Winning Solutions for Failing Sight
Serving Our Community Since 1979

Recorded Books and
Large Print Materials

On this page: The following is only a partial list.  Please contact the Low Vision Center directly for help finding other resources.

About Large Print Books

Large print books and magazines have larger than normal print to make them easier for visually impaired people to read.  Large print may also be called "large type" or "large font."  Among librarians "Large Print" is defined as print that is at least 16 points in size.  However, in designing a large print edition, the publisher may adjust other characteristics besides just the size of the type in order to make the book easier to read.  The color, contrast, and shininess of the ink and paper, the style of type face, the spacing between letters and between lines, the margins, and the physical size of the book itself can all affect readability.

Many publishers mass-produce large print editions of the same books they print in other editions.  There are also print-on-demand services, which print individual books as they are purchased.  A mass-produced large print book has the type size selected by the publisher.  With a print-on-demand service, you can often choose the type size at the time you buy the book.

Electronic book (E-book) reading devices such as Kindle or Nook usually let you choose the font size at the time you read the e-book.  So any e-book you've bought can be a large print book.

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About Audio Books

An audio book, also known as a recorded book, is a sound recording of someone reading the book out loud.  Depending on the source of the audio book, it might be read by a professional voice actor or by a talented volunteer.  It is also possible to create audio books with synthetic speech (having a computer translate the book's text to speech).

A commercial audio book may be published by the same publisher that produced the paper edition, or by a publisher that specializes in audio books.  You can buy commercial audio books from booksellers or borrow them from your public library. Commercial audio books are available on audio tape cassettes or compact disks and can be played on the same player you use for your music tapes or CDs. You can also buy electronic audio books which you then download from the Internet and play on your computer or smart phone or on a stand-alone audio book player.

Talking Books are produced by the National Library Service (NLS) of the Library of Congress and are loaned by participating public libraries in each state.  Besides fiction and non-fiction books, many periodicals are also available as Talking Books.  To comply with copyright law, only people who cannot make normal use of printed books can borrow Talking Books, and only a special playback device can play them.  The special players produced by NLS are loaned by the participating libraries, you may purchase a commercially produced Talking Book player which may have different features from the standard NLS player, or free apps are available to let your Apple or Android smart phone function as a Talking book player.  Older Talking Books were recorded on audio tape cassettes in a special format.  In 2008, NLS began introducing Digital Talking Books on flash memory cartridges; recent Talking books are available only in this format.  Talking Books are borrowed and returned by postage-free mail, and Digital Talking Books can also be downloaded through the Internet.

Digital audio books compatible with the NLS Digital Talking Book player are also produced by SHELF, a cooperative effort of eight state libraries to make over 2300 locally produced audio books available to all their eligible patrons.  Marylanders who participate in the Talking Book program can log on to their account at http://webopac.klas.com/talkingbooks/md and select "Maryland SHELF" from the menu at the left to see a list of what's available.  For more information, contact the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Some e-book reading devices have built-in text-to-speech capability, allowing you in effect to convert an e-book into an audio book with synthesized speech.  Note, though, that publishers can decide whether individual books can be read in this way.  Before you buy an e-book intending to listen to it, check that the book is coded to allow text to speech.

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Local Public LIbraries

Besides special collections of large print books and other material for the blind and visually impaired, local public libraries have recorded books and large print books in their regular collections.  Check your nearest branch library to find what is available there.  Local public library systems also provide a variety of other accomodations for those with low vision.  Hand-held magnifiers, for use in the library, may be available at the information desk.  Some locations have CCTV systems, document scanners, or text-to-speech machines, and many have computers equiped with screen magnification or screen reading software.

Rockville Memorial Library (Montgomery County)
21 Maryland Ave., Suite 100
Rockville, MD 20850
240-777-0001 (Ask-a-Librarian)

Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH)
415 Park Avenue
Baltimore, MD  21201-3603
e-mail: reference.desk@maryland.gov
Also located at LBPH is the Maryland Accessible Textbook Program, which helps students get the textbooks they need in accessible formats.

Prince George's County Memorial Library System
6532 Adelphi Road
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Martin Luther King Memorial Library (District of Columbia)
D. C. Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Room 215 (2nd Floor)
901 G Street, NW
Washington, DC

Access Service Library (Fairfax County)
12000 Government Center
Parkway #123
Fairfax, VA 22035-0012

Arlington County Library
1015 N. Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22201

Alexandria Public Library
5005 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22304-2903

Loudoun County Library Outreach Services
380 Old Waterford Rd.
Leesburg, VA 20176

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Other Free Services

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides its Talking Books service through public libraries in each state.  In maryland, this service is provided through the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  You can call the number listed above for your local library system or visit the NLS web site to learn how to sign up for Talking Books.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)
The Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542

Besides books, many periodicals are also available in audio from NLS.  American Heritage, Money, National Geographic, People, and Sports Illustrated are just a few of the magazines available through the Talking Book service.

The BARD Talk web site, while not officially connected with NLS, is a good source of information about the Digital Talking Book service which NLS provides.

Besides the many periodicals available directly from NLS, the American Printing House for the Blind produces audio versions of Reader's Digest and Newsweek which are free to Talking Book subscribers.  For more information, see www.aph.org/development/magazines/.

The American Printing House for the Blind and Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Partnership provides free age-appropriate print/Braille and downloadable audio books to visually impaired young children.

