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The National Library Service (NLS) has more than 120,000 digital books and over 120 magazines available for download from the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) main page. Digital braille books can also be downloaded via BARD. BARD is a free service and requires a short online application to register.

To download books or magazines, you will need:

  • a TBBL account
  • an active e-mail address
  • a computer, tablet or phone with high-speed internet access

Two Ways to Download and Play Books

1. Use the BARD Mobile app and your phone or tablet

Download the free BARD app and use it to listen to your books on your smart phone or tablet. Apps are available for the following devices:

The BARD Mobile app for iOSexternal link is available from the App Store. It enables NLS patrons to download audiobooks and audio magazines directly to iOS devices (iPhone, iPad or iPod) provided they:

  • have a BARD account and
  • are using a device running iOS 11.0 or later.

Instructions for using BARD on an iOS deviceexternal link.

The BARD app for Android devices is available from the Google Play storeexternal link. It enables NLS patrons to download audiobooks and audio magazines directly to Android devices, provided they:

  • have a BARD account and
  • are using a device running Android OS 4.1 or later.

Instructions for using BARD on an Android device.

An Android BARD app is also available at the Amazon App storeexternal link for patrons who wish to download their books to a Kindle Fire device. Note that only second-generation Kindle Fire devices are equipped to run the BARD Mobile application. A list of compatible Kindle devices is listed below. Some of these Kindle Fire devices do not include accessibility features.

  • Fire (2015)
  • Fire HD 6 and above (2015)
  • Fire HDX 8.9 and HDX 8.9 WAN (2014)
  • Fire Phone

2. Use a blank digital cartridge or USB flash drive and your digital player

You can download books to a blank cartridge or flash drive and listen to them on the digital player that TBBL provides. 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.

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).

BARD Express is Windows-based software that simplifies searching for, downloading, managing, and transferring BARD audio materials to cartridges. BARD Express:

  • categorizes downloaded audio materials (books, magazines, read items and unread items) for easy sorting;
  • simplifies downloading by providing a button that unzips and transfers the files to an external storage device (cartridge or flash drive); and
  • provides device management options from the main menu.

To get BARD Express, download the software from the Additional Links section of your BARD accountexternal link. If your BARD account has become inactive and you would like to try out BARD Express, call your Bard Administrator at 800-342-3688 to reactivate your account.

NLS has provided some BARD Express video tutorialsexternal link that can view or listen to.

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.

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. 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.

The digital player can also play mp3 and WAV audio files. If you want to play both mp3 or wav files along with your NLS books on the same cartridge, create a folder on your USB flash drive named audio+podcasts. (Be sure to use the plus 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. If you only want to play only mp3 or WAV files on the digital talking book player, dedicate one cartridge for that and then there is no need to create the audio+podcasts folder.

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, children and teens, and institutions (schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.).

Once we have verified you as an eligible and active TBBL patron, 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 or braille books from the NLS BARD website.

Still Not Sure If BARD Is for You?

More about BARD

The National Library Service (NLS) provides additional information bout BARD, including:

Some additional TBBL pages that may be of interest:

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: October 10, 2023