The first six electronic books from Pathfinder Press fully accessible for readers who are blind or have low vision are now available from Bookshare.org. Pathfinder publishes books by Socialist Workers Party leaders and others that present a revolutionary working-class road forward.
The new e-books include Pathfinder’s latest title, Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, George Novack and Mary-Alice Waters. Also available are The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels; The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes; Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions by Marx, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Farrell Dobbs and Barnes; as well as Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? and Cuba and the Coming American Revolution, both by Barnes.
There are an estimated 7.5 million blind and vision-impaired people in the U.S. Around 1 million have full-time jobs, including in industry and warehouses. Thousands work in so-called industries for the blind, where federal law allows owners to pay less than the minimum wage on the pretext that they’re “helping the handicapped.” In reality, these employers are profiting off the superexploitation of these workers.
The National Federation of the Blind has campaigned to get these companies to raise wages and improve working conditions. Recently the group took on Amazon after five blind employees filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying it didn’t provide accommodations they needed to do their job. In 2021 the National Federation of the Blind won an agreement from Amazon to end these discriminatory practices and is working with employees there to make the company live up to the agreement.
Pathfinder books are vital political tools for working people looking for a way forward out of capitalism’s deepening economic and social crises and its wars. The books draw on both past and present working-class struggles here and around the world, covering labor battles, the Bolshevik and Cuban revolutions, the fight against Black oppression and for women’s emancipation. They include speeches and writings by revolutionary leaders, including Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Malcolm X, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara, and leaders of the SWP.
Making these titles available as e-books opens the way for blind and vision-impaired readers to study and discuss them along with co-workers and fellow fighters, sighted or not.
Bookshare makes digital copies of books available for those with a reading or perceptual disability, a visual impairment or a physical condition that affects their ability to read. These books are available in different formats, including EPUB, Braille Ready Format, Daisy and audiobooks. Readers can choose the format they prefer.
Anyone in the world who needs this service can sign up at www.bookshare.org. There is a small annual fee for most users, with no charge to download books. Readers in some other countries can sign up with local organizations that partner with Bookshare to access these books. These include: the Royal National Institute of Blind People (rnib.org.uk) in the United Kingdom; CELA — Centre for Equitable Library Access (celalibrary.ca) in Canada; and Vision Australia (visionaustralia.org).
In order to produce these digital titles, Pathfinder volunteers turn book files into accessible e-books, working to standards developed by the Daisy Consortium and other organizations experienced in preparing digital reading for the blind. Volunteers write short descriptions of each photograph and other illustrations, in order to expand on the print-book captions. They enter codes so pagination in e-books matches the print books, making it easier for readers who are blind and sighted to refer to and discuss material together on the same pages. They attach links to the table of contents, notes, glossaries and indexes, helping readers find their way around and better understand and use the e-books.
Currently 33 other Pathfinder titles are available in text-only format at Bookshare, which lack the extra accessibility features. They will be replaced by fully accessible e-books over time.
Titles currently in production are Teamster Rebellion by Dobbs; Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Barnes and Cosmetics, Fashions, and the Exploitation of Women by Joseph Hansen, Evelyn Reed, and Waters. More will follow!