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eBooks and Audio Books

Once the printed word is scanned and digitized, it can be accessed in any form—downloaded from the Internet, spoken through a screen reader, enlarged to large print, or converted for Braille output. The listening world has mostly shifted from analog sound to digitalization, and that has increased access to reading materials by those with visual or reading impairments, while being convenient to any listener. Digital technology is superior to analog because sound quality is easier to control, though many very fine programs are still offered in other formats.

Talking books can liven up long commutes or be listened to during less engaging activities, like housework. Story telling will always be an irreplaceable art form, as old as humankind. When an author or performer reads a work, he or she can inflect meaning into the words and add a deeper level of meaning. The following resources are a mix of free programs for persons with visual impairments, as well as commercial vendors and listening devices. Each offers something different.


Download newspapers, periodicals, books, and radio shows to your PC, other audio player or over 500 popular devices. Audible.com offers a wide range of spoken word material. Subscriptions range from montly plans at $14.95 to $22.95 per month to yearly plans at $149.50 to $229.50.


Bookshare.org is a web-based system supplying accessible books in digital formats designed for people with disabilities. It operates under an exception to the U.S. copyright law which allows copyrighted digital books to be made available to people with qualifiying disabilties.  Books, textbooks and newspapers can be downloaded in a compressed, exncrypted file. Users then read the material using adaptive technology, such as text-to-speech software, a computer or Braille access devices such as refreshable Braille displays. Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, free memberships are available to U.S. schools and qualifying U.S. students.  A membership fee is required for other users. Access to copyrighted books from Bookshare.org is limited to people with visual impairments, people with physical impairments and people with learning disabilities.  Bookshare requires that users be certified as to having these disabilities. The accessible formats available include DAISY and BRF or Braille Refreshable Format.  Click here for specifics.


Choice Magazine Listening
Choice Magazine Listening is a free audio anthology for a special audience of blind, visually impaired or physically handicapped subscribers. Each year, it produces 48 hours of recorded magazine selections; each quarterly issue contain 12 hours of listening.  Distinguished writiing is selected from a list of 100 mainstream magazines and literary journals. Then, each piece is read by a professional audiobook narrator, not volunteers or synthesized voice technology.  A special digital talking book player is provided free of charge by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress. If you are a computer user, you can download the CML onto a thumb drive or purchased talking book cartridge. Click here to find out more or get signed up. 


E-books offers a wide variety of books in electronic format at about the same price as printed books—some even cheaper; information and sale of compatible laptop and desktop readers.


The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)
THE NLS offers Braille and recorded books and magazines to more than 20,000 children and adult readers through a network of 56 regional and 90 sub-regional libraries throughout the United States and its territories. This cooperative network is made up largely of state and local public libraries that circulate books and playback machines directly to readers.


Learning Ally (Formerly Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic - RFBD)
Learning Ally is a non-profit that provides audiobooks to individuals with a visual, perceptual or physical disability.  Documentation of a print disability may include an IEP/504 plan, a signed form from a qualified clinician, a Bookshare or your state's NLS library.  Membership is not available for Austism Spectrum Disorders, ADD, ADHD, Developmental Disabilities, Hearing Impairments or ESL. Free playback software is provided for PC/Mac, or free apps for Apple and Android devices.  Hardship waivers are available.