This year’s World Book Day comes after 12 months in which reading has been a bigger part of most people’s lives than ever before.
That’s why, for those who are blind or partially sighted, the ability to enjoy the same books as everyone else is hugely important, says a Fife author.
Billy Horsburgh, 39, from Anstruther, is a published author and avid user of audio books produced by national sight loss charity RNIB.
Billy, who was diagnosed with the sight loss condition glaucoma when he was aged 17, is highlighting his love of books and reading to mark World Book Day – and also encouraging people to pick up the habit.
“Although my sight has been on the decline for almost 22 years, I have not [declined],” Billy said.
“I learned to manage my sight loss and live as normal life as possible.
“Around the same time, I turned to writing.”
As well as having glaucoma, he was born with cerebral palsy.
“I wrote an autobiography of the first 26 years of my life growing up with these conditions,” he said.
“I self-published and called the book ‘Ring Of Fire: A Life with Cerebral Palsy in 2013’.
“This narrates the challenges a young man faces with disabilities in leading a normal life.”
In 2018, Billy completed another book called ‘On the Road Again’ – a story about a European road trip with two friends to a week-long music festival in Hungary, stopping off to camp, stay in hostels and with friends in Germany.
“Reading is important to me more than it has ever been, especially during lockdown,” he added.
“Before I wrote ‘Ring Of Fire’, I hadn’t been much of a reader.
“Some of this was for obvious reasons – my eyesight wasn’t good enough to read. I was unaware at that time of all of the visual aids available.
“Someone once told me, ‘You can’t write if you don’t read.’
“To an extent, this is true.
“I once thought one book was all I wanted to write, but that changed after the reasonable success of my first book.”
Billy has read several books during lockdown and counts horror writer Stephen King as one of his idols.
Now he is writing two memoirs, one of which is about his pet Jack Russell.
“In 2004, I was assessed for a guide dog but I failed due to my mobility issues,” Billy said.
“Several years later, I decided to get myself a pet dog and bring him up as a puppy. This story tells of how a man with glaucoma and cerebral palsy, with help, can raise and own a pet dog.
He has thanked RNIB for producing audio books, which have helped him while studying for his Masters in creative writing.
“I’ve found it really helpful to have thousands of titles available from the RNIB’s Talking Books library,” he said.
“Sometimes, for my university courses, I’ve been able to get titles I never thought were possible.”
RNIB’s Talking Books library contains over 30,000 titles, the largest in Europe, which are lent out free to anyone with sight loss.
To celebrate its emphasis on encouraging people to read from an early age, RNIB is giving away a free audio or braille version of a choice of 13 children’s books, including ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ by Julia Donaldson.
To claim a free book, call the RNIB helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email