I don't know about where you are, but here it's colder than a politician’s heart! Seriously, though the days are getting longer and the sun is shining, it's still below freezing almost every day and below zero many days. Days like that are perfect for sipping coco and sitting in front of a fireplace with a cat on your lap and a good book to escape into.
There are all sorts of great reading apps and services that people with visual impairments can take advantage of. The National Library Service is a great resource with their BARD app and Bookshare is also a great resource with several apps that can be used to access their content. Not to mention all of the book readers out there from Humanware, HIMS, and other companies.
Here is my constant issue...how do I keep track of the books I've read already and keep tabs on books I want to read once they become available? I am a voracious reader and can go through between 150 and 200 books a year. Sometimes I read a book on Bookshare and when it becomes available on BARD, I may not remember whether I read it or not. I’ve been known to start a book, get a chapter or two in, and think “hey, I read this already!” Needless to say, it’s frustrating. That's where Goodreads comes in .
Goodreads is both an app and a website. It's almost like a social media. platform for readers to stay connected with both their friends with common reading interests and their favorite authors.
The Home Screen
Once you've created an account, you will be asked if you want to connect via facebook. This allows your friends to connect with you in Goodreads. This is probably the easiest way to get started, especially if you know you have friends on Facebook that use Goodreads already. This allows you to view what books your friends have read and reviewed once you’ve added them as friends in Goodreads as well.
The screen changes based on the tab you have selected in the lower half of the screen. The tabs are Home, My Books, Search, Scan, and More.
The Home Tab
When focus is in the Home Tab, you have access to your “feed”. You will be able to see your friends, what books they’re currently reading, books they’ve read, and books they have rated. You also get noticed on which books are the most popular in the genres you’ve indicated are your favorites (i.e. romance, mystery, politics, chic lit, etc).
Navigating this area with VoiceOver is very easy since you only need to swipe right to move forward and read what others are reading or get recommendations.
The My Books Tab
Within your account, you have three bookshelves by default. They are “Currently Reading”, Read”, and “Want to Read”. The names are pretty self-explanatory. You may activate each shelf and explore what you have within it.
The shelf you will use most often is probably the “currently reading” bookshelf. This is the area that is immediately open once you activate the “My Books” tab. The books you are reading (if you are working on more than one) will be there.
VoiceOver users can access the books by swiping forward. As the VoiceOver cursor is focused on a book you are currently reading, it will tell you that the item has actions available. Those actions are “go to book”, “update progress”, or “activate” (which is the default action). If you activate the item or choose update progress from the actions menu, you will be directed to a screen which allows you to report how far along you are in the book either by pages or percentage, leave a comment regarding your observations, or activate a button indicated you’ve finished the book. If you activate that button, you will be given an opportunity to rate the book from one to five stars . If you choose to go to the book from the actions menu, you will be taken to book information including the title, author, cover photo, synopsis, and rating. You can also move the book to a different shelf from this area as well as rate it or write a review for others to read.
The Search Tab
This area is also pretty self-explanatory. You can search by title, author, or both. Results are shown with title and author information. If you activate a specific search result, you will be taken to the book’s page within the app. From there, you may add it to one of your shelves or create a shelf that you would like to move it to.
The Scan Tab
This tab allows the user to scan the barcode on the back of the book rather than typing in the title or author within the search tab. This may be useful for longer titles or for individuals with low vision who are reading print books. It is very likely less useful for those using Bookshare or BARD to read books. That is, unless you have a sighted friend with a print novel you’d like to read and, rather than writing down the title and author, you use the scanning feature on the Goodreads app to add it to your “want to read” shelf.
The More Tab
This tab includes the notifications area, the area to send and accept friend requests, book recommendations, the reading challenge area, groups, and settings.
A Word About The Reading Challenge
Most of the areas in this tab are easy to explore on your own. But it might be beneficial to share a few things about the Reading Challenge.
Each year, Goodreads invites members to set a goal for how many books they want to read that year. You can easily set that goal and check your progress in that area. They can also look at the goals of their friends.
The most important thing that you should know is that if books are to count in your challenge, you need to indicate when you read them. The easiest way to do this is to add them to your “currently reading’ shelf first, then mark them as “read”. This is because if you only mark them as “read” after searching the title, Goodreads does not know when you read that particular book, so can’t say you’ve read it between January 1 and December 31 of any specific year. You certainly could add a date that you read the book from that book’s Goodreads page, but that takes more time and you must navigate many more screens.
This app is one of the most VoiceOver accessible ones not created for the blind and low vision population that I personally have ever used. I’m not certain if it is deliberate, but every update that I’ve explored has included VoiceOver access to all of the new features. Whether this is deliberate on the developer’s part or purely accidental is unknown, but is most certainly appreciated.
Dynamic text for low vision users is available in this app, but at times it overlaps itself. Though this is somewhat inconvenient, it certainly isn’t unique to this app. For those who may not need text quite as large, there is the ability to set font size in the settings area of the app.
Goodreads is an excellent resource to find new books and authors to keep you occupied on these long and cold winter nights. It’s also a nice app for school kids to use if they need some help finding a book to read but would rather not search the shelves of their local library or for parents to choose books for their children to read or to read as a family. Goodreads promotes both established and new authors, encourages reader feedback on novels they’ve enjoyed, and provides ways for readers to chat with or otherwise interact with their favorites authors. Bottom line, it’s a must have for all bibliophiles.