Talking Books Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. What is the Talking Books program?
  2. The Talking Books program was established by Congress to serve blind and physically impaired individuals that prevent the reading of standard print.

  3. Who is eligible for the program?
  4. Any resident of the United States or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use standard print materials as a result of a temporary or permanent visual or physical limitation may receive service.

  5. 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, and public or private welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, caseworkers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents). In the absence of any of these, certification may be made by professional librarians or by any person whose competence under specific circumstances is acceptable to the Library of Congress.
    • In the case of reading disability from organic dysfunction, eligibility must be certified by doctors of medicine or doctors of osteopathy, who may consult with colleagues in associated disciplines
  6. Is the program available to people who are illiterate or someone earning English as a second language?
  7. Individuals who do not have a visual or physical disability are not eligible to use the service. Public libraries are an excellent source of information about local literacy and English-language programs.

    Find a Public Maine Library

  8. Are there any costs to the borrower associated with using the program?
  9. No, this program is tax supported by federal, state, and, where appropriate, local government agencies. There is no cost to eligible readers.

  10. How do I submit an application to the Maine State Library Talking Books program?
  11. Print an application off the Maine Talking Books website or download the application as PDF Mail your application back to:
    Maine State Library Outreach
    64 SHS
    Augusta, ME 04333-0064
    For questions: 1-800-762-7106

    Reminder: Submitted applications must be signed by an appropriate certifying authority-please read the instructions carefully!

  12. How long does it take for an individual to begin receiving service after submitting an application?
  13. The goal of network libraries is to send playback equipment within three working days of receiving a properly certified application. An initial shipment of books and catalogs is usually sent within an additional two working days.

  14. How are materials received from and returned to the library?
  15. All books, magazines, catalogs, and equipment are sent to a reader through the U.S. Postal Service as "Free Matter for the Blind" and may be returned the same way. There is no postage fee for returning the materials. Materials sent by a network library come with a removable address card that, when turned over and reinserted, will show the library's name and address for return mailing.

  16. Why does there need to be a special player for Talking Books?
  17. NLS = National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

    Most ordinary cassettes play for sixty to ninety minutes. Using the special four-track, half-speed NLS format, a tape that would normally play only ninety minutes can play for six hours. The additional playing time helps save money on the number of cassettes and makes books easier to use. Also, the NLS format makes the books unusable by the public, a requirement under the U.S. copyright law that permits NLS free use of copyrighted material. Our new Digital Talking Books are encrypted, and will only play on NLS approved devices.

    More information related to the cassettes:

  18. How does the digital player work?
  19. NLS = National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

    NLS is now using digital technology that will replaces the old cassettes. The books are available on a digital cartridge, or downloadable from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site. The new player is more portable, allows readers to easily navigate through books, and provide a superior reading experience.

  20. How are books selected?
  21. NLS = National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

    NLS selects the same types of books that are available through public libraries. Titles are considered for production in Braille or recorded formats when favorably reviewed in nationally distributed publications or included in authoritative bibliographies. The object of selection is to provide standard classics and informational reading, along with popular recreational works that appeal to children, young adults, and older readers. Genre such as science fiction, mysteries, romances, and westerns are represented, as are bestsellers, standard religious works, and some foreign-language materials. Generally, books of local or regional interest are produced by network libraries.

  22. How do I request Talking Books?
  23. There are four different ways:

  24. At what age can a child start using Talking Books?
  25. There is no set minimum age. Books for very young children usually contain more illustrations than text and are therefore not part of the program. Materials in the collection begin at the preschool level, and NLS provides [a parents guide circular that lists other sources of audio materials for preschool children0( Children who are blind, visually impaired, and physically handicapped develop an interest in reading the same way nondisabled children do: that is, by being read to by an adult before being old enough to read on their own. At the public library, parents can find many alternative format materials to explore with young blind children, e.g., large print; audiotapes of stories, nursery rhymes, and songs; and videos.

  26. Can people use the program if they are in a residential care facility or retirement home?
  27. Yes, they may receive direct individual service in care of the facility, or if the establishment has a deposit collection, individuals may use these materials without going through the process of signing up to receive individual service. Direct service is always available, and this option can ensure that readers receive materials that they specifically want to read.

  28. Is there a special device to help people who are hearing impaired?
  29. Yes, an amplifier/headphone combination that will produce sounds up to 130 decibels is available for adults with severe hearing loss. A special application form is necessary and must be signed by a physician or licensed audiologist. The application has details about the possible need for a doctor's permission and what special precautions are necessary to prevent injury. This device is not intended for people with mild or moderate hearing loss; the use of standard headphones may sometimes help these people.

  30. Does the National Library Service (NLS) for the blind have large print books and other materials?
  31. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped does not produce large-print recreational reading material. Large-print materials are available from many public libraries and bookstores. You may link to their listing of major large-print publishers and other sources, or you may contact us to request a print copy.

    All catalogs, bibliographies, and bimonthly magazines sent to patrons to help them select books are available in large print as one of several format options. In addition, some network libraries have large-print collections. There is a limited selection of Braille materials available from the Maine State Library. Talking Book patrons in Maine are eligible to receive Braille materials from the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.

    The e-mail address for the reference section is The address, phone, and other contact information for NLS is on their contact page.