Audio books, newspapers and magazines are available to listen to on CD, cassette tape, and in digital formats like MP3.

  • Digital: You can download and listen to digital audio books, magazines and newspapers on your computer, MP3 player (such as an iPod), tablet (such as an iPad or Galaxy Tab) or mobile phone. You can listen to eBooks using an ebook reader (such as a Kindle) with text-to-speech.
  • CD, cassette and DAISY : You can listen to CDs and cassettes on a stereo or other music system that has a CD and/or cassette player. You can listen to RNIB Talking Books using a DAISY player.

If you've never used an audio book, newspaper or magazine before, especially if you're planning to download a digital audio file, it may sound like a daunting prospect. Don't worry! It's usually quite straightforward once you know what's what. 

Audio book, talking book or eBook?

Audio books are primarily recorded by actors and other professional readers, although some are recorded by the author. If you're listening to an eBook, the voice will be synthetic.

  • 'Audio book' is a general term for books that you listen to, usually narrated by a real person. Audio books are sometimes also called talking books (written with lower case t and b) or spoken word books.
  • Talking Books (with a capital T and B) is the name of an RNIB service that provides audio books in DAISY format. We call this a Talking Book.
  • Downloadable audio books are electronic versions of an audio books that can be read on a phone, computer or MP3 player.
  • eBooks can be read using 'text-to-speech'. This is when computers and eBook readers read out the text on screen in synthetic speech.

Text-to-Speech

Text-to-speech (TTS) is when computers, eBook readers and other devices read out text on screen in computer-generated synthetic speech. It can be used to listen to books and newspapers but also things like menu options on electronic equipment and computers. Listen to some samples of  text-to-speech in eBooks

Audio formats

Audio can be in traditional formats such as CD or cassette tape which you can play on a stereo or other music system that has a CD and/or cassette player. You can also get audio on DAISY CD which is a special type of CD played on a DAISY player or on DAISY software on your computer. 

Audio can also be in digital formats. You can download and listen to digital audio on your computer, MP3 player (such as an iPod), tablet (such as an iPad or Galaxy Tab) or mobile phone. You can listen to eBooks using an ebook reader (such as a Kindle) with 'text-to-speech' enabled.

File types

It isn't necessarily important to understand the precise differences between digital formats, but you need to ensure the book or newspaper you want to listen to can be played on the audio player you choose. The most common format is MP3 which is a digital audio file similar to a track on a CD or LP which is stored digitally.

Downloading audio books

When you 'download' something you save it from its original source (often a website) and save it somewhere else (on your computer, on a memory stick, on an MP3 player, or on an eBook reader for instance).

There are lots of places to download audio, and there are thousands of books to choose from and also newspapers and magazines. You often have to pay to download audio, but some older or classic books that are no longer subject to copyright are available free, recorded by volunteers. 

Our beginners' guide to getting started with download audio covers everything from what are download audio books, to the devices you can use, where to find downloadable titles and also where to get support:

Getting_started_with_download_audio_books (Word, 252 KB)


Alternatively, you can order a copy  in large print, audio CD or braille by calling our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email helpline@rnib.org.uk  

Our guide and our page on buying audio is full of links to websites where you can buy (or get free) audio books, newspapers and magazines. All these places want to make life easy for their customers, so that you choose to buy from them again! This means that they usually offer clear instructions, good help pages or FAQs and a contact number or form. Take the time to read the help pages and advice offered by each website.

DAISY format explained

DAISY is a special kind of CD that lets you have greater control over the audio books or publications you listen to. RNIB's audio books service - Talking Books are produced using DAISY format. 

With DAISY CDs you can:

  • Change CD or take a break from reading without losing your place. The player will remember where you stopped, even if you eject the CD, and will restart exactly where you left off.
  • Bookmark a section or passage for future reference - perfect for study material or finding a favourite recipe.
  • Skip quickly and easily to the right chapter, page, section or subsection in your talking book.
  • Customise the volume and speed of the audio on the player to suit you.

DAISY CDs can hold large amounts of information - around 25 hours of audio can fit on one DAISY CD. It can also incorporate text and graphics with the audio. 

DAISY can be played on a standalone DAISY player or by using DAISY software on a computer, both of which can be purchased from the RNIB online shop.

DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System. It is now a recognised worldwide standard for audio, developed by the DAISY Consortium which includes charities such as RNIB and commercial organisations like Microsoft.

Equipment needed for audio

Listening to audio on a CD or cassette simply needs a stereo or other music system that has a CD and/or cassette player. 

Using DAISY CDs needs a DAISY player or DAISY software on your computer, or it can be played on some normal CD players. 

Downloading audio needs an internet connection and a computer, MP3 player, tablet or mobile phone to save the audio on. Some specialist MP3 players like the Victor Reader Stream or the Milestone can be used to listen to downloaded audiobooks. Read our guide to audiobooks_on_specialist_devices (Word, 158 KB).

Help with technology

If you're a bit green when it comes to technology, don't fret. Our technology section has some useful beginner's guides to get you started. We also have a Technology Support Squad - a team of UK-wide volunteers who can visit you to help you understand your gadgets and gizmos.

Reading services from RNIB

We make it possible for you to get access to books, newspapers and magazines in the format you prefer, whether that’s braille, audio, large print or digital. You can borrow from our library service – the largest of its kind in the UK – or buy from our online shop.

RNIB reading services