Getting Started
with the Talking Book Program:
A Guide for Our Patrons


Internal Links
Our Collection
Ordering Books
Service Options
Your Book Requests
Books Selected for You
Reader's Advisory Service
Receiving and Returning Materials
Loan Period for Books
Loan Period for Magazines
Returning Materials
Postal Regulations
Damaged or Incomplete Books
Digital Talking Book Machine (DTBM)
Cassette Player
Helpful Hints
Disability Information & Referral Center
TBP Information Line
Related Links

Loan Policy
Spotlight on Texas Books
Disability Information & Referral Center
National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped


Welcome to the Talking Book Program!

The Talking Book Program (TBP) is a division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) in Austin, Texas, and works with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in Washington, DC, a program administered by the Library of Congress.

TBP provides unabridged books in alternative formats for Texans of all ages who are unable to read standard print material due to visual, physical, or reading disabilities. This service is provided free of charge.

If you have any questions, please contact us:

Talking Book Program
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
PO Box 12927
Austin TX 78711-2927

1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas) 512-463-5458 (Austin area) (e-mail)

512-936-0685 (fax)

Our business hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Voicemail is available after hours and on weekends and holidays.

For more information about TBP or NLS, visit the web site of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Please contact us if:

  • you have a question about your service
  • your name, address, or telephone number changes
  • you need to transfer your service to another state or country
  • you want to order books by phone
  • your machine is broken, lost, or stolen
  • you need a replacement for a damaged or incomplete book
  • you wish to discontinue service either temporarily or permanently


TBP provides books on digital cartridge, on cassette tape, in Braille, and in    large print. Registered TBP readers can also download audiobooks from BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service. Downloaded books can be played on the DTBM and some commercial devices. The Web Braille service allows readers to download Braille books for use with Braille reading devices. Our collection consists of more than 89,000 titles, including bestsellers (fiction and nonfiction), classics, mysteries, westerns, science fiction, children’s books, biographies, and more. Our collection also contains hundreds of titles in Spanish, and some in French, German, Russian, and
other languages.

TBP also offers more than 70 different magazines, such as Newsweek,
Reader’s Digest, Sports Illustrated, Cooking Light, Ebony, National
Geographic, Guideposts, and Texas Monthly.

NLS provides most of the materials in our collection. In addition, volunteer
studios in Austin and Midland record books by Texas authors, books about
Texas, and books in Spanish to supplement our collection.

TBP does not provide textbooks. For information about textbooks in alternative formats, first contact your school. An organization that produces textbooks in alternative formats is Learning Ally National Headquarters (formally RFB&D).



To remain active in our service, you must order one book or magazine per year, download one item from BARD, or be actively using Web Braille. If your service becomes inactive, you must return all materials and playback equipment to the library.


Our collection is too extensive to be included in a print catalog; however, annual catalogs are available online, and, upon request, in large print and selected other formats. Catalogs listing books of interest to young readers are also available.

NLS publishes cumulative listings of digital, cassette, and Braille titles produced in a particular year. They also publish bimonthly catalogs containing current releases: Talking Book Topics for books on digital cartridge and cassette, and Braille Book Review for books in Braille. These two catalogs are available in audio formats as well as online. You may view them electronically at the following locations:

Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review.

Some catalogs include titles in more than one format. To assist you, each
book has a prefix code indicating its format. For example:


Digital Book: DB

Braille: BR

Cassette: RC, CT, CBT, CBO

Large print: LB

Not every book is available in every format.

The most comprehensive catalog of books in our collection may be found
online at This catalog contains books from many
other libraries as well; some of which may not be immediately available in

A comprehensive online listing of the Texas TBP’s Large Print titles can be
found at; other bibliographies of Large Print books are available to readers at Some large type subject
bibliographies of our Large Print collection are also available upon request.
To request a catalog or if you need assistance selecting books, please give us a call. Our Reader Consultants are ready to take your calls, and our Reader’s Advisory Librarians can assist you with fine-tuning your reading choices based on your interests and reading style.


There are four different ways to order books:

By telephone: 1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas) or 512-463-5458 (Austin area). Our business hours are 8:00 am to noon and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Our voicemail system is available after hours and during the noon hour to take your book orders; these requests are usually handled the next business day.

By e-mail:

By mail: Talking Book Program,Texas State Library and Archives Commission, PO Box 12927, Austin TX 78711-2927.
Do not return order forms with library books or magazines; this is against postal regulations and may severely delay your order.

By fax: 512-936-0685

For all book orders, please remember to provide your name and address.


Your Book Requests
If you wish to select the books to be sent
yourself, you may browse through our catalogs (see page 3) or call us to request specific titles, authors, or topics. Any book that you order will be added to your personal request list. There is no limit to the number of
requests that can be added to your list. For optimal service, you should keep
plenty of requests on file with us so that selections are waiting to replace
items as they are returned. You can control the number of books sent to
you by raising or lowering the quantity, or quota, that is established for
each active medium (digital cartridge, cassette, Braille, etc.). If you would
like to have 12 cassette books checked out to you at any given time, then your cassette book quantity would be set at 12. Your quota includes all books that are in the mail, as well as those in your possession. You may call us and change this number as often as you like; however, your quota
cannot be raised if you have overdue books.
Due to supply and budget concerns, quotas for digital cartridges are limited to 5 or fewer.

