Talking Books Frequently Asked Questions



Who may use the Talking Books Services?

Persons who are unable to read or use standard printed materials due to visual problems such as blindness, legal blindness or low vision are eligible. Additionally, persons with physical disabilities such as missing arms or hands, lack of muscle coordination, prolonged weakness, or physically based reading disabilities (such as dyslexia) are eligible. Institutions serving clientele with qualifying conditons are also eligible. An application with disability certification is required. Persons who are able to see and are physically able to hold books but simply cannot read are not eligible for Talking Books. These individuals should contact their local public library for referral to a local area literacy association.

What types of materials are included in the collection?

Books are selected on the basis of their appeal to a wide range of interests. The collection is similar to that found in an average public library.

What formats are available?

Presently, audio books are available on digital cartridges. The library provides the playback equipment needed to listen to the books. Registered users of Talking Books can register to use BARD, a home downloading service for audio books and magazines. Books can be downloaded via home computer and moved to a USB drive for playback on the digital player. Patrons with iOS devices and Android phones can use the BARD Mobile app to download as well. A variety of popular magazines are offered on digital cartridges and for digital download. Contact the library for a complete list. A large selection of Large Print books is available for low vision patrons who prefer reading printed books. Braille users have access to Braille books and Web-Braille. Descriptive videos are available. Only blind and low vision registered patrons may borrow videos. Contact the library for more information about any of these formats.

Are users of the service limited to one format?

No. Users may determine which format (digital, Braille or Large Print) they need to use.

Are talking books available on CD?

For nearly 30 years, the primary format for talking books has been cassette. Extensive research revealed many reasons why compact discs (CDs) would not be the ideal choice for National Library Service (NLS) digital talking books. The medium must be resistant to damage both in the mail and in the hands of users. Also, the medium must be low in cost and be able to accommodate a print/Braille label. Also, copyright law requires that the materials circulated be in a "specialized format" not usable by the general public.For these reasons NLS uses the USB (Universal Serial Bus) Flash Drive Cartridge for the circulation of digital talking books.

What are the advantages of digital cartridges?

There are many advantages for users. Besides the potential for improved sound quality, the digital format offers convenience to users, who no longer need to turn over cassettes or change side-selector switches. Users are able to jump forward or back by chapter, set bookmarks, and vary playback speed without affecting the pitch of the reader's voice. In some books, users are able to jump by paragraph, turn on or off selected parts of the book (e.g., footnotes), do keyword searches, or hear selected words spelled.

How do library users identify available titles?

Patrons are subscribed to bimonthly and annual catalogs listing new available titles. A listing of new Large Print titles is frequently updated on the Talking Book Services web site. New Large Print listings are available from the library on request. An online searchable catalog is available . Patrons can contact Talking Books for a username and password to order books from the online catalog. Patrons can contact Readers Advisors at the library to search for specific information. Registered BARD users can access the BARD website or the BARD Mobile app and search for downloadable titles.

How are the materials sent and how long may they be kept?

Books from the library are sent postage free, through regular U.S. mail, and are returned in the same manner. All have pre-addressed, postage-free mailing cards for easy return. The loan period is 30 days. Videos may be kept for seven days after receipt by the patron. Renewals may be requested on books. There are no overdue fines.

What happens if borrowed equipment stops working?

Do not attempt to repair library equipment. A replacement is sent in exchange for the inoperable player. Please contact the library.

Is listening music available?

No. Only music scores, music magazines and books about music and musicians are available (large print, Braille and recorded formats). The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Music Section, (1-800-424-8567) provides music resources. Contact your local public library for listening music.

Are textbooks available?

Talking Books Services does not supply textbooks. Learning Ally, previously named Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, is a national nonprofit which provides recorded textbooks. A special player is required. Visit their webpage at for more information. Contact Learning Ally by phone at 800-221-4792.

How do I volunteer?

Volunteer opportunities are designed to match a volunteer's skills, interests and schedule. Volunteers develop their own schedules, based on the library's operating hours, for weekly or monthly commitments and for one-time projects. All work is done on site at the library. Please contact the library for more information.

Where can I go to learn more about the background of the Talking Books program?

Please visit The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress FAQ Sheet at to learn a little more.

 How do I contact Talking Books Services?

  • Call toll free at 1-800-922-7818, or locally 803-734-4611. At the menu prompt, press "1" for Talking Books
  • Deaf and hard of hearing individuals should dial 711-734-4611
  • Mailing address: PO Box 821 Columbia SC 29202-0821
  • Physical address: 1500 Senate Street Columbia, SC 29201-3710
  • Email:
  • Talking Book Services Website