Reading Alternatives and Aids

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | February 2019

If you’re experiencing difficulty or significant strain while reading books, and large-print books or assistive devices are no longer helpful, then it might be time to look for alternatives. It can be difficult to give up something you love, understandably, but there are ways to continue enjoying the material that you used to read.

Audiobooks and talking books

Audiobooks are a great way to listen to books, and most libraries have an audiobook section. Multiple apps like Audible also offer memberships for audiobooks. There are also things called Talking Books, which are recorded books and magazines in audio format, provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and are free to loan to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.1 You can find more information about it on their website. Their phone number is 888-657-7323.


If you have a smartphone, browse the variety of podcasts on the store app. Podcasts can range from a few minutes to more than an hour, and chances are, if there is a subject you enjoy, there is probably a podcast about it. Podcasts typically have a subscribe option, which will automatically download new episodes for you each week so you can conveniently continue to listen. Listening to podcasts is a great way to hear about the news, learn about new subjects, and listen to discussions about a wide range of topics.

TED Talks

TED is a company that is “devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).”2 If there is a topic that interests you, there is likely a TED talk about it, and they can be found in more than 100 languages. Talks have been given by global prize-winners, authors, scientists, designers, and more. Here are some of the various ways you in which you can listen to TED talks.


Even if you can’t see what’s on your television screen, with a documentary you can still listen to it. On almost every channel – PBS, the History Channel, HBO, and more – as well as Netflix, there are plenty of documentaries to choose from. Sports, history, the supernatural, science, music, and more. Many television stations also have smartphone apps, so you can bring documentaries wherever you go on your phone or tablet.

Spoken word/readings

If you love literature, seek out readings by authors and spoken word events. Many bookstores and universities will have events that are open to the public, and often draw big-name authors reading from their new books. It’s a great way to spend a night out, socialize, and listen to new literature.

Reading services

In many communities, volunteers may donate their time and services by reading books, magazines, mail, or any other printed material to individuals with visual impairment. Ask your doctor about local organizations for the blind and visually impaired to see if something like this exists in your community.

Other available resources

If you love to read and are frustrated because you’re not able to anymore, it’s natural to be sad. Although it’s not the same as visually reading, there are alternatives to reading that still allow you to learn about various topics and listen to your favorite books or books you want to read – many of which are at low or no cost to you! Talk with your doctor or your local librarian about what resources are available.


By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.