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The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has launched a new online library offering people with sight loss in South East England, including the Isle of Wight, instant access to thousands of free books in formats they can read.

RNIB’s new platform already has more than 26,000 titles making it the UK’s largest online library of Talking Books – the world’s first audiobooks, which were originally created by the charity for soldiers who were blinded in the First World War.

Funded by voluntary donations, RNIB’s Library service sends out up to 10,000 books per day and lent more than 1.5 million titles last year on CD, USB and digital downloads. This number continues to grow constantly, with the latest new titles including The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, Queenie by Kimberley Chambers and Westwind by Ian Rankin.

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It is hoped that this new platform, which aims to improve the current service will provide even more blind and partially sighted people with access to reading at a time when lockdown measures due to the coronavirus have restricted outdoor activity.

RNIB Director of Services, David Clarke said:

“Reading has become increasingly important to many blind and partially sighted people as a way of dealing with social distancing measures or self-isolation. By getting stuck into a good book, we are transported to another world – away from the stresses and strains of the current situation.

“That’s why we wanted to change the way we deliver our Reading Services for the better – making it even easier for people to access the thousands of titles we offer. Our new online library takes advantage of the latest developments in technology and allows people to access our books using a range of different devices, while choosing from an even bigger collection.”

As well as Talking Books, RNIB’s Online Library offers a growing number of books in eBraille which means people are able to download titles and read them on an electronic braille display, such as the Orbit Reader 20.

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Kim Jaye is severely visually impaired and has found RNIB’s Talking Books to be a lifeline during the lockdown. She said:

“These amazing audiobooks have allowed me to maintain a sense of sanity, when the whole world seems to be going mad. They allow me to escape the confines of isolated reality into a place where my imagination takes control and keeps me calm. Talking Books are a lifeline that keep me afloat.”

To sign up to the online library visit the RNIB website, or call the RNIB helpline on 0303 123 9999 to find out more.


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