My local library is currently promoting several free audiobook summer reading programs powered by the Sora application, including Sweet Reads, new audiobooks, and Audiobook SYNC for readers thirteen and older. As someone with a print disability that can’t read traditional printed books, it’s exciting to find a program that promotes alternative access and accessible titles that are read by human narrators, and I found a list of titles that I would be excited to read even as an adult. Here is more information about Sora’s free audiobook summer reading programs, and how to use the Sora app for audiobooks with assistive technology.
I have no association with Audiobook SYNC, AudioFile Magazine, Sora, or any of the content that is featured as part of this program. There are no age verification tools or filters for books, so it is important for parents to use discretion when determining if a featured book is appropriate, as what may be appropriate for one reader may not be appropriate for another.
Registering for Sora
Sora can be accessed through their website, iOS, or Android applications. Readers will need to register with an email address and provide an invite code or a valid library card number to access the Sora application. No other information is collected, and readers can borrow up to 1,000 titles at a time.
Audiobooks are stored in the Sora app and cannot be downloaded for use in another application.
- Sora – Home (soraapp.com)
- Sora, by OverDrive Education – Apps on Google Play
- Sora, by OverDrive Education on the App Store (apple.com)
Registering for free audiobook summer reading programs
How to set up Sora Sweet Reads
Readers who already have a school account with Sora can access Sweet Reads titles automatically by opening their school’s Sora page. In addition, readers can also access titles in the Sora starter collection, which has over 300+ titles available for instant access.
How to set up Sora for libraries
Many libraries offer Sora audiobooks for free year-round and have several curated collections available. To access titles from the local library, readers can open the Main Menu option in the Sora application and select Add Library, followed by typing in their library card number and PIN (if applicable). Some libraries have titles with instant access/no wait time, while other titles may have a hold period. Readers can add multiple library cards on each Sora account.
How to set up Audiobook SYNC
Audiobook SYNC is targeted at teen and young adult readers, but there is no age requirement for accessing titles, and readers do not need to be registered with a school. To register for Audiobook SYNC, readers will need to go to the program website and select the Sign Up button, then type in their email as well as an optional phone number for text alerts. Once this information is submitted, readers will be given the invite code to type in the Sora app or on their website.
Using Sora with assistive technology
Sora and large print/high contrast
Sora supports Dynamic Text and system font sizes, as well as a dark mode/high contrast display, which was automatically enabled when I downloaded the app for my iPad.
Another accessible font option is to apply an application-wide dyslexic font, which can be enabled by selecting the Main Menu option and then setting dyslexic font to “on.”
Sora and screen magnification
For users that need additional magnification, Sora can be used with screen magnification tools such as Zoom or Magnifier. I typically use the Lens view to magnify buttons since the audiobook menu primarily consists of short text.
Sora and screen readers
Sora supports screen reader tools including JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, and TalkBack, as well as text-to-speech tools like Read Aloud and Select-to-speak. All buttons are labeled and there are also skip links and other tools to help with independent navigation.
In addition to screen reader support, Sora also supports full keyboard access, and the entire application can be navigated with Tab, Enter, and the spacebar.
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- My Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- Zoom Magnifier and Low Vision
Readers can select an audiobook for playback by going to the Shelf section of the Sora application and selecting Open audiobook, which appears as a blue or yellow link. From there, users can select the Play button, or skip/rewind 15 seconds as needed.
Other options for audiobook playback include:
- Playback speed. Customize the speed of audio from 0.6x to 3.0x
- Sleep timer. Set a timer for when the audiobook should stop playing, ranging from end of chapter to 120 minutes
- Bookmarks and highlights. View bookmarks or other notes.
- Create bookmark. Creates a bookmark for the given time stamp with options to add additional notes.
Can I play Sora titles with a smart speaker?
Sora does not support AirPlay or have native Amazon Echo support. However, users can connect their smart speaker via Bluetooth and play audio through the speakers of their device, as well as ask to pause/play audio.
Downloading books from Sora Sweet Reads and Sora for Libraries
Readers can browse categories in the Explore section for Sora titles that are available with instant access (no waiting period) or place a hold on a title that can be borrowed for up to 7 days. New titles are added frequently, and library titles can also be accessed through the Libby application.
Downloading books from Audiobook SYNC
Every Thursday at midnight (EST), two new audiobooks are released for the Audiobook SYNC program that follow a specific theme. Readers can download the audiobooks in the Explore section of the Sora application and read/keep the titles indefinitely- there is no set return date, but returning the titles will remove them from the device permanently.
Searching for previous titles
Audiobook SYNC runs from April 27th to August 2nd, and titles from previous weeks can’t be downloaded at a later time. However, readers that are interested in finding these audiobooks elsewhere have a few options:
- Check the Libby app or OverDrive website with a library account and place a hold/request an audiobook title- I was able to find all of the titles available through the free audiobook summer reading programs for 7-21 day borrowing periods through my library
- Purchase a title on Amazon and have it read out loud with an Echo device/Amazon Alexa
- Search for a title from the National Library Service, which provides free audiobooks for registered users who are blind or visually impaired
- Find titles on Bookshare, which offers a variety of accessible formats for titles and is free for students
- Purchase titles through Audible or another paid audiobook service
- Fast Facts About Bookshare
- US Government Programs For Blind/Low Vision Residents
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: eReaders
More tips for using Sora’s free audiobook summer reading programs
- Even though Sora and Libby are both owned by the same organization, users will need to download the Sora app to access titles for AudiobookSYNC and cannot use the Libby app
- Sora’s free audiobooks can be used in conjunction with library reading programs- audiobooks are reading, after all!
- Looking for more free audiobooks for kids? Check out TumbleBooks: Audio Narrated Picture Books For Low Vision