Audiobooks and MP3 players

Audiobooks are pretty much my only form of entertainment. I get my ears full of popular music, that holds no particular interest for me, whilst I am working out at the local gym (at which I am the token blind guy and usually very carefully ignored)! A few years ago, somebody suggested that I should join the RNIB talking books service. I exhausted their supply of hard science fiction in the first few months and, even though the local authority was paying for my membership (back then), dropped out of the end of the year.

I've never used a Daisy player and I don't want to… I used to copy the MP3 files from the CDs that arrived in the post and send them straight back again… copying them to my MP3 player.

I've also discovered that there is no such thing as a good guide to MP3 players when it comes to handling audiobooks and I wouldn't be looking for anything like this, had not SanDisk, in their infinite wisdom, discontinued manufacturing the Sansa Clip Zip (automatically bookmarks everything you are reading and resumes when you go back to any one particular book), as a graphics equaliser and a volume output the really does mostly do away the need for a secondary portable, in-line amplifier). You can still get these players on the second-hand market, but their rarity is now pushing the price up. The SanDisk successor players (clip jam and clip sport) don't really cater for the series audiobook listener and I'm wondering what I'm going to do when my present player eventually conks out! I tried writing to the RNIB techies about this and they suggested something truly horrible that I hope to never have to use. By now, you've probably got the idea that I am something of a free spirit, pretty much going my way, doing my own thing and coming up with pathways and go outside the convention.

Comments (18)

SteveW's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by SteveW

I use the Clip Jam, and it works OK for me. I agree that Daisy players are very expensive for what they do, and like you I just copy the mp3 tracks to the player.

Natalie - Moderator's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by Natalie - Moderator

Hi BlindAlley, thanks for sharing your ideas, lots of great suggestions for people to think about.
I think we would just want to tell people to avoid going to third party websites as they can be filled with bugs and problems and also downloading from these sites is illegal.
Also you can get access to around 25,000 titles for Free from RNIBs Talking Books service and you can get them in a lot of different formats, Audio CD or USB, digital downloads or braille and large print. To find out more call the helpline on 0303 1234 555 or search Talking books in the search bar at the top of the page.
Good Luck

This comment has been edited by the moderator

BlindAlley's picture

Reply to Natalie Swiderska - Staff by BlindAlley

I can understand why you would want to warn people about the legality of the sites I've mentioned… although my experience, to date, is that there is no more malicious software to be found on these site than anywhere else. Downloads do not take place from the sites themselves, but from third-party clouds.

I can also understand you being extremely defensive of RNIB talking books, even though the selection offered is very limited and pales into insignificance when compared to these other sites. It is true that talking books has a wonderful selection, if you are into oestrogen-charged romantic fiction… by comparison its selection of science fiction (and I am excluding fantasy titles) is fiddling and small and includes things like Doctor Who in Star Trek which, quite honestly, I wouldn't call science-fiction! About three years ago I joined RNIB talking books and had pretty-well exhausted anything they had, of interest, inside the first year. This was back when you had to PAY to join the talking books service and my local authority funded this. The city council asked me whether I'd like funding for another year and I said no, closed down my membership completely and began my search for alternative sources.

-InTheWorldOfTheBlind-'s picture

Reply to BlindAlley by -InTheWorldOfTheBlind-


I use a service called LibriVox. which holds audio readings of books in the public domain (those out of copyright everywhere in the world including the UK and America).

They have recordings of HG Wells, Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick Novels. Quality varies - not in terms of recording but in terms of reading style although the only recordings I really struggled with were the Island of Dr Moreau (which had a different reader for each chapter) and Asimov's foundation trilogy (which was an old bbc radio drama adaptation where the reading was fine but unfortunately was filled with jarring experimental synth music which somewhat marred the experience). Automated bookmarking on the Android app seems buggy but putting your own bookmarks in seems to work fine. I'm not sure how the experience varies for iphone users but I might see if I can get my wife to install the app on her phone so I can test it.

As I mentioned in the 'introductions' part of the forum as well as being partially sighted I also work for the RNIB and it was mentioned to me that LibriVox is included as part of our new "RNIB in your Pocket" device. I've been able to confirm that although it doesn't appear to be in the initial blurb it is definitely on the device. Essentially the device is an android device with some form of android on it and various RNIB services on it as well as librivox, so I assume the version on RNIB in your Pocket would be similar to or the same as the normal android version.

