The “strong sign” of finally being able to sell books in Braille at no additional cost

Association based in Toulouse, both the main Braille printer in France, publishing house and online bookstore,

the Braille Transcription and Editing Center has just aligned all the prices in its catalog with standard market prices. Until now sold between 60 and 122 euros, its more than 2,000 transcribed titles are now offered at prices between 11 and 30 euros, regardless of the number of volumes for each work.

After 40 years of waiting and fighting, books in Braille are now at the single bookstore price!“rejoices the CTEB, recalling that the Lang law dates from August 10, 1981. Even if the operation cannot be financially envisaged beyond two or three years for the moment.

Denis Guerin adapts newspapers in braille for this printing publisher which employs 10 employees and 25 volunteers and is the communications manager.

Why can this adjustment only happen now?

For sighted people like you and me and for the general public, having books adapted in paper Braille sold at the same price as a classic book in bookstores may seem trivial. But like all adaptations, it requires work in addition to the original work. So we couldn’t pass on the publisher’s price of, for example, 10 euros for a Harry Potter, knowing that we would then have to develop a substantial amount of work over several weeks.

A paperback format of 250 pages requires at least one full-time working week for a qualified employee. And I’ll spare you the proofreading and correction time, which can take one, two or three weeks, since we call on blind volunteers who check the braille and possible typos. Also counting on an original file in good condition because the law allows all those involved in adapted publishing – it’s a great democratic act – to benefit from these texts without paying royalties.

But we have to emboss each book on a particular paper. He will make several volumes, this entails more shaping, with machines and special skills. And we send it to order, without making stock, otherwise we would have incredible storage costs. Because a Harry Potter, for example, will represent six or eight volumes in Braille. A Braille transcription costs us between 600 and 800 euros. Obviously we can’t sell at that price and we’ve used tricks so far to sell at a low price.

And how can you operate such a shift today?

This is above all due to our good management. We have been working on this change for a year and it is done on our own funds, thanks to one or two inter-associative partnerships, small grants at the start and also because our website has other income-generating activities. One activity in particular has supported us for a long time: we publish bank statements from major French banks in Braille. Each blind person can indeed receive their bank statement free of charge, understanding it to check it and thus consult their expenses in complete privacy. It is this activity that brings us money and allows us to sell books at a loss. And in addition, we are making this adjustment at a time when the price of paper is excessively expensive. It increased for us 55% on a very special paper. We are also recognized for the quality of our Braille, but also of our paper.


Franceinfo, la directrice du CTEB, Adeline Coursant, a dit espérer “des soutiens financiers forts pour pouvoir pérenniser ce qu’on est en train mettre en place. Je pense qu’on va pouvoir tenir deux ans, trois au grand maximum”.]

So this now concerns your entire catalog, but what do you plan next?

That’s over 2,000 titles so far, with all the literary prizes, and we don’t know for the rest as it will depend on the reaction of the visually impaired community. We obviously hope that this will in the long term encourage people to buy a little more books. There are 107,000 new publications a year in France and we cannot adapt them all, it’s far too long. That’s why we try to have a very eclectic catalog that allows everyone to pick their genre and especially for all ages. Because we understood a few years ago that the blind lacked a youth offer in particular. The biggest sales in classic publishing are still manga and children’s books. This is greatly missed by families who have a child or a blind parent and it is obviously also making these books available to paramedics or locomotion instructors.

Matching the single publisher price represents a strong symbol for you.

It is indeed to realize a strong sign by saying that we arrive at the end of forty years so that the Lang law is applied in the edition adapted in Braille! It is also a consideration given to people with a visual impairment who always said to themselves “But then, it is difficult to access employment, it is difficult to access studies, and in addition, you have to pay 50 euros for the least little book”. There, we tell them: “No, it’s like at the bookstore. You’ll get some for 25 or 15 euros. It’s particularly important for them. It’s also something emotional to say, “Phew, I can order a book without necessarily being rich”.

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Does this change allow you to highlight braille and perhaps also revitalize it?

Yes, we hope that this will develop a little the desire to learn Braille, obviously, to develop access to reading, and therefore to culture. We all know the word braille from school. A blind man, we know. But in fact, no one has ever seen a Braille book. We don’t really know what it looks like. We have never seen writing on paper. Who knows that there is full, abbreviated, mathematical or musical braille? We don’t see the volume, we don’t know how it’s built and we don’t see many people reading it on the train or elsewhere.

It is therefore an absolutely common object like the classic book, but that we do not see, that we do not come across. And you almost come to think that if you’re blind, you can’t read anymore. This is false, completely false. So yes, we really hope to boost braille, knowing that it is a niche offer that responds to a blind population that reads braille and provided that it finds a reference with us. You should know that a book sold in twenty copies is a best-seller for us, as recently our record with The little Prince. In general, it is rather one, three, five, six copies.

And to what extent have paper braille and these books suffered from the development of audio?

The two really bring very different things. The audio does not involve learning Braille, so you can enjoy reading, listening to the radio, podcasts, etc., it’s perfect. Fortunately it’s there, it gives you a chance to document yourself and get informed. But an audio book is a book that has been given a voice, an actor’s interpretation. So you’re stuck with that. This means that your imagination is less strong, and if you don’t like the voice that reads your audio book, you can have a story rejection phenomenon.

Braille is useful at school and when you are alone in front of the Internet with

a braille display. You can’t transcribe everything to audio. And braille is a script too. We write in Braille as much as we can read in Braille. All the blind people who are part of our society, with a job more or less chosen, need to make documents, to read them.

And braille and audio are not the same on many levels. A book is spatial freedom. With your two hands as with your eyes, you can wander through the two pages open in front of you. You can go back to the front line very easily to reread. You can go back to the previous paragraph because you haven’t memorized something about a character. This walk is very very important for reading comfort. The audio, on the other hand, goes through the constraint of a cursor that you have to find and put in the right place to go back or to go forward. Braille obviously promotes the sense of touch, tactile reading. And when you are blind, you have to refine this sense of touch. Finally, having discussed it with many blind people, the audio book involves hearing, which suits certain brains, certain memories, when a Braille book involves those who are more tactile. I have often been told: “Me, if I listen to audio, I can fall asleep quite quickly. Because the concentration required does not suit me”.

> To read also :

Faced with competition from voice assistants, Braille is learned less and lessby Hélène Chevallier, France Inter

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The “strong sign” of finally being able to sell books in Braille at no additional cost