The Communication Center, a division of State Services for the Blind (SSB) and located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is the agency responsible for distributing and repairing all equipment provided by the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), namely, the machines required for playing the talking books lent out by the library.

Talking book players are required for you to listen to the audio books–or “talking books”–made available through the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library (MBTBL). The talking book players provided by the Communication Center include cartridge-based digital talking book players and cassette players. Both are portable players that come equipped with a built-in speaker, rechargeable battery and an electrical cord.


Digital Talking Book Players

In comparison to the previous cassette players, the digital talking book players offer better sound quality. Unlike cassette players, they do not need to flip sides or swap out cassettes. The entire book fits on one cartridge.

If you register for the talking book service, you will receive a digital talking book player from the Communication Center (CC). Many patrons have the standard (DS1) model, but the advanced (DA1) model offers more useful features. The DA1 allows the user to place bookmarks, jump an entire chapter or section, and navigate through magazine articles. You may exchange your DS1 for a DA1.

The DA1 and DS1 operate the same, but the DA1 has an additional row of navigational buttons. These buttons are:

  • An Information (Info) button that tells you where you are within a book and how much time remains.
  • A Previous (Prev) button that allows you to jump back by one chapter.
  • A Next button that allows you to jump forward by one chapter.
  • A Menu button that allows you to select how the Previous and Next buttons work. Depending on each individual book’s navigational levels, a book may allow a user to jump by section, by chapter, or by verse.
  • A Bookmark (Mark) button that allows you to place and remove virtual bookmarks within each digital talking book.

Another advantage of the digital talking book player is the ability to download digital talking books and magazines from the Minnesota Braille and Audio Reading Download (MN BARD) website. Eligible patrons may access thousands of books and dozens of magazines any time day or night using the optional MN BARD service over a fast Internet connection.

Cartridges of digital talking books loaned through the mail do not require you to have a computer.

  • 12/29/20
    Instructions for navigating multiple books on a cartridge. View instructions in video format.
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Digital Talking Book Players (PDF)  - 11/19/12
    Provides troubleshooting tips to users of NLS digital talking book players.

Accessories for Digital Talking Book Players

The Communications Center distributes additional accessories for use with the playback of your digital talking book player. The accessories currently available include:

  • Headphones: Issued only to readers who require them for reading talking books where speakers are not permitted, as in nursing homes and hospitals.
  • Pillow Speakers: Available to individuals who are confined to a bed. This speaker is used by placing it under your pillow and is normally heard only by you.
  • Amplifiers: For individuals with significant hearing loss. Amplifiers require a separate application with medical certification because the sound is boosted to a level that can cause permanent hearing loss to someone with normal hearing. This accessory requires a separate application. Please contact the CC about the application procedure for obtaining an amplifier.
  • Breath Switch Adapters: Available to anyone with little or no use of their extremities. These adapters enable you to control the Play/Stop function of the digital player.
  • Remote Control Units: Currently not available for the digital talking book player. They are being developed by the NLS.
  • Digital Talking Book Cartridge Cable: Used for connecting digital talking book cartridges to a personal computer via a USB port. You may transfer digital talking book files from a personal computer (PC) to the cartridge for playback on your digital talking book machine. The cable is three-feet long with a standard USB type A plug on one end and a USB type A socket with plastic molding on the other. The socket and molding conform to the shape of the cartridge to make insertion easier.


  • 4/9/21
    Listing of vendors selling cartridges and USB cables for use with NLS-produced talking book players.

Commercial Digital Talking Book Players

In addition to the digital talking book players issued by the NLS, there are also several commercial players that you can purchase to play talking books and magazines downloaded from MN BARD. The following is a list of compatible players and links to their manufacturer’s websites:

  • Humanware makes the Victor Reader Stream, the Apex BrailleNote/VoiceNote and the Victor Reader Stratus (also plays CDs).
  • LevelStar, Inc. makes the Icon (no longer in their product catalog but still works with MN BARD).
  • American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes the Book Port Plus and the Braille Plus Mobile Manager (no longer in their product catalog but still works with MN BARD).
  • HIMS makes the BookSense, the BookSense DS, the BookSense XT, Bookport DT, and the Braille Sense OnHand.
  • PlexTalk makes the PlexTalk PTN2 and the PlexTalk Pocket PTP1.
  • Bones, Inc., makes the Milestone 212 and Milestone 312.

Please remember that BARD files will not play on a computer. You must have an NLS or NLS-authorized player.