We Know: All About Talking Books

What are Talking Books?

Talking books were originally designed so that those who are blind or visually impaired can still experience the wonder of books. In simplest form, talking books are recordings of books on tape or CD; today, they are often called books on tape or books on CD.

Those who are visually impaired or who for other physical reasons need talking books can take part in the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a Library of Congress service. Once certified eligible, you can receive free of charge audio materials on a loaned basis. These materials are mailed to you via postage-free mail. Those who want to sign up can go to the NLS for information.

Who Else Can Use Talking Books?

Though only those who certify as eligible due to physical handicap can use the free NLS service, many people have found talking books to be beneficial to their lives. Thanks to NPR's Radio Reader, millions of people have discovered the pleasures of having books read to them in a car. If you take a lot of long trips, you can borrow audiobooks from your local library to play while you drive. You can also find audiobooks in your local bookstore, and in some places you'll find bookstores devoted to audiobooks.

Audiobooks can also be used to ease the long boredom of exercise, waiting in lines,or repetitive work.

Can I Get Talking Books For Free?

With the advent of the World Wide Web, you can find audiobooks online in a variety of places for free, for nominal prices, or at bookstore prices. You can download them to your computer and burn them to CD or copy them to a PDA or other audio device like an iPod for ease of use.

For free audiobooks, try:

  • Audiobooks.org
  • Project Gutenberg's Free Audio Books, a listing of thousands of free audiobooks

If you're willing to pay for audiobooks, you can find thousands of bestsellers and new releases in audiobook format for very reasonable prices. For paid audiobook services, try:

  • Audible Listener, a paid monthly service. They are currently offering a free iPod Shuffle to subscribers. Their library includes thousands of recent books, magazines, newspapers, and radio broadcasts.
  • Online bookstores like Amazon or Barnes and Noble will offer talking books to be shipped to you or to be downloaded.

What Else Should I Know?

When downloading audiobooks, watch the file format used by the books. MP3s will play on almost any CD, computer, or handheld audio device, and are relatively small downloads. More proprietary file formats may not be as easy to use. When you're using a computer or handheld audio device to use your audiobooks, read the website you download your books from carefully; you may need to install a utility (available free) so that your books work properly.

If you or someone you care for is visually impaired and would like to be able to use the Internet, contact your local library. There are dozens of utilities built into Windows, available as free downloads on the Internet, and commercially available that can read web pages and documents to you, no matter what format the pages come in as. Your library will probably be familiar with these technologies and may even have formal classes for how to use them. For more information, try looking in Windows Help for Accessibility Options, or look up Dragon Naturally Speaking. In today's environment of digital information, no one should be deprived of the opportunity to read books and other media.

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