BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download)

Digital books and magazines from the National Library Service (NLS) in Washington, D.C. are available for download from the NLS BARD main pageexternal link.  There are more than 60,000 digital books and over 60 magazines available for download from this site, and new titles are constantly being added.

BARD Mobile apps for both iOS/Apple and Android (new June 2015!) devices are available.

Application for BARD Service

In order to participate, you must first have a TBBL account. Then you can fill out an online application for BARD serviceexternal link. Please note that there are separate applications for individuals and institutions (schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.).

Once we have verified you as an eligible and active TBBL user, which usually takes about two business days, we will send you an e-mail with your username and a temporary password. When you log in the first time, you'll be asked to change your password to something you've selected yourself. You'll also be asked to agree to terms of use for the service.

You can then search for and download the audio books from the NLS BARD website.

Advantages to Using BARD

Downloading your own books through BARD gives you more control over your reading because you can:

  1. Choose from more books. Downloading from BARD gives you the freedom to select any digital title in the NLS collection. (Because of the expense involved, many books have yet to be produced on digital cartridge – if you choose to receive your books in cartridge format through the US Mail, less than half of the collection is available to you.)
  2. Get a book immediately. If you have an internet connection, you can download books anytime you want, rather than waiting for them to arrive in the mail, so you will never run out of books. And BARD is particularly good for the newest and most popular titles, which often require a long wait when requested on digital cartridge.
  3. Listen to books on your smart phone. With BARD Mobile apps, you can download books to your iOS (Apple) or Android phone or tablet, making it even easier to listen to books when you're on the go.
  4. Get books from wherever you are. Whether you're a student going away to college, a retiree splitting your time between two homes, or someone going on vacation for a week or two, if you download your own books via BARD, your access to books and magazines will not be interrupted by your temporary changes of address.
  5. Access back issues of magazines. When you subscribe to a magazine on digital cartridge, you will receive future issues. With BARD, though, you can also download and read the magazine's past issues.
  6. Keep a book or magazine to reread. Sometimes you come across a book that you know you'll want to read or refer to again in the future. Books on digital cartridge must be returned promptly once you've read them, so that they can be circulated to other borrowers, but a book that you've downloaded from BARD can be kept for as long as you like, so that you can take your time reading it or keep it to reread later.
  7. Access more music resources. If you're interested in music, BARD has a lot more music-related materials available, including instructional guides and music appreciation presentations in audio format and scores and music texts in braille.

What you need to download books or magazines:

  • a computer with high-speed internet access
  • an active email address
  • a digital player issued to you from an NLS regional library (or you can buy a third-party player)
  • the ability to unzip the downloaded book and move it to either an empty cartridge (available for purchase) or to your USB flash drive (thumb drive) that has at least one gigabyte (1 GB) of storage. One can typically fit about thirty books on a four gigabyte (4 GB) cartridge or flash drive.

Instructions for downloading books from BARD.

To play multiple books or magazines on your digital player in Bookshelf mode: 

  • Hold down the Play/Stop button until a beep sounds to put your digital player into bookshelf mode. 
  • Then use the FF (Fast Forward) and RW (Rewind) buttons, to the right and left of the Play/Stop button, to move from one book to another. The player will announce the title of each book.

Additional instructions for playing multiple books (Bookshelf Mode).

Digital Players

The digital player has been pre-programmed to play the downloaded audio books and magazines. Due to digital rights management restrictions, BARD digital books will not play on your computer. However, special BARD Mobile apps are available for iOS (Apple) and Android devices.

There are also some third-party players that are compatible with NLS downloadable books and magazines:

NLS also maintains a web pageexternal link listing commercial players compatible with NLS Digital Talking Books.

There are also digital player firmware updatesexternal link that are periodically available from NLS. Digital players shipped to patrons will have current firmware upgrades installed. The last firmware update was in 2011. Therefore most TBBL patrons will already have a digital player with the most recent firmware. This site lists software version enhancements and changes such as the ability to use a "bookshelf" mode that allows users to navigate among multiple books or magazines downloaded on one USB flash drive or blank cartridge or among multiple magazines received by subscription via US Mail on a digital cartridge.

Playing MP3 and WAV Files

The digital player will also play mp3 and WAV audio files.  Create a folder on your USB flash drive named audio+podcasts. (Be sure to use the + sign between the words audio and podcasts). Put your mp3 or WAV files in this folder. The audio files will then play in sequence based on their file names.

Helpful information:

Questions about BARD or your talking book library service? Call us at (800) 342-3688, Monday through Friday to speak to a library staff member or leave a message. Or send an email to

Last Updated: February 1, 2016