Choice Magazine Listening is an audio anthology of unabridged articles selected from about 100 different magazines.  Available to NLS Talking Book subscribers, each quarterly issue contains about 12 hours of articles.  You can download the current issue from the BARD web site (nlsbard.loc.gov) or you can subscribe to Choice Magazine Listening on physical media at the CML web site (www.choicemagazinelistening.org).

The Metropolitan Washington Ear reads The Washington Post as well as selections from the Wall Street Journal and some magazines via the telephone, radio, and Internet everyday. To sign up for this free service, contact:

The Metropolitan Washington Ear
35 University Blvd East
Silver Spring, MD 20901

Another free newspaper reading service is NFB-Newsline. It uses synthesized (computer-generated) speech to read The Washington Post and over 50 other national and local newspapers by telephone, computer, and mobile devices such as smartphones.  Anyone eligible for the NLS Talking Book service also qualifies for NFB-Newsline.  To sign up, contact the library from which you receive NLS services, or call:

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore MD 21230

The Project Gutenberg site on the Internet (www.gutenberg.org) has a limited number of free, public domain audio books available for free download to your computer.  Project Gutenberg also has a vast library of free, public domain books in plain text format; if your computer has text-to-speech capability, you can download a book from Project Gutenberg and have your computer read it to you.

The LibriVox.org web site has a collection of public-domain classics read by human volunteers, stored in audio files, and available for free download to your computer.

The Librophile.com web site provides a searchable database of free and paid audio books and e-books available for download from the Internet, including those from Project Gutenberg and LibriVox.  Books are available for both desktop and mobile devices.

The Verkaro Audiobooks web site has a collection of around 50 books and stories read by human volunteers.

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Services with a Fee

Learning Ally, formerly called Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, creates and distributes audio books, especially textbooks, to its members.  If you qualify for NLS Talking book service, you also qualify for Learning Ally membership.

Learning Ally
5225 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 312
Washington, DC 20015

(based in Argentina, provides blind and visually handicapped people Spanish-language audio books for download on the Internet.  Registration is free, but a semi-annual donation is requested.)

an Internet dealer in used audio books.  The web site includes some interesting musing by the proprieter on audio books and the business of buying and selling them.

(sells audio and video materials for education and self-improvement. Their web site also includes resources such as a list of audio book rental services.)
1322 2nd Street, Suite 32
Santa Monica, CA 90401-1138

The web site of AudioFile magazine provides reviews and other information about commercially published audio books.

Harvard Business Review on Tape

Book Share provides books for download from the Internet.  Depending on the book, it may be available in various text, audio, and/or Digital Braille formats.  Some public-domain works are freely available; other works require a subscription.  Subscriptions are free for U. S. students; for others there is a fee.  www.bookshare.org.  A student using an iPad can consider using the Spotlight Gateway app for accessing Book Share.

The Radio Reading Network of Maryland broadcasts a full time program read from newspapers and magazines.  A special radio receiver is needed, for which there is an annual rental fee.

Doubleday Large Print allows on-line purchase of recently published large print books, some at a modest discount from list price.

Most bookstores, public libraries, and Internet bookstores also have large print and audio books.

Some magazines and newspapers can be found in large print, too.

Reader's Digest
PO Box 262
Mount Morris, IL 61054
(For audio and Braille versions of Reader's Digest, see the American Printing House for the Blind.)

New York Times Large Type Weekly
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

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Here are some of the companies that publish large print and/or audio books.  Their products can be purchased from local book stores, mail-order and Internet catalog companies, or directly from the publisher.

This is not a complete list of publishers.  LVC does not endorse or recommend any specific publisher.

Recorded Books, LLC
(publishes, rents, and sells audio books; publishes and sells large print books)
270 Skipjack Road
Prince Frederick, MD 20678

Books on Tape (division of Random House)
(publishes and sells audio books)
Customer Service
400 Hahn Road
Westminster, MD 21157

Audio Book Contractors
(publishes and sells unabridged classic books as audio, with hundreds of titles on cassette, CD, and audio downloads from Audible.com)
PO Box 96
Riverdale MD 20738-0096
Email audiobookcontractors@verizon.net

Audio Book Contractors (ABC) is offering a 20% discount to clients and supporters of the Low Vision Center.  This offer applies only to audio books purchased directly from ABC on physical media (cassettes or CDs), is intended only for clients and supporters of LVC and their families, and might be withdrawn in the future.  Although many of ABC's titles are also available for download through Audible.com, ABC cannot offer a discount on these downloads.  ABC's cassette and CD books can be ordered on-line at www.audiobookcontractors.com.  Use the promo code "LVC" at checkout to get your discount.

Audio Editions
(publishes and sells audio books)
PO Box 6930
Auburn CA 95604-6930

Blackstone Audiobooks
(publishes and sells audio books)
PO Box 969
Ashland, Oregon 97520

Read How You Want
(publishes and sells large print books on demand, sells downloadable Braille books and Daisy audio books using synthesized speech)
E-mail: info@readhowyouwant.com

Reader's Digest Large Type
(publishes large print abridged books)
44 South Broadway White Plains NY 10601 800-877-5293

Simon and Schuster
(publishes some audio books, usually abridged)

Ulverscroft Large Print Books.  The web site sells only to public libraries, but includes contact information.

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