Saturday, October 20, 2007

Smoked Lobster Day!

When we submitted our proposal to the competition to provide accessible books to U.S. students with print disabilities, I told my team that if we won an award, I'd cook smoked lobster for the whole company.

Today's that day!

We're just three weeks into this new world for Benetech. I think we've signed up more schools and students for Bookshare.org in the last three weeks than in the last three years! We're hiring like crazy: we have more than ten job openings posted.

We issued our first official press release about the award and immediately had a great article in the San Jose Mercury News. The same article was on the cover of the Palo Alto Daily News with a great picture of Claire O'Brien, our newly promoted Collection Development Manager, scanning a book. 99,999 more books to go!

So, as we celebrate this great award, we're also busy thinking about how we will dramatically improve the availability of quality textbooks and education materials to students with print disabilities. It's a great challenge, and an honor to be able to serve.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bookshare.org - Bookshare.org

Major Great News about Bookshare.org!

I'm delighted to share incredible news, which will transform Bookshare.org. On Friday, the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. federal Department of Education made a major five-year award of $32 million to Bookshare.org. This will further the objectives of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by supplying high quality textbooks and educational materials to students with special needs. This funding is to fully support all schools and students with qualifying print disabilities in the United States, K-12 and post-secondary, with access to the entire Bookshare.org collection of accessible electronic books and to software for reading those books. As of October 1, 2007, we have ceased charging these schools and students anything to join Bookshare.org. We also expect to add over 100,000 new educational titles in high quality DAISY and Braille formats over the next five years, getting students the terrific quality textbooks they need for academic success!

I spent most of the Clinton Global Initiative conference working with the Department of Education's special ed professionals to wrap this up, and it happened Friday afternoon: the last day of the federal government's fiscal year. It was too late to announce it as a CGI commitment at the conference, but the CGI folks were pretty excited for me.

We've already had a surge of schools registering with Bookshare.org just through word of mouth spread by our volunteers. We'll be hiring new people to help us meet the demand, so watch our job posts and Bookshare.org. This will make a tremendous impact on Bookshare.org, and the winning of this competition is a real mark of the strength of our team.