Library DrawingThe CONNector

JANUARY 2000Volume 2 Number 1

Digital Talking Books and the Future

Carol Taylor, Director, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

The constantly changing audio technology has required the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to develop a plan for the production of digital talking books in the future. A digitally based system will improve the sound quality and give the talking book user the ability to move through the recording with ease and access the full text of a book in electronic form to allow for keyword searching and spelling of the words.

The first major step by NLS in its move toward the digital format was to establish a committee to oversee the development of a national digital talking-book standard under the auspices of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). The full committee is made up of consumers, talking book producers, service providers and other interested parties. Another major step in the development has been the installation of a digital duplication system in a new state-of-the-art digital recording facility in Cincinnati. Wells B. Kormann, chief of the NLS Materials Development Division and chair of the Library's Digital Audio Development committee says that, "... there remains much work to be done in determining how and with what delivery mechanism digital talking books will eventually become available to users. Having digital recording and duplication standards in place within the next several years will allow NLS to build digital archives of talking books and magazines. This will be important when we are able to offer patrons access to digital recordings in the future."

Last year NLS began offering braille readers of the service digital braille books accessed on the Internet. Individuals, schools or libraries may download or read on-line more than 2,700 braille titles using braille embossers and/or refreshable braille displays. "This is the first massive effort internationally to make braille book collections accessible on the Internet," says Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of NLS. This achievement reflects the Library of Congress commitment to make its collections more usable and accessible to eligible users. It also reflects the first initiative by NLS to distribute its collections of books and magazines in digital formats to its borrowers."

A detailed report, "Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future", is available upon request, in Braille, large print or cassette formats, from the NLS Reference Section, Washington, D.C., 20542; (202) 707-9275; E-mail: nls@loc.gov; Fax (202)707-0712.

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