I'm cutting and pasting some blurb on the device itself below as well as a link for the RNIB website. Of course you're free to just download the app for an android or iphone/ipad device if you have one of these and that suits you better. That way you wouldn't have a £20 a month subscription to pay but you also wouldn't have access to some of the other features of the RNIB In your Pocket.

Blurb beneath the dashed line

Introducing a new RNIB reading solution
RNIB In Your Pocket (HM61)
We know that blind and partially sighted people want access to the same magazines, newspapers and books as their peers. We believe reading can make a world of difference, which is why we are excited to launch “RNIB In Your Pocket”.

We’ve created RNIB In Your Pocket by adapting a Samsung media player to bring you a dedicated reading device. Your monthly payment includes the device, a subscription to the whole of RNIB Newsagent and Talking Books. RNIB Newsagent has almost 200 titles, from daily newspapers to monthly magazines and Talking Books allows you access to over 25,000 books – all of which can be accessed via one voice command.

RNIB In Your Pocket is easy to use, regardless of how tech-savvy you are. Initial users across a range of ages found it simple to use straight out of the box, with no need to configure settings.

With In Your Pocket, there’s no waiting for the postman. Just say “Read me The Guardian” and In Your Pocket will oblige.

Please note: Customers need to call the Helpline to order (cannot be purchased online). Helpline to pass their details to [email protected]

Variable £20.00 ex vat per month


You can also find an entry on the player at this web address:

although, as mentioned in the previous blurb the player isn't available through the online store adn you'll have to call our helpline to order.

In terms of mp3 players if you're looking for something just for home use I have a large boombox (not it's official name) supplied to me by Wireless for the Blind. It has compatability with tape, CD, MP3 CD (I think - and possibly this includes daisy but I wouldn't know and haven't trialed it) DAB radio, FM radio and it has slots for SD cards and Memory pens - not been able to test those as I don't have any spare SDs and the only memory pen I tried had some kind of annoying proprietary folder forma

I hope you've found this useful.

-InTheWorldOfTheBlind-'s picture

Reply to InTheWorldOfTheBlind by -InTheWorldOfTheBlind-

Excuse the cut off in the last reply - it was cut and pasted from a notepad document and then I tried adding stuff before the last sentence but it appears there's a character limit to replies here. The second to last bit should read ' the memory stick I used had some kind of annoying proprietary folder format that the player couldn't read'.

BlindAlley's picture

Reply to -InTheWorldOfTheBlind- by BlindAlley

Back when I could still read, I didn't bother with periodicals of any kind and so the RNIB and keep its hands out of my pocket. Librivox is okay and I have even been a one off contributory reader for this organisation. However, it is limited by copyright and so only things with inches of dust on them form a part of their library. The RNIB talking books service is all very well if you are into oestrogenIt-charged romantic fiction. It's technically possible to sign up for this service, on its own, free of charge and, in truth, you'd have to be silly to pay for it. Audiobooks are overpriced and if the RNIB really wanted to do something useful, then it would negotiate some kind of cost reduction/elimination, for people living with severe sight impairment, with both central government and major sellers of audio titles, such as Amazon. Now that really would be something, but the RNIB is no longer the firebrand it used to be… more like an ageong toothless poodle With memories of a golden age long past!

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SteveW's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by SteveW

Hi BlindAlley
I think you asre being a bit rough on RNIB Talking books- it is possible to find good books that are not romantic fiction- not my choice either- and the recordings are usually good quality. The local library is always worth a try- either rip the audio CDs to mp3 or use their Overdrive downloads.
The reason that the download sites you mention need a proxy server is because some of the stuff on there is copyright- not everyone might be comfortable with that. I would also suggest scanning
everything for viruses too.
Probably there is no one source that will suit everyone- it depends on how comfortable you are downloading
Hope you find enough stuff you like to keep reading.
All the best- Steve

wchris's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by wchris

Thanks for your comments.
Apparently windows does not support MP3 files anymore. I have used the local library for talking books I prefer a download to a link . VLC media player so far works on other formats especially from the RNIB library. best wishes

SteveW's picture

Reply to wchris by SteveW

Windows will play mp3s- but you will need a suitable music player. Something like WinAmp is free, but I'm not sure how accessible it is. I can get by with magnification so I can use it.
VLC is also available on Windows.
best regards

wchris's picture

Reply to SteveW by wchris

Hi Steve , do you know about SML files? I have RNIB talking books on memory stick and I cannot convert them MP3 nor can Media Player or VLC. I found some free software to convert though each chapter has to be done separately which I could perhaps go back to, I thought I did email RNIB though cannot remember! best wishes

