Minnesota Braille and Audio Reading Download (MN BARD)

In addition to loaning talking book cartridges through the mail, the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library (MBTBL) offers patrons access to the Minnesota Braille and Audio Reading Download (MN BARD) website. MN BARD is maintained by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in Washington, D.C. MN BARD is often simply referred to as just “bard”.

MN BARD is an optional service that allows individuals and institutions with a fast Internet connection to download books and magazines directly from the NLS 24/7.  The following are available on MN BARD:

  • Books as electronic braille.
  • Books as digital audio recordings (called Talking Books).
  • Magazines as electronic braille.
  • Magazines as digital audio recordings.

NOTE: Not all titles exist in both braille and audio formats.  Sometimes they exist in one format but not the other.

Requirements for Using MN BARD

  • A high-speed Internet service, such as DSL or cable.
  • A computer connected to the Internet.
  • An active email address.
  • Ability to navigate the Web and complete online forms.
  • Ability to download, unzip and transfer files from one location to another.

Playing downloaded talking books requires patrons to purchase either:

  • A blank, NLS-designed talking book cartridge and cable package (see the Purchase Blank Cartridges and Cables section below); or,
  • A USB flash drive (or memory stick) with at least 512MB capacity. Commercial retailers sell USB flash drives. Before transferring talking books to the flash drive be sure to remove all pre-installed software from the flash drive. Typically, one flash drive or one blank cartridge will be able to hold multiple books. 

Applying for Access to MN BARD

To apply for MN BARD, patrons must:

  1. Be an active library user with the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library; and,
  2. Have a current address on file with the library.

Check with the library regarding eligibility questions before applying.

Apply for access to MN BARD online.

Please note the following when completing the online application:

  • The application should use the eligible patron’s name, not his/her primary contact person.
  • By default “Your library” should be set to “The Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library (Faribault, MN)”.
  • The email address provided will be requested every time the user logs in to MN BARD.
  • Applicants will be asked what type of player they will use for playing audio materials. Patrons who plan on using the free talking book player provided by the NLS should select the “NLS Talking Book Player” option. The other options are for commercially produced talking book players that individuals can purchase and use with NLS-produced talking books.

After applying, patrons will receive several email confirmations, which may take two business days to complete. The final email will include a username and a temporary password. This is a one-time use password. Users will be required to create a new password when they first log in. Passwords should be at least eight characters in length and contain at least one lower case letter and at least one number. Please complete the security question section so you can retrieve a lost password.  If the security question section is not completed, users must contact the library to have their password reset.

BARD applicants registering NLS-authorized commercial players will receive an additional email from the player manufacturer with an authorization key to enable compatibility between their player and the MN BARD files.

MN BARD books and magazines are intended solely for the use of those who meet the eligibility criteria of the NLS. MN BARD patrons are required to agree to the NLS Download Agreement before they have access to MN BARD. This pledge states that “patrons may download materials from BARD solely for their personal use.  Downloaded books and magazines may not be reproduced, transmitted, displayed, distributed, sold, or transferred under any circumstances.”  User IDs and passwords may not be shared with anyone. An exception is made for NLS patrons who rely on a trusted personal assistant to access BARD. The NLS patron is responsible to ensure that the assistant complies with this pledge.

BARD Mobile App

NLS Director Karen Keninger describes BARD Mobile as “a library in your pocket.”

The BARD Mobile app is free to MN BARD patrons. There are two versions of the app: one for Android devices and one for Apple devices. Each MN BARD patron can register up to five devices on their account. They can have a combination of Android and iOS devices. After one year, more devices may be registered.

To download titles, patrons must first add each desired title to their wish list, or select a title from the "Get Books” tab. Although patrons can download the same titles on all devices, the app is unable to synchronize reading positions across multiple devices. Unlike NLS players, iOS and Android devices do not need to be registered.

Visit the NLS’s YouTube playlist: BARD Mobile How-To Series.

BARD Mobile Android app
The Android app is for Android devices running OS 4.1 or later. In its current state (version 1.0), the Android app does not work with electronic braille but it does allow users to download and play audio books and magazines. It is not possible to read electronic braille titles on Android devices at this time.
Get BARD Mobile app from Google Play store.
Read the NLS’s User Guide for help using the BARD Mobile Android app.

BARD Mobile iOS app
The iOS app is for Apple devices running iOS version 4.3 or later. It allows users to download and play audio books and magazines and read electronic braille books, magazines and music scores.
Braille readers need a Bluetooth-enabled, refreshable braille display that is compatible with their iOS device in order to read electronic braille titles.
Get BARD Mobile app from iTunes.
Read the NLS’s User Guide for help using the BARD Mobile iOS app.

Commercial Digital Talking Book Players

In addition to the digital talking book players issued by the NLS, there are also several commercial players that individuals can purchase to play talking books and magazines downloaded from Minnesota Braille and Audio Reading Download (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. Patrons must have an NLS or NLS-authorized player.