Free reading materials and playback equipment needed to read audiobooks (called talking books) and magazines are circulated to patrons by libraries by postage-free mail. Digital audio and ebraille materials are also available through the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) online service. BARD audio materials can be downloaded onto cartridges and USB flash devices.
NLS loans playback equipment free of charge for use with talking books and magazines; NLS players are available only to individuals who cannot see to read regular print or handle print materials and who are registered for the free library service.
Players available in two models―standard and advanced―provide high-quality sound, offer variable speed controls, and have built-in audio instructions. The players have rechargeable batteries and offer readers high-quality sound, advanced navigation, and variable speed controls. Both players have a "bookshelf" feature for navigating a digital cartridge that contains more than one book or magazine. The advanced player also enables bookmarking and navigation, allowing readers to skip to different parts of a book.
Accessories for the players include adapters for commercial cartridges and USB drives, lightweight headphones, breath switches, and remote controls. Readers with significant hearing loss may request a high-volume player and headphones from their network library.
NLS Digital Talking-Book Player
Learn about the free playback equipment offered to registered users.
NLS-compatible digital talking-book players (for purchase)
Learn where to purchase equipment compatible with the NLS cartridges.
Playback equipment and accessories are supplied to eligible persons on extended loan. If this equipment is not being used for reading recorded material provided by the Library of Congress and its cooperating libraries, please return it to the issuing agency. NLS equipment and materials are the property of the Library of Congress and should not be sold, reproduced and/or copied.
In the event you find NLS property, such as machines or accessories, please return them immediately one of two ways:
- Bring items to a local network library; a list of these libraries can be found on our Find Your Library page.
- Package items in any securely sealed box and send through the U.S. Postal Service to the address: Equipment Control Officer, The Library of Congress, NLS, Washington, DC 20542. This package may be marked FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND and sent with no postage.
Download Reading Materials
The Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) is a web-based service that provides access to braille and talking books, magazines, and music scores available from NLS. The service is available to registered users of the braille and talking book program through their local braille and talking book library.
Braille books and magazines may be also downloaded through the BARD Mobile app, which requires connection to a refreshable braille display via a Bluetooth connection. The BARD website and mobile app are password-protected, and all files are in an electronically downloadable form of compressed audio or formatted braille. BARD is available to registered users of NLS through their local braille and talking book library.
BARD Accessories (for use with the talking-book players)
Learn where to purchase cartridges and cables to make it easy to use the BARD.
Braille Displays and Notetakers (for use with the BARD Mobile app)
Learn where to purchase braille writing equipment.
BARD Mobile Apps
BARD Mobile for iOS devices delivers braille and talking books to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. BARD Mobile for Android delivers talking books to your Android smartphone or tablet. Commercially Available Reading Apps for reading are available from commercial vendors.