Talking Book Library Has Free Downloadable Audiobooks for the Blind

Talking Books are audiobook produced for print-disabled readers by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a division of the Library of Congress.

Unlike commercial audiobooks one might download from vendors such as, Talking Books can only be played on special equipment that the NLS provides free to qualified borrowers.

Talking Books are designed for persons unable to read standard print due to a physical or cognitive impairment. The program was originally launched to help blind people but has long been a vital reading resource for people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and for those who lack the motor skills or dexterity to hold a printed book.

How Did the NLS Talking Book Program Start?

In 1931, President Hoover signed the Pratt-Smoot Act, giving the Library of Congress $100,000 to emboss braille books for blind adults. The program quickly expanded to include books recorded onto vinyl records - the first Talking Books. The books were later recorded on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes and flexible vinyl disks. Today, Talking Books are produced on small, digital cartridges. The cartridges can also be used to transfer downloaded books from a computer to the special player.

Why Do Talking Books Require a Special Player?

The special players protect an author's copyright by restricting this free book access to those with disabilities and preventing duplication. To accomplish this, Talking Book disks were recorded at slower speeds (8 rpm) unavailable on standard turntables; cassettes were recorded on four tracks at faster speeds; the new digital books are encrypted.

Who Records Talking Books?

Most Talking Books are recorded by professional narrators in the studios of the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky.

Who's Eligible to Receive Talking Books?

The main eligibility requirement is a disability such as blindness, dyslexia, or ALS that renders one unable to read standard print. Any US resident (or citizen living abroad) with a print disability can apply to their state or regional NLS network library. Along with an application, one must provide disability documentation from a certifying authority, such as a physician, ophthalmologist, occupational therapist, or rehabilitation counselor. Once approved, members can begin receiving Talking Books and magazines in special formats such as braille, cassette, and digitized text.

What Subjects Do Talking Books Cover?

The NLS Talking Book collection has about 80,000 titles. Books are selected based on broad appeal. They include contemporary fiction (in all forms and genres), nonfiction, biographies, how-tos, and classics. Most New York Times bestsellers become Talking Books. The NLS adds about 2,500 new titles each year.

How Do I Find, Order, and Return Talking Books?

The NLS announces new titles in its bi-monthly publications, "Talking Book Topics" and "Braille Book Review." Users can also search for books by author, title, or keyword using the NLS online catalog. To have books mailed to you, request titles by phone or email from your network library, providing the book's five-digit identification number that appears on every print and online annotation. Talking Books are mailed as "Free Matter for the Blind." To return books, flip the address card on the container and drop them in the mail. There is no postage fee.

How Do You Use the New MLS Digital Talking Book Player?

The new NLS digital Talking Books are small, plastic rectangles that are about the size of a standard cassette tape. They have a round hole at one end; the other end slides into a slot at the bottom front of the player. When inserted, the book starts playing immediately. The digital format enables readers to navigate quickly among a book's chapters and sections. The tactile control buttons are intuitive; the player also has a built-in audio user guide.

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