in the future.
Readers will still have access to the titles they do currently from our digital collection, and we will continue to add to it. Our next development is to be able to generate a braille book automatically from the ePub titles we receive from publishers. This will mean instant access to newly published titles from the largest publishers, but more on that to come.
No, we are committed to providing braille in both physical and digital formats. No reduction, rather we are gearing up for more choice of titles and more ways to read them. Our new Print On-Demand service is there for customers who read large or giant print and other organisations ,as well as commercial publishersproduce large print books too.
Where sufficient demand exists amongst readers content can be transcribed. Please contact the library with any book requests. A large proportion of the books we add to the collection are chosen by customers and this will continue.
We are aiming to donate any books in good condition to existing readers and schools. Books will then be donated to sister organisations overseas. Special items of cultural significance will be preserved as part of RNIB’s Heritage collection located in London. Books in disrepair and unsuitable for circulation will be recycled. Readers who would like to keep a favourite book in the old format are welcome to do so and we can arrange this by contacting the Braille Library. Although children may find the new format easier to hold and read.
The current books are in 30cm x 30.8cm ‘book size’. The new ones will increasingly be A4.
We are encouraging our readers to share them with friends, colleagues, or classmates. If you love the book, you could also keep it to read again. The books are also completely recyclable.
Obviously, recycling books is always a difficult choice, but millions of print books are thrown away each year. Our research has shown us that it will use less energy to print new books than it will to run our current warehouse, so this is better in environmental terms.
The quality of the braille should be considerably better and easier to read with the upgarde. The only change is the size of the paper which will now be easier to hold and will not involve the awkward plastic folders.
The overall weight of the entire book will be similar, but the individual sections will be lighter and easier to hold. We hope that it will make it easier to children to read in bed or, for example, for our adult readers to enjoy a book in the bath. Plus, if you drop one in, we can easily replace it.
Yes, and we will continue to provide hard copy braille. This move should significantly improve the availability of high-quality braille in the UK.
Yes. We have consulted with braille library services in the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere many of whom have already adopted this model or, like us, about to.
Yes. Sample books are available to readers on request from the Braille Library.
Yes. Where we have a digital master of a book in an older braille code, we can make those books available to readers who request them. Note, the official braille code adopted by the UK Association for Accessible formats in 2011 is Unified English Braille. As such all new books will continue to be produced in UEB.
We will be using the same paper using the format we produce magazines in. Each volume will have a paper wrapper around it that has the customer’s name and address printed on it for posting. This means that we will be removing all plastic from the process and using paper from a sustainable source.
Yes, readers can still buy books from the RNIB Shop and they will be bound in the same way that our braille books are bound with the card covers and wire binding.