Books for the Blind

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Books for the Blind also referred to as Talking Books is a program in the United States which provides audio recordings of books in a proprietary cassette tape format, along with a cassette player supporting that format, free of charge to people who are blind or visually impaired. Yet, with new technologies available today, Books for the Blind is moving toward a digital format with the effort of the National Library Service of the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) leading the way.[1] New ways to help service the blind include books available on a digital and with the Web-Braille format. The digital format deals with talking books, and making the whole book, which usually could never fit on one medium before, available on a memory-card. The Web-Braille program, which deals with downloading books, is written in Braille, and allows the patron to print the format at their home. Again, the Web-Braille format utilizes the same technology as the digital books: these materials can be downloaded onto a memory card, and since they can be downloaded right away, are much more convenient than what was available before.[2] The only hurdle left is really creating the best medium to play these new talking books on the digital format. Since these players need to be accessible to blind patrons, it needs to be created with them in mind. In 2001, the NLS did create a contest for someone to come up with the most practical player, but, as of 2004, no winner or design was chosen.[3]


Before audio recordings, books were available in Braille. In 1931, the government of the United States made it a goal to make sure that the blind were equipped with books. Yet, later on, audio recordings were the preferred format.[1] Audio recordings were first created (on vinyl, at the time), when the 1931 Pratt-Smoot Act was amended, in 1933, to include "talking books". The access to these talking books was soon expanded to service blind children, as well. In 1952, children’s titles were given the same treatment as adult books. All of this access was allowed to occur, since copyright laws allow for books to be recreated in formats that help the blind, and others with disabilities.

The NLS began distributing books in cassette tape in 1969, a new technology invented in 1963.[4] In today's world, though things are going digital, talking books still remain very popular. According to a 2003 document from the NLS, using federal funds, NLS annually published approximately 2,000 books and 70 magazines on cassettes, on discs, and in braille.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b John M. Taylor (December 2004). "Serving Blind Readers in a Digital Age". American Libraries 35 (11): 49. 
  2. ^ Kim Charlson, “Visionary Ideas,” Kirkus Reviews 75, no. 2 (January 2007): 12-13,
  3. ^ John M. Taylor, “Serving Blind Readers in a Digital Age,” American Libraries 35, no. 11 (December 2004): 50-51,
  4. ^ Virgil L. P. Blake (1990). "Something New Has Been Added: Aural Literacy and Libraries". Information Literacies for the Twenty-First Century. G. K. Hall & Co. pp. 203–218. 
  5. ^ "Performance Specification Cassette Book Machine 2003". Library of Congree. April 2003. Retrieved January 25, 2014. 

External links[edit]

  • History of the program (with a state of Michigan emphasis): [1]
  • A site for visually disabled to share reading materials: [2]