BARD mobileThis is a fairly old press release, but it only came to my attention recently. Last year, the Library of Congress released an iOS app to allow access to NLS BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) accounts. I did a quick search of our archives, and it doesn’t look like we covered it.

Since I’m sighted and don’t have a BARD account, I couldn’t test the app, but this feature piqued my interest.

“With BARD Mobile, patrons can play talking books and magazines on their iOS devices. Patrons may also read electronic braille books, magazines and music scores using a refreshable braille display connected to their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch through Bluetooth.”  Patrons will be able to receive their reading materials faster and won’t have to be weighted down with bulky volumes or playback equipment.

Okay, as a gadget lover, that is cool. Never heard of a refreshable braille display? Neither had I, so, of course, I did a search and found this Wikipedia entry.

From reading the reviews on the App Store, it seems that the app has been well received. Several users said it was much easier to access the library resources from the app. One reviewer said “Having such convenient access to books has literally changed the life of this blind user.”

There are some complaints. Apparently locations aren’t synced across devices smoothly, and the app is a battery hog according to some. There are also some comments that the user interface could be improved. What’s interesting, however, is that even the users with complaints still rate it 4 stars. Those kinds of complaints on other apps would generate 2 or 3 star reviews. That tells me there was a pent-up need that’s finally being addressed.

Android users don’t despair. The release said they were working on an Android version, although a quick search of Google Play didn’t turn up one yet.

If any readers are using the app, please chime in with your comments.


  1. I have been a customer of BARD and the National Library Service from the time they used multi-track audio cassettes to fit large amounts of audio on a single tape. Then they moved to a digital format utilizing a custom piece of audio hardware that plays their proprietary audio format. That was a big improvement over the cassettes but still required this large player. Then the BARD app was released. This new app has made it so much easier to listen to the available audiobooks without having to lug around a big audio player. It is far from perfect at this point, but is a vast improvement over the previous options. Being able to download a book to play on my iPod Touch or iPad is a real boon for this visually impaired user.

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