Books Selected for You
Books can be selected for you, based on your
reading interests, through our automatic selection program. For example, if
you enjoy westerns, you can determine the number of westerns you would
like to have on loan, and each time you return a western, the automatic
selection program will select another one for you in order to keep books
circulating continuously.  A wide range of subjects is available to you
through automatic selection. Remember, for assistance, please call TBP during regular business hours at 1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas) or 512-463-5458 (Austin area). Help us help you receive the number and kinds of
books you like to read.

Need Help Deciding What to Read? TBP’s Reader’s Advisory Service is available to you. Our Reader’s Advisory Librarians work with readers to help you find the books you want to read, and to fine tune your automatic selection profile to help ensure that your books are satisfactory. They can even help you venture out into new reading directions based on your current and past interests, preferences, and reading style.


Loan Period for Books
The loan period for TBP books sent to
individual patrons is 45 days from the date the book leaves TBP’s circulation facility. Please mail your books in time for them to arrive at the library by their due dates. Each book’s due date is printed on its mailing card. If you need a loan extension, please call us. In most cases, loans can be renewed one time.

Loan Period for Magazines
Shared cassette magazines, circulated in plastic mailing containers, are on loan for 21 days. Direct cassette magazines, usually circulated in cardboard mailing containers, are yours to keep. Please call us if you have a question regarding the loan period
for any of your subscriptions, or if you are unsure whether the magazine you have received must be returned.

Returning Materials
To return a book or magazine, place it in its
mailing container and reverse the preprinted mailing label on the outside of
the container so that the clipped corner is on the upper right side. TBP’s
address will then be visible, and the book or magazine is ready to be
returned in the mail postage-free.

Maintaining a “Flow” of Materials. Return each individual book as soon as you finish it to ensure that you always have books to read. Remember, TBP mails another book from your request list, or via automatic selection, each time you return a book. This also helps other readers get the books they want faster, and makes your mail carrier happier—especially if you read Braille!

Postal Regulations
By law, letter carriers must deliver, but do not have
to pick up, TBP materials. If you have any problems, please talk with your
carrier. Should the problem continue, call your postmaster and refer to
Section 135 of the Postal Manual, based on Public Law 91-375, which
provides the rules and regulations that govern items mailed as Free Matter.
Library materials returned to TBP are exempt from the weight restrictions established by the post office for placement in street corner mailboxes.

Damaged or Incomplete Books
TBP inspects all of its books. You may, however, occasionally receive a damaged or incomplete book. If this occurs, place the item in its mailing container, turn the mailing label over so the clipped corner is on the upper right side, draw a large “X” on the left side of the label, and return the book. A replacement is not automatically sent when a broken book is returned, so if you would like a replacement, please call us.


Because our cassettes are not recorded at commercial speeds, you need
special equipment to listen to them. Likewise, our digital talking books can be read only on the DTBM and, with special software from NLS, on selected commercial players. TBP provides this equipment to you on loan.
Equipment must be returned if you become ineligible or no longer use
our service. TBP may also recall equipment for repair, maintenance, audit, inactivity, or other reasons. 

Do not lend, sell, or give playback equipment or accessories to other persons. This playback equipment is Federal property, and maintained by the State of Texas.

If at any time your equipment is not working properly, call us first for troubleshooting and to request a replacement machine, then return the
broken machine to us. Replacement machines will be sent only after we receive the defective machine. Do not include replacement requests or
other notes with returned machines. This violates postal regulations.
We are unable to send empty boxes to you. Please save the original box in which your equipment was sent to you.

All equipment may be returned postage-free to:

Machine Lending Service
Talking Book Program
4400B Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin TX 78756-3213

Digital Talking Book Machine (DTBM)

Talking book libraries around the United States began switching from cassette players to digital talking book machines in 2009, and the DTBM is now used in all talking book libraries. The digital machines (DTBMs) are smaller, lighter, and easier to use. They have few moving parts, so they break less often than cassette players. Additionally, they have a “sleep” button, and the advanced model has bookmarks available. Their sound quality is far superior to that of cassette players.

Two types of DTBMs are available. The DS, or standard DTBM, has minimal features, and is designed to be very easy to use. The DA, or advanced DTBM, has many additional features, including bookmarking abilities and more sophisticated navigation. Both have speed, volume, and pitch controls, sleep buttons, and can announce their own serial numbers at the touch of a button.

Books to play on the DTBM come on cartridges. These are about the size and shape of cassettes, but have a beveled end to make it easy to insert them into the machine, and one large finger hole for easy removal. Because they use high-capacity flash media, one cartridge can hold as much as many, many cassettes, so each book you receive will be on one cartridge. They have no moving parts, and never need to be flipped over or rewound. Cartridges circulate in mailing boxes that are similar to the plastic cassette boxes, but are slimmer.

