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Back in August, I got a surprise in the mail: a long Braille computer printout and a letter. The letter was from Patti Smith, who teaches visually impaired middle-schoolers in Detroit’s public school system. She explained that almost all the Braille kids’ books she had access to were for really little kids — kindergartners, basically — and how discouraging this was for her kids.

The reason she was writing to me was to thank me for releasing my young adult novel Little Brother under a Creative Commons license, which meant that she could download the ebook version and run it through her school’s Braille embosser (US copyright law makes it legal to convert any book to Braille or audiobook for blind people, but it is technically challenging and expensive to do this without the electronic text).

I wrote about this on my personal blog, and it inspired my colleague, the sf/f writer Paula Johansen, to write to Patti to offer up her own YA titles as ebooks for Patti’s students.

Well, this got me thinking that there might be lots of YA writers who’d be glad to see their books get into the hands of visually impaired, literature-hungry students, so I worked with Patti to put together the pitch below. Please pass it along to all the YA writers you know. I would love to see Patti’s class start the school year with a magnificent library of hundreds and hundreds of fantastic YA books to choose from, so that they can start a lifelong love-affair with literature.


I am Patti Smith and I teach at OW Holmes, which is an elementary-middle
school in Detroit Public Schools in Detroit, Michigan. My students are
visually impaired, ranging in age from 2nd grade to 8th grade. Five of
my students are Braille writers and two are learning Braille. I would
love books for young adults in electronic format (Word or RTF) so that I can plug the
file into my computer program and emboss the book in Braille so my kids
can have something to read. I have found it very difficult to find books for young adults; most seem to be written for very young readers. My Braille readers are all age 11+ and it is a challenge to find relevant books for them to read. Thank you so much!!

Patti’s email is TeacherPattiS@gmail.com

5 Responses to “YA writers: Detroit public school teacher of blind kids wants your ebooks for her Braille printer”

  1. blucat

    Hi Cory, thanks for this. Put this up at goodreads forum so I hope it can help a little. Cheers!

  2. TeacherPatti

    Dear Cory & all–I just checked my email and I am completely overwhelmed by the generosity of all of you wonderful folks! I honestly can’t say thank you enough….!

    And thanks blucat :)

  3. Max Battcher

    I’m wondering if it might also make good sense to work with an organization like The American Printing House for the Blind (aph.org) to get some of these books into greater availability.

  4. Misty

    Hey. I put this up on a Goodreads website, too, and I am going to post it on my blog when I get a chance. I live outside of Detroit, so I know how the schools are struggling as it is. They aren’t going to get funding to buy these books, that’s pretty much a guarantee…

  5. Billy Oblivion


    1) Current Copyright Law allows the conversion of any book to braille at little or no licensing cost.


    2) The tough bit is getting the proper electronic files


    Maybe Amazon could step up? They have over 300k volumes as e-books. It wouldn’t be hard for them to provide some sort of mechanism by which certain people had download access to create braille books.

    Someone stick a cattle prod to their wibbly bits.

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