Amazon Alexa
Blind and partially sighted people can now get instant access to thousands of audio books provided by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), simply by asking Amazon’s Alexa.

Customers of the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s Talking Books library can ask Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to open RNIB Talking Books to access their audio books instantly.

In the past year, 1.33 million Talking Books have been sent out, with many users describing the service as a “lifeline” during the pandemic.

David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB, said: “We are extremely pleased to announce that Talking Books customers can now access the 34,000 books in the RNIB Library by asking Alexa.

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“RNIB’s Talking Books library is 86 years old yet continues to adapt to the changing landscape of how our library users want to read their books.

“There are some great advantages to accessing your Talking Books this way. If you start a book but don’t like it, you can immediately choose another one rather than waiting for your next book to arrive in the post.

“Voice activated technology is bringing us closer to a world where blind and partially sighted people can consume books on a level playing field with sighted people.”

Dennis Stansbury, Alexa UK Country Manager, said: “We love hearing feedback about how customers use Alexa throughout their day.

“We are delighted that customers can now access thousands of Talking Books by simply asking Alexa, alongside setting reminders, listening to music and creating shopping lists.”.

Users will be able to search by book title, author and keyword. RNIB will continue to provide Talking Books in the traditional USB and CD format, and customers can still access RNIB advice and support services.

The Talking Books service launched in 1935 to help soldiers who had been blinded in the First World War and were struggling to learn braille. The first ever Talking Book created was Harper Collins’ The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.

Amazon has collaborated with the RNIB before, most recently adding a ‘Call RNIB helpline’ calling feature to its Alexa functions. Other  innovations have included updating its app with light and dark modes and text scaling for improved accessibility.

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