Bookshare and NLS are libraries to love

National Library Lovers Month in February focuses on reading and the institutions that provide books and other materials. We honor and recognize the important role that libraries play in the community; but the traditional neighborhood libraries are not always adequate for people who have a visual impairment. 

However, these two resources for the blind specifically meet the need–Bookshare and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled–also known as NLS. Both popular libraries provide a huge volume of books in audio, braille and large print.  


One of the two resources for the blind is Bookshare. This resource is an eBook library with nearly 800,000 titles and is the most extensive collection of accessible eBooks in the  world. It includes books for educational pursuits, employment and professional development, and overall reading pleasure, as well as titles in over 34 languages. 

In order to enjoy these thousands of books, a good book player is essential. The Victor Reader Stream, NLS Talking Book Player and apps like Dolphin Easy Reader and Voice Dream Reader allow you to easily read Bookshare books. You can also use your PC, laptop and/or tablet to access books.

The method you choose to download your selected book will depend on the device or app you have. Nonetheless, any method requires an internet connection. Bookshare, as a subscription service, requires a membership fee. Students can access this library for free.

National Library Service 

A free library service enacted by Congress, NLS provides printed materials in audio and braille. Patrons request books, magazines and other materials by contacting NLS regional network libraries. The regional library then mails your requests as audio digital cartridges that play on a specialized NLS player. 

Patrons can borrow the player from their regional library. A person with a vision impairment can also access the Braille Audio and Reading Download (BARD) copy of a book. On a PC or laptop, you can access BARD Express where books will download quickly and easily to multiple devices, just like Bookshare. 

For those who use smartphones or tablets, books can be accessed with the BARD mobile app. Unlike Bookshare, NLS books are not text to speech files. Each NLS book is read and recorded by a human being or is a commercial audio book provided by the publisher. The collection has about 65 percent fiction and 35 percent nonfiction. Bestsellers, biographies, fiction, and how-to books are the most popular. Some books in Spanish and a limited number in other languages are also available for download.

Since these resources for the blind are designed for the disabled community, both Bookshare and NLS require proof of disability as part of their application process. They also have offerings for visually impaired young adults and children.

To get started, contact Outlook’s Adaptive Technology Training program for assistance. Our trainers can also show you how to use other reading apps for the blind including Audible and Kindle eBooks.

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