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for the Blind

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Mainstream Recorded and Audio Books: Resources for People with Print Impairments

A neatly-stacked group of books set between a pair of headphones.

While the resources discussed in special text collections will doubtless provide you with a lifetime of reading, it is also possible to obtain mainstream recorded and audio books. In this section we will describe several ways to obtain books that have been recorded for loan or purchase by all readers, regardless of vision status.

Books on Tape

Over 30 years ago, Books on Tape began producing recorded versions of best sellers and other books and making cassette versions available to the general public either through purchase or rental. Books on Tape no longer makes their titles available to the general public; they now focus on providing books to schools and libraries. Even so, over the past fifteen years the recorded books industry has flourished, and it’s now possible to purchase or borrow a wealth of new books in recorded format, often the very day the print edition is published.

CD Books

These days nearly every bookstore and library features a special section devoted to recorded books. You can also rent and purchase recorded books online at sites such as Audio Editions and BooksFree.com

Most recordings are produced by the book publishers, and are read by actors or the author him- or herself. They usually arrive as a set of MP3 CDs, which can be played using any standard music CD player. Most can also be copied, or “ripped,” to MP3 music files, so they can be enjoyed on your computer, or copied to a smartphone or tablet so you can listen on the go.

Recorded Books from Audible.com

Recorded books can also be directly downloaded from the Internet in a single large file. Audible.com is far and away the largest provider of downloadable recorded books. Their collection currently includes well over 150,000 books and periodicals. Most major releases are available on the date of the printed book's release; many can even be preordered at special prices.

You can purchase Audible books individually or in groups of 12 or 24 at a discounted price. The most popular purchase option is to become an Audible Silver or Gold plan member, which includes either one or two book credits per month, along with a subscription to an excerpted daily production of either the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Members receive occasional free books and special sale pricing on selected book collections. You can also subscribe to Audible’s daily deal e-mail list, which offers one title every day discounted up to 90 percent.

Audible books can be purchased and played on your computer through the Audible website or from the iTunes store, but a better way is to download the Audible app, which is available both for Android and Apple iOS. You can carry dozens, even hundreds, of Audible books in your pocket or purse, depending on your device’s memory, and listen to what you want when you want.

Books from OverDrive

If you have a library card, or can get one, you probably already have free access to a growing collection of CD audio books you can find on library’s shelves. But that may just be the start.

Many local libraries are members of OverDrive, a service that provides both audio and text eBooks to libraries, schools, and other institutions. The OverDrive catalog contains nearly 2,000,000 titles, but you will almost certainly not be able to enjoy the entire collection. This is because libraries must purchase one or multiple copies of each title individually, the same as they would purchase print books or CD audio books. Like other library offerings, if all copies are checked out you must wait until one becomes available and OverDrive titles are checked out for a specific number of days or weeks. If you don't renew a title by the due date, the book will no longer be playable.

OverDrive books are best played by downloading them onto a smartphone or tablet running either Android or Apple iOS.

Other Sources of Recorded Books

There are many others sources of recorded books, including many that offer free book recordings you can download and listen to on your computer or mobile device. Search for “recorded books,” “audio books,” or “free audio books” on any major search engine to find out what is available.

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