Getting Books to the World

I love  being a writer, but I also love eating, and paying my bills. Fame and fortune are coming, I’m sure, but for now I’m looking for work. I’m not really interested in going back into marketing for the kind of companies I’ve worked for in the past. I’d really like to work for a nonprofit. There are so many organizations out there doing great stuff for the community locally and the greater community globally. The problem is, even nonprofits want experience. That’s a problem, because I don’t have nonprofit experience. So I decided to volunteer for a while and see if I could add to my resume.

I found a company called Benetech in Palo Alto. These guys are awesome. They have a three-fold mission: to support the environment, human rights, and literacy. The literacy program is called Bookshare. Books are donated, scanned, and made available to people with print disabilities – that is, people who can’t read from a book, be it from blindness, physical inability to hold a book , or learning disorders. I’m working to help get new books uploaded into the system. After a book is scanned, it has to be formatted for the software to read it correctly. I went through the training to format a practice book and now I’m going to be writing instructions for volunteers to use a new practice book. It’s been a very interesting few days talking to the folks about how people with different disabilities will be using this so we know how it should be written.

I have to say that I was a little appalled at first when I watched the process in action. The cover of a book is literally torn off, then the spine is cut with a very scary looking blade. The stack of loose pages is fed into a high-speed scanner and the file is ready for formatting. For my initiation as a volunteer, I had to push the button to cut up a book today. I didn’t want to do it! My love for books forbids that kind of destruction, but the more I thought about it, I realized how selfish it is to value the book over the person who needs it. OK, I can do that. I had that book cut up in a nano second.

I’m looking forward to doing more with  Bookshare at Benetech. The people are wonderful, and patient, and folks all over the world are being blessed. If you’d like to help, anyone can scan books from home, or format them. Go to It’s a good thing.

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