There are thousands of choices on the iOS App Store for reading books. For individuals with disabilities, there was no way to utilize the free resources of the National Library Services Talking Book Program on Mainstream devices like the iPhone or iPad until now. Recently, NLS released the BARD Mobile app for iOS which allows for users to listen to their free talking books on iOS devices. Lets look at the app, and you will find that as a VoiceOver user, this app is a must have if you are a member of the talking book program.
Signing up to use the app is a bit of a hassle. You must first be a part of the talking book program in your state. Once you are, you can sign up for theBARD program at the BARD website. Once your all signed up, reset your password, and download the BARD Mobile app.
Navigating the app
BARD Mobile is a simple app that uses all of the iOS Human Interface Guidelines. There is a simple tab bar at the bottom which contains Bookshelf, Get Books, Settings, and now reading. The Bookshelf tab contains sections to the different types of books you’ve downloaded, Get books has links for you to find and download books and magazines. Settings lets you sign out of your account or change background audio settings which you must turn on, or reading will stop when you leave the app. There is also a setting for downloading over cellular. If you do not have a limited data plan, then you might want to turn this setting on. The Now reading tab contains the player. This only appears when you are actively listening to a book. The neat thing about this player is that it looks just like the NLS talking book player you order in the mail. The controls are VoiceOver compliant, and work just as the actual NLS player would.
Downloading books could use some work. To download a book, you must go to the Get Books tab and then browse the new books. Once you find something you must add the book to your wish list. You can also go to the BARD website, and find older books there and add those books to your wish list. Once you’ve added a book to your wish list you can find that book in the wish list section of Get Books and selecting the book there will add the book to your bookshelf. You must then go back to your Bookshelf tab and monitor your book’s download status. Several have said they have had issues with the books downloading, so it may take one or two tries to get your book. I saw an extraction error on a book which deleted the book from my device.
The BARD Mobile app has great audio playback. The app offers background playback, but has a few issues if other system events occur. The developer should research proper use of background playback, and make a few changes. Once this is done, the playback will be extremely solid.
The BARD Mobile app for iOS is a great new alternative for disabled readers who belong to a state’s Talking Book Program. I really look forward to future updates, and would recommend this app to anyone.