What are Talking Books?
Talking books (also known as audio books) are books that have been saved into an audio format.
These may be on cassette tape, CD or in a digital format such as
mp3 or Daisy etc. Years ago, the early versions were even on
records (also known as vinyl LP's). Regardless of the format that
the talking book comes in, it allows a blind or visually impaired
person to listen to a story.
In the past, people used to pick up paperback books. Some people
still prefer this. However, for
those who cannot read, having access to a talking book
means that they can insert a tape in their car's tape deck (or
talking book machine); place a CD in their stereo's CD player (or
computer), and have the story read aloud to them. More
recently, talking books have become available via a data file
which is downloaded from the internet, and played on their ebook
reader, mp3 player or mobile phone. Talking books usually have a narrated voice (eg. CD or
cassette), but may also use a synthetic
voice (eg. using a text to speech programme such as
Balabolka). They may not be word for word from the original story
- this may depend on the publisher (ie. bridged and unabridged
Although designed to assist the blind and visually impaired,
talking books may be listened to by a variety of people (eg.
dyslexic learners, travellers, print disabled people, and people
who just prefer to listen to a story while preparing dinner for
What will I need to play
It depends on
which format you get your talking book in!
If you get it on a regular tape,
which usually only has 2 sides
(side A and side B), you will need a regular cassette tape player.
If you get it on a 4 track tape,
you will need a 4 track player
(such as a talking book machine).
For the visually impaired, the producers of the talking books on
cassette used a 4 track system for a while, (which meant they
could get 4 times the information onto a tape). They had a special
tape player with tactile keys, that could play these tapes to them
in a narrated voice. They could get a 17 hour story onto
about 5 or 6 cassette tapes. After they had listened to side
A and side B, they could flick a switch so they could listen to
the other 2 tracks as well, by changing it over to the other side
(IE. side C and side D).
Please note: In New
Zealand the talking book machines (which play the cassette tapes)
are slowly being replaced by digital talking book machines. These
4 sided tapes are no longer (as of December 2011) issued through
the RNZFB, however 2 sided audio cassette tapes are still
available through some libraries. The new talking books that are
issued through the RNZFB are in a Daisy format!
CD (Compact Disc):
If you get it on CD you will need a CD player. These usually come with stereo systems,
or as a combined unit such as a portable boom box. DVD players can
also play CD audio books as well.
To play talking books in the Daisy format, you will need either a
Daisy Player (eg. the
Plextor), or a software
version for your computer (eg. Amis).
Depending on the downloaded material, this may vary slightly. You
may get an mp3, a wav, or a daisy file etc. Take note of the file
type when you download it, and make sure you have a player on your
computer that will play that particular file type/format. (Eg. If
you have an mp3 file, then you will need an mp3 player such as
Winamp or Media Player).
Sources for talking books
In summary, talking books allow
blind and vision impaired people to listen to a wide variety