Both the standard and advanced DTBMs “speak” to the user, telling the function of each button, as well as the amount of battery charge remaining. Upon request, these instructions can be set to speak in Spanish.

No computer skills are needed to play the books on cartridges that TBP mails to you. Simply insert the cartridge and turn the DTBM on. Readers with Internet access and some computer skills can also register for BARD to download books onto cartridges or flash drives. To learn more about BARD, call or email TBP.

Your DTBM should be fully charged when you receive it. DTBM battery life is approximately 29 hours per charge—a big improvement over the cassette players’ 6 to 8 hours. When the battery gets low, it can be recharged by plugging the machine into a standard electrical outlet. You may still play books while your DTBM is charging. Leaving the DTBM plugged in is not harmful to the battery. Because the DTBM tells you its available play hours every time you turn it on, you need never worry about unexpectedly running out of battery.

If your DTBM gets dirty, simply wipe it clean with a slightly damp cloth. Like all electronic equipment, it may stop working if it gets wet. Allow your DTBM to dry out completely before attempting to use it again. If it still doesn’t work, call us to report the problem and request a replacement, then send it back. The requested replacement will be sent to you once your broken DTBM is received.

Digital cartridges are protected by digital rights management software, and can’t be played on unauthorized playback equipment. They can only be played on the DTBM and on certain commercial players through special arrangement with NLS. Commercial players must have NLS software downloaded onto them before they can be used to play books provided by TBP. Contact us if you have questions about which players can be used, and how to get the appropriate permissions and software.

Cassette Player

Note: Cassettes are being phased out. They will be replaced by digital cartridges and the DTBM. Cassette players are no longer being produced, and are prone to breakdowns due to their age and wear. No new books are being produced on cassette.

Players are sent out with fully charged batteries; however, some batteries
may lose their charge during shipping. Upon receipt, first determine if the
battery in your unit is charged. To do this, hit the play button to listen to the
operating instructions tape. If the tape inside the machine will not play, has
unusually low volume, or plays at a very slow speed, plug the machine into
a wall outlet for 8 to 12 hours to charge the battery. You may listen to books on your player while it is charging. Keeping your cassette machine plugged in is not harmful.

Once you have listened to the instruction cassette, you may continue to
listen to other cassettes. When your cassette player’s battery runs down,
you will hear a sudden decrease in volume that cannot be corrected
using the volume control or the tape speed will begin to slow down.

It is also possible that a player with a drained battery will not play at all. If
your battery has lost its charge you should plug the player into an electrical
outlet for 8 to 12 hours.

Our cassette player is designed to play 4-track cassettes at a special speed.
Since there are four sides on each cassette, each 4-track cassette is
labeled, “1”, “5”, “9”, etc., to indicate the number of its first side.

To listen to a 4-track recording, play the first and second sides of a cassette
with the side selector switch pressed down to the left. (This switch is the
third control on the top right side of the machine.) Then press the side
selector switch down to the right and replay sides one and two of the same
cassette. With the side selector switched, side one plays information
recorded on track three, and side two plays information on track four.

To listen to TBP cassettes, press the speed switch down to the left. (The
speed switch is directly above the side selector switch.) To listen to
commercially produced cassettes, such as music tapes or cassette books
from your public library or local bookstore, press the speed switch down to
the right.

If you need additional assistance, please call us. Our reader consultants are experts at troubleshooting problems with cassette players, as well as with teaching new readers to use playback equipment.

Helpful Hints

  • If a tape does not move when in “play,” remove the tape and tap it firmly on a flat surface. Place the tape back in the player and try again.
  • Always push the stop button on your cassette machine before pushing any other button (eject, rewind, etc.).
  • Be sure the proper speed is selected. If voices sound garbled on your machine, it may be set to the wrong speed.
  • Keep the player in a clean and safe storage area when not in use. Do not eat or drink near the player.
  • Keep your player out of reach of pets—they often enjoy chewing on the electrical cords—this is harmful to your player and your pets.
  • Adaptive attachments are available for use with the player. Please contact us for information about these accessories.

If you experience any problems with your playback equipment, please call
us at 1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas) or 512-463-5458 (in Austin).



TBP’s Disability Information & Referral Center (DIRC) staff provides information to our patrons and to the general public, including teachers, counselors, family members of persons with disabilities, and other interested persons. Questions pertaining to adaptive equipment, games and toys, support groups, and other topics can be answered or referred by this department. In addition, the DIRC has a small circulating collection of materials pertaining to disabilities. These materials are not in the special formats available in TBP’s collection. Anyone may borrow materials from this collection (borrowers pay return postage).

    For information contact the DIRC at 1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas) or 512-463-5458 (in Austin).

TBP’s toll-free information line provides readers with telephone access to the TBP News Bulletin, a quarterly newsletter full of helpful tips, book recommendations, and other items of interest. Important announcements are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the information line. Call 1-866-388-6397 and follow the menu prompts

"Getting Started with the Talking Book Program" is available as a print publication in large print by request.

Talking Book Program
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
PO Box 12927
Austin TX 78711-2927
1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas)
512-463-5458 (Austin area);
512-936-0685 (fax)

Page last modified: September 15, 2011