Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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Baen Books Offers Free eBooks For People With Disabilities

Sometimes the best ideas are somewhat let down by their implementation. This is what I think happened to me with a fantastic programme Baen Books is running: Baen Books offers free eBooks to disabled veterans and people with disabilities.

Last September, someone on Twitter pointed me to the 2006 press release titled "Baen Books Free to Disabled Readers". The release begins with:

Baen Books ( ), a publisher of science fiction, will provide its books to fans who are blind, paralysed, or dyslexic, or are amputees, in electronic form free of charge, effective immediately.

I was very excited to discover this, as I read a lot of fantasy and science-fiction. Some of my favourite authors have published with Baen, notably Lois McMaster-Bujold and Spider Robinson.

The press release states that applications would be processed by ReadAssist, "a volunteer group devoted to helping disabled readers find the books they want in the form they need". So I went to the page with the application form and registered interest. I submitted the application on 21 September 2009.

I received an email from someone at ReadAssist the following day saying:

We have two criteria that qualify an applicant for the free webscriptions program. If you are a disabled military veteran, or are unable to read a printed book, you would qualify. Do you have either disability?

On the same day (22 September), I responded and explained that I am a wheelchair user and experience paralysis, as well as having osteoarthritis in my hands. I said that while I *can* hold a book, it is painful to do so for any length of time.

It is worth noting that at the time, the application page used similar language to the Baen’s press release. "Blind, paralysed, or dyslexic, or are amputees". This has now been changed to:

Baen Books has made available its entire catalogue of e-books to people who have a reading disability. This can be visual impairment or physical inability to hold a book.

Anyway! I sent a follow-up email on 4 October to enquire if a decision had been made. This was just about two weeks after they asked if I had "either disability" and I’d sent my response to them. I had not received an answer from the folks at ReadAssist.

I never did get an answer from ReadAssist.

But the following day I received an email from Webscription that my password had been reset!!! As I had never registered for Webscription I was a bit puzzled. I thought this might be my access to the books, but wasn’t sure. I contacted Webscription to ask further information, but they had nothing more to say other than a password change had been requested. I logged in to Webscription with the new password, and sure enough, I had access to all the books in the library.

All is well that ends well, for sure! I have enjoyed being able to download and read Baen eBooks for these last few months. I really appreciate this programme from Baen, and wish more publishers adpoted that approach. It was disappointing that the process was rather confused. Perhaps the problem I experienced was unclear and/or lacking communications. So, a big thank you to Baen Books, and hopefully the kinks in the process can be ironed out for the people who are applying to the programme in the future.

3 thoughts on “Baen Books Offers Free eBooks For People With Disabilities

  1. I don’t fully remember my signup for the Baen library but I do remember I ended up confused and frustrated too. I think I signed up very early on in the process, right when it was first available so I assumed they just had not got the kinks ironed out yet. It’s frustrating to see they still don’t even have an email sent to people to say “welcome, you’re accepted! Here’s the instructions”

    I dare say we could even write the thing if they wanted :)


  2. It is interesting to see my experience isn’t unique.

    Yep, I’m sure we could write a simple “welcome you’re accepted” letter they could use :)

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