Making audio accessible to all


Calibre Audio’s Anthony Kemp explains how independent publishers can bring audio content to more people

Did you know that fewer than 10% of publications worldwide are produced in accessible audio, the format needed for anyone with a print disability? This statistic is significant when 15% of the world’s population has a disability that means they can’t access books in any other form.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted worrying resource and inequality gaps like these right across our society. Books have been more than just a form of entertainment: they have been a vital lifeline for people experiencing the impact of isolation. But the cost of audio subscriptions from commercial providers have been beyond the reach of some people—especially younger readers with a disability who come from a disadvantaged background. Books and audiobooks should be accessible to everyone, and people with physical, cognitive or visual impairment disabilities need the right formats to enjoy all the benefits of reading.

At Calibre Audio we provide a completely free accessible audiobook service for everyone with a reading disability. Our collection has more than 12,000 titles for all ages, and we continually add new ones to ensure we provide a wide variety that includes not only bestsellers but more esoteric titles. We also accommodate personal requests from our members. All our books can be listened to via streaming on Play Calibre, the Dolphin Easy Reader app or a memory stick in the post. 

So why are we reaching out to independent publishers? We’d like to work with you to help put accessibility and inclusivity at the heart of your business. Our charity has partnerships with larger publishers, but members are missing the diversity and creativity of the titles produced by Independents, and this needs to change. Joining forces with us would help to not only narrow publishing’s pernicious accessibility gap, but also to extend your reach to a completely new audience of literary consumers.

Calibre Audio is one of the few charities with the ability to record books ourselves. If your titles are not currently available in accessible audio format we can collaborate with you in their production, using our network of brilliant voice narrators and dedicated studio engineers, on a mutually beneficial commercial basis. 

This is your opportunity to be part of societal change. The impact of accessible audio on young people in particular is already coming to light through a research project we’re conducting with Bedford University, which has shown how audiobooks can help children with learning disabilities to enjoy reading, and support academic achievement by combining audiobooks and printed academic textbooks. “By using the audiobook, I can follow the story better and I can talk about what happens,” said one child. “I have found reading the book more interesting as I am not struggling to read the words all of the time,” said another.

We know independent publishers are agile, nimble and leaders in driving change and disruption. Join us and let’s continue to produce brilliant, unique content that everyone can access. 

Anthony Kemp is CEO of Calibre Audio. For more information about the charity and to get in touch about a partnership, visit its website.