SteveW's picture

Reply to wchris by SteveW

Hi wchris,
RNIB books are DAISY recordings, designed to play on special players. However, if you look at the disk or stick with a file manager, you will see that there are different sorts of files, including SMIL and MP3 files. If you are reading on an MP3 player you can ignore the SMIL files as they do not have any audio information- just indexing information for the DAISY software. RNIB talking books on USB sticks or Cds should play on MP3 players without conversion- your player will ignore the other stuff. You might get some tracks in the wrong order- although most recent books I have tried have been fime.
Hope this helps- regards Steve

NadiaB's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by NadiaB

Hi, I recently joined RNIB talking books, and I use their overdrive service. It couldn't be simpler to use, and it's free. Just install it on your computer, join the overdrive service, borrow and download your books and away you go. You can listen on your computer as I do, or on your smart device.

BlindAlley's picture

Reply to NadiaB by BlindAlley

RNIB talking books has one appears to be an outstanding selection of audiobooks for women. When I first signed up for RNIB talking books, they was still sending physical disks in the post and I finished up with an almost unstoppable deluge of oestrogen-charged romantic fiction, through my letterbox nearly every day! I honestly thought the service only sent you what you had requested and I found out differently. I pleaded with the librarian to please, pretty please, stop sending me a load of stuff that most blokes wouldn’t be interested in. If you are into science fiction (the proper stuff and NOT Doctor Who, Blake’s seven and other assorted drivel, then the RNIB talking book service has a very poor selection and one that I exhausted very quickly). In common with a lot of science-fiction purists, I don’t want anything to do with fantasy books… sword and sorcery just doesn’t do it for me and I don’t count the stuff written by Anne McCaffrey is anything like science-fiction. So, what’s left. Well if you ignore Librivox (as most people do). The plain fact of the matter is that audiobooks cost way too much money and successive governments have ignored the possibility of subsidising this kind of media, for registered blind people. In a far-off day, the RNIB used to be a firebrand would go into bat on issues like this… but they’ve gone soft. I’ve been a campaigner most of my adult life and I maintain that if the system is unfair and stacked against you, then the only way to fight back against it is to break all rules, and that’s what I do… quite unashamedly.

Of course nowadays it is possible to download audiobooks directly from RNIB’s site and the service is free… probably because you couldn’t get away with charging for something like this service, not any more. I only rejoined RNIB talking books because I wanted to get hold of a book by Richard Cowper, that I couldn’t find anywhere else. After I had grabbed this, I took a quick look around and nothing much had changed in the library listings of stuff for guys… this is a service mainly for women, although I dare say that the RNIB would try their best to refute this. Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary and they would be ignoring the elephant in the room by attempting anything like this.

This comment has been edited by the moderator

SteveW's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by SteveW

Hi BlindAlley, good to hear from you again.
Would be interested in your definition of 'Pure' Science fiction. I happen to enjoy Sword and Sorcery, but I agree the distinction blurs a bit. If you look for Science Fiction in RNIB Talking Books you get 950 titles- a fair number are not things I would personally read, but most of them fit the genre and there are some undoubted classics. I used to read a lot of Science Fiction- when I could read print- but I prefer stuff thats a bit lighter on audio.
Look forward to hearing from you

Tim Moderator's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by Tim Moderator

While we largely want to promote freedom of expression in our forums there are a number of necessary rules which we ask our forum users to follow. This includes the following:

"Your content must not:


advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act, for example copyright, trade mark infringement, or computer misuse."

Please take the time to read the full house rules and bear this in mind in the future.

Sean Randall's picture

Reply to BlindAlley by Sean Randall

Hi, Just to mention a possible successor to your Clip Zip or plus, the XDUOO X3 Mini is Rockboxable and seems to share a lot of the features you're after. it has a 24 Bit DAC as well.

SteveW's picture

Reply to Sean Randall by SteveW

XDU00 X3 looks a more expensive option than the Sandisk ones. The Clip Zip is cheap and easy to use. 24 bit DAC is probablu overkill for talking books too!
Another option is to use your mobile phone- many of these play music, so should cope with books

Sean Randall's picture

Reply to SteveW by Sean Randall

The clip zip certainly used to be cheap but they're becoming hard to get hold of. 2nd generation iPod's may be a good intermediary. My big problem in using my phone as an Mp3 player is that I use it for other things, I wouldn't want to be listening to something on the train then need the GPS and find i've killed the battery, so in that regard I do like having a discrete device to listen.