Digital Books and Players

The Talking Book and Braille Library has been distributing digital talking book machines (DTBMs) and digital books since October 2009.

Digital Books

Photo of the digital book cartridge for Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book,' with the finger hole in the cartridge highlighted.
A digital book cartridge.

The digital books (DB) are on a flash memory cartridge about the size of a cassette tape that slots into the front of the player. They are much easier to use than cassette tapes:

  • Unlike the tapes there's only one way to insert the book. One end is beveled for easy insertion, while the other has a round finger hole so that you can easily extract the cartridge from the machine.
  • There is no need, as with the current tapes, to turn over the cartridge or change "sides."
  • Almost every digital book will be on one cartridge only.

Digital books are also available online, and in September 2013 NLS released a mobile app for the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. See Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) for more information about downloading audio books.

Digital Talking Book Players

Digital technology offers many new capabilities, including better sound reproduction, and NLS has completely redesigned the machine to accommodate the new technology.

The digital talking book machine (DTBM) is smaller and lighter than the cassette player, weighing only around two pounds. The body of the player is dark to create maximum visual contrast between the case and the colors of the controls.

The machine is powered by a rechargeable battery, just like the cassette machine, but the new machine's battery will play for 35 hours on one charge, and the machine can tell you how much playing time remains.

NLS is producing two machines to take full advantage of digital technology: the standard player and the advanced player.

Standard Player

The standard machine has eight controls for the basic operations for listening to a book. This machine is best for those who read mainly fiction.

The controls consist of:

  • rewind,
  • play,
  • stop,
  • fast-forward,
  • power,
  • volume,
  • tone,
  • speed, and
  • "sleep" (automatically turns off the player in half an hour).

If you press any of the buttons when there is no book in the player it will identify itself and state its function.

Advanced Player

The advanced player has some additional features and controls, designed to be useful when reading nonfiction materials:

  • a menu button for choosing how to navigate the book;
  • controls to jump forward and backward in the book;
  • a button to hear current reading position and other information, such as battery status; and
  • a button to set "bookmarks" that you can return to.

Distribution of New Machines

In early 2011, the National Library Service (NLS) will stop producing new titles in cassette format. Therefore all new titles will only be available on digital cartridge or via direct download.  Soon, all patrons who do not currently have the new digital player will need this equipment to make full use of the talking book library service.

If you are already registered for service but do not yet have one of the new digital players, please contact us right away at 1-800-342-3688 to request either a standard or an advanced model.  While veterans are still given priority, we now have a large supply of the new players arriving each month, and one will be reserved and sent to you within a few days of your request. Delivery time for a digital player is about 7-10 days.

Keep Your Cassette Player

You may have both a cassette machine and the new DTBM. In fact, we advise borrowers to keep their cassette machine if they are interested in older books, many of which will only be available on cassette.

More about using the cassette player

Last Updated: September 27, 2013