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Reading Bookshare with Microsoft Word

Bookshare is one of the primary ways blind and visually-impaired students can access much of the printed material available to their sighted peers. While it’s not especially difficult to learn, the following post by Veronica Lewis simplifies the process. For the complete text of the original, including some useful links, go to

Reading Bookshare Titles with Microsoft Word

As a college student with low vision that fluctuates often, I love learning about new and unique ways that I can read titles from Bookshare. Even though I feel comfortable testing new apps and file formats, I’ve met many users who prefer to stick to familiar programs and file formats that they know how to work with, or that are unable to download additional apps to read titles from Bookshare. Since a lot of these users already feel comfortable using word processing software like Microsoft Word, today I will be sharing my tips for reading Bookshare titles with Microsoft Word, and how it can help with supporting learning.


Bookshare is an online accessible library that provides copies of accessible books for people with print disabilities, which is defined as the inability to read standard print. At this time, there are over 700,000 titles available, including New York Times Bestsellers, new releases from popular authors, non-fiction books, textbooks, and many more. The cost of Bookshare ranges from free to $50 a year, depending on the type of subscriber, and users will need to submit a proof of disability form before being able to access the service.


Bookshare books are available in the following formats:

  • Bookshare Web Reader (opens book in browser)
  • EPUB
  • Braille Refreshable Format/BRF
  • MP3
  • DAISY Audio
  • Word

All of the titles on Bookshare are available in these file formats, and users can download titles in multiple formats as well.


To download a Bookshare title as a Word document, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to the page for the Bookshare book of choice
  2. From the “Select Download Format” dropdown menu, select Word. Alternatively, users can set their preferences within this dropdown menu so that Word is the default format for downloads
  3. Press the Download button
  4. Save the downloaded document in an easy-to-find location

It’s worth noting that users do not need Microsoft Word to read documents in the Word file format- any word processing app or reading tool that supports these types of files will work. However, many of the tips in this post are specific to the latest version of Microsoft Word on Office 365/Microsoft 365.


Some reading apps do not have many options for choosing different fonts or font sizes, and some users may have difficulty reading the largest font size available. Microsoft Word has a much larger assortment of fonts and font sizes, as it comes with over 100 different fonts, supports bold and italic font styles, and displays text in up to size 1638 pt font. While I’m not sure that many readers will choose to read text in the maximum font size, they can set font sizes larger than 72 pt font by typing a different number in the font size dropdown box.


For users that prefer to have increased line spacing when reading, this can be configured within the Paragraph section of the Home ribbon. I prefer to use 1.5 line spacing for my own reading (and my own website features 1.8 line spacing), though some of my friends prefer double or even triple spacing so that they can easily focus on different lines of text.


Whenever I’m reading a Bookshare book for a research paper, I like to use the Navigation tool to be able to search for specific words, phrases, or sentences so that I can easily record information or copy and paste it into my notes. This is also incredibly helpful for finding short selections of text or locating a section of a book to read in class. Users can open the Navigation tool by pressing the ctrl-F keyboard shortcut or in the Edit section of the Home ribbon.


I get eyestrain from staring at white backgrounds for long periods of time and prefer to use a different page color if I am going to be reading for a while. By clicking on the Design ribbon and going to the Page Background section, I can change the page color to be virtually any color I can think of- my favorites being a light blue, light purple, or light yellow. If users choose a black background, Word will automatically change the font color to white as well- of course, if users prefer a different font color for their document, this can be configured in the Font menu on the Home ribbon.


Need to have text read out loud, but don’t want to activate a screen reader? Users can benefit from the Read Aloud feature in the Speech section of the Review ribbon, which will read selected text or a whole document out loud. Users can configure the voice speed and select from three different voices within the Settings section of the Read Aloud feature, as well as pause and go forward/backward in the text.


For users who want to have more control over the display settings for reading a Bookshare book but don’t want to change any settings, Immersive Reader is an awesome tool that can help users simplify their reading experience. I have a full post linked on Immersive Reader below, but some of the highlights include:

  • Configuring text spacing
  • Highlighting words/parts of speech
  • Choosing a different page color
  • Using a line focus to display text


I’m grateful to have so many different options for reading, and reading Bookshare titles with Microsoft Word is a great option for users who are looking for a simple way to read their favorite books, or to discover new favorites. I hope that this post on reading Bookshare titles with Microsoft Word is helpful for others as well!

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