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.  You can listen to your downloaded books on the digital player that TBBL provides, or, for even more flexibility, you can get the free BARD Mobile app, for either iOS/Apple or Android devices, and listen to your books via your smart phone or tablet. BARD Express, a program that makes downloading easier, is also available to all BARD members.

There are more than 80,000 digital books and over 60 magazines available for download from this site, and new titles are constantly being added. Digital braille books can also be downloaded via BARD.

Not sure if BARD is for you?

What you need to download books or magazines:

  • a TBBL account
  • a computer with high-speed internet access
  • an active e-mail address
  • a digital player issued to you from an NLS regional library (or you can buy a third-party player), or an iOS/Apple, Android or Kindle Fire mobile device

If using the digital player, you will also need either an empty cartridge (available for purchase) or a USB flash drive (thumb drive) that has at least one gigabyte (1 GB) of storage. If you expect to be downloading multiple books at once, a flash drive that is four gigabytes or larger is recommended. (You can typically fit about thirty books on a 4 GB flash drive.)

Application for BARD Service

If you have a TBBL account, 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 BARD service.

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

Downloading and Playing Books

Bookshelf Mode: When you have multiple books or magazines on your cartridge or flash drive, you need to use "bookshelf mode" to select the book you want to listen to: 

  • 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 list of commercial players compatible with NLS Digital Talking Booksexternal link.

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 latest player firmware is version 2.1.13 (April 18, 2018). 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 can 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.

For More Information About BARD

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: September 27, 2019