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Reading a Book From NNELS

Last updated: June 14, 2023

Now that you’ve downloaded a book, you can start reading it. How you’ll do that will depend on which format your book is in and which device you want to use to read it.

Book Formats

NNELS offers books in several formats. All formats are fully accessible, and you can choose which format you would like based on your preferences. Not every book is available in every format; most books will be available in one or two formats.

Below is a summary of each format and what you can expect when you download a book in that format.


EPUB is a standard ebook format which contains the book’s content as electronic text, similar to a PDF. They may contain images, headings, internal links to other parts of the book, external links to websites, and other elements. They can be read using your screen reader’s voice, a separate text-to-speech engine within a reading app, or in Braille using a Braille display.

When you download a book in EPUB format, you will receive a single EPUB file ready to be opened and read in any compatible app.


MP3 is a compressed audio format designed for storing audio without occupying too much space. It cannot match the sound quality of raw, uncompressed formats, and it lacks features found in formats designed for audiobooks, but its smaller size makes it quicker to download and easier to store, and it can be played on just about any system that can play audio.

When you download an audiobook in MP3 format, you will receive a zip file containing several MP3 files. Audiobooks are broken up into parts to provide navigation landmarks and to avoid having excessively large files. The parts are numbered, and the files are named in a way which will ensure they are played in order.

In addition to the apps detailed in this guide, any app you use to play music files on your device can also play MP3 audiobooks. Some well-known examples are:

If your media player cannot play a zipped MP3 audiobook, extract the files in the zip file to a regular folder.

Did you know NNELS offers described video tracks for movies? If you come across an MP3 download with no narrator listed, this is not an audiobook but rather an audio track describing the visual elements of a movie. You can play it alongside the movie in question to make movie night more accessible for you.


DAISY is a digital book format designed for people with print disabilities. It is an older format which can contain text, audio, or both. DAISY books containing both text and audio offer features not available in audio-only formats, such as searching for text within the audio and speeding up playback without losing audio quality. Unlike EPUB or MP3 files, DAISY is supported by limited devices and apps.
When you download a DAISY book from NNELS, you will receive a zip file containing the book’s data. Some apps can open DAISY files in this compressed format, while some require the contents to be unzipped. When unzipping a DAISY book, ensure all its files are extracted to the same folder. Do not extract multiple DAISY books to the same folder.


PDF is a portable document format (PDF), which is supported on a wide array of devices. It is not specifically designed for ebooks and is missing some of the features EPUB offers, but it supports some accessibility features, such as image descriptions.

In addition to the apps detailed in this guide, books in PDF format can be read using any accessible app which can open PDF, such as Adobe Reader. These apps may not contain features such as table of contents navigation or read-aloud.


DOC is the text format used by Microsoft Word. A limited number of publications in the NNELS repository are available in this format. In addition to the apps detailed in this guide, DOC files can be opened in word processors like Microsoft Word and Pages.


RTF, or Rich Text Format, is a lightweight text format. It is not designed for complex documents and does not support many features beyond limited formatting options. A limited number of publications in the NNELS repository are available in this format. RTF files can be opened in just about any word processor.


BRF is an electronic Braille format designed to be read on a Braille display or made into hardcopy using a Braille embosser. EPUB and other text formats can be read using Braille displays, but BRF can provide more precise control over formatting and translation, which may not be preserved when translating print to Braille in real-time.
When you download a book in BRF format, you will receive a zip file containing the BRF files which comprise the book. Larger books will be split into multiple files, similar to how hardcopy Braille books are split into several volumes.

For specific instructions regarding transferring a BRF file onto and reading it using a Braille display or for embossing it into hardcopy Braille, consult the user guide for your Braille display, Braille translation software and/or Braille embosser.

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