Talking Books FAQ

What is the Talking Books Program?

Talking Books is a free library service available to U.S. residents and citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical handicap makes it difficult to read a standard printed page. Local cooperating libraries throughout the United States mail NLS audiobooks, magazines, and audio equipment directly to enrollees at no cost. Braille books and magazines are also available to patrons at no cost.

When did the Talking Books Program begin?

The Talking Books Program was established in 1931 by an Act of Congress to serve blind adults. It was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, and again in 1966 to include individuals with other physical impairments that prevent their reading standard print. It is now called the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress.

Who is eligible for the Program?

Any U.S. resident or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use standard print materials may receive this service.

Who can certify people as eligible?

In cases of blindness, visual impairment, or physical limitations, eligibility can be certified by doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, public and private welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, case workers), or, in the absence of any of these, by any person whose competence under specific circumstances is acceptable to the Library of Congress.

Can I get Talking Books from my public library?

The Service is provided directly by a regional or subregional library of the National Library Service for the Blind. Check with the regional library system in your state to determine if there is a Talking Book Library near you.

Are there any charges for the Talking Book Program?

No. There are no costs of any kind to eligible persons. You can sign up here.

Are all books and magazines recorded by volunteers?

No, only a few. Insight for the Blind is now the largest volunteer studio in the U. S.

Can I volunteer at Insight for the Blind?

New volunteers are always welcome at Insight for the Blind, which is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We keep regular business hours, so people working full-time may not fit our schedule. Recording sessions, which require a narrator and a monitor, are scheduled in two hour blocks. Reviewing sessions, a QA/proof-reading type of function, provide more time flexibility.

Do I need special skills?

Sort of; it helps if you feel comfortable using a PC. Volunteers are first invited to the studio for an overview and brief tour of the studio. Next, you are schedule for several training sessions using the desktop computer recording equipment. After you feel comfortable with the recording process, each new volunteer sets up a weekly schedule and, with staff support, progresses to become a veteran producer of recordings for the blind. If you wish to be a reader, you will take a simple voice test to see if your voice is suitable. 

What's my next step?

To volunteer, call Insight at 954-522-5057

Won't text-to-speech software make narrators obsolete?

We certainly don't think so.  We found the best available text-to-speech software and put "him" up against one of our narrators in a challenging excerpt.  It was an impressive effort from the computer narrator, (he even takes simulated breaths!) but we invite you to let YOUR ears decide!

Computer narrator 

Insight's narrator 

Could you please suggest some other agencies serving the blind and visually impaired that have learning services as well as Talking Books and Talking Magazines?

In Broward County, contact our friends at Lighthouse of Broward:

Another outstanding organization, in Palmetto, FL:  Southeastern Guide Dogs!