1999 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 1999 Conference Table of Contents

DAISY work at TPB –establishing a new talking book model

Kjell Hansson
Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille
SE-122 88 Enskede / Sweden
Phone: +46-8-399350 Fax: +46-8-6599467
E-mail: kjell.hansson@tpb.se / hansson@ibm.net

DAISY getting real in Sweden
Lars Sönnebo, IT-advisor
Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille
S-122 88 Enskede / Sweden

The report to the Government

The commission

Investigate the existing model, asking libraries and users (readers) to find out what is wrong and what works well.

Make a survey of current and future technology that may be of use for talking book purposes - for production, distribution and reading.

Describe possible methods and set-ups for production, distribution and book reading.

Define new goals and suggest how to go forward.


Report delivered to the Swedish Ministry of Education in November 1998. It was also distributed to libraries and other involved institution.

New projects have been started, aiming to test and then implement the new technology to make it work on a full scale.

The Swedish model for talking books

What is produced at TPB?

TPB is a governmental institution with a central responsibility for production of literature in alternative formats to people with print impairments. The main areas of production are talking books, Braille books and e-text books. The production of talking books on cassette has up to now been the bulk part of TPB:s work.

TPB:s goal is to make 25% of the total yearly amount of Swedish literature in alternate format. In practical figures, this means 3000 to 3500 new titles per year. The main part of this production is talking books.

Who borrows from TPB?

Material produced by TPB is lent, not sold. The Swedish legislation for talking book production allows TPB to make talking books or alternative format versions of almost any published printed material, provided that there are no commercial elements involved.

Individuals do not borrow their books directly from TPB. Instead, all lending goes via local libraries, who in turn borrow from TPB. An exception to this is print impaired university students, who receive their textbook material directly from TPB.

No in-house production

TPB uses commercial companies for the actual recording work. The work is supervised by TPB:s staff to ensure the best possible quality. The contracted producers use professional narrators and proof-readers.

The local libraries also have stocks of frequently read talking book titles, which means they only have to borrow from TPB when they haven’t got what a reader is asking for.

Current collection

TPB has over 55000 talking book titles in their library – a total of about half a million playing hours. The amount grows by over 3000 titles per year.


Invented by TPB

The original concept for DAISY was invented and defined by TPB as an internal project started in 1993. The first tools for production and reading of DAISY books were also developed by TPB during 1994 and 1995.

In 1996, the international DAISY Consortium was formed. Since then, the development of the concept and tools have been carried out by the Consortium.


TPB has an active role in the DAISY Consortium, and will be one of the first members to make use of the new talking book concept on a large scale.

TPB works to keep up well established experience in efficient use of DAISY technology. This experience can then be transferred to TPB:s subcontracted producers. TPB has produced over 200 DAISY titles, using the first version of the DAISY talking book format (called ’DAISY 1’). During the autumn of 1998, a shift in technology and standards will take place with the occurrence of the next generation of the talking book format – DAISY 2.


The first versions of the new tools for producing titles in DAISY 2 format were released in October 1998. TPB will take part in testing and evaluation work together with other DAISY Consortium members, and will also start experimental production in DAISY 2 during the last months of 1998.

An experimental studio will be set up locally at TPB, which will be used for DAISY 2 production on a somewhat larger scale. This set-up will be used for optimisation of the production process and will also be used for training of TPB:s producers when the time is ripe to contract these for more regular DAISY 2 production.

The mission and the vision

The new talking book production and distribution system outlined in TPB:s report to the Government will offer a number of significant improvements over the old system, based on talking books stored on compact cassette, distributed by post to the local libraries. Some of the main benefits are listed below.

Digital standardised format

DAISY 2 is a flexible format for talking books in a broad sense – the books can contain narrated human speech (audio) as well as e-text, images etc. in any mixture. Due to copyright restrictions however, TPB will mainly make use of the audio capabilities of DAISY 2, until the day the legislation for talking books has been changed.

Structured audio

The underlying concept of DAISY is structure, which means DASIY books containing audio are "structured audio books". The concept of structured audio offers DAISY books readers a host of new possibilities when it comes to efficient navigation reading control. The new possibilities will be of most evident benefit to "advanced" readers such as student, but will also offer a lot of help to readers of almost any kind of literature.

Better sound quality

Digital audio technology can be used to offer talking book readers much higher audio quality that was possible using compact cassettes. The quality of digital audio does not degrade as it is being copied, which means it is possible to listen to a DAISY book with the same fidelity as in the recording studio.

Extended services to readers

As said above, the introduction of DAISY for talking books will in itself mean a lot to the talking book readers. The report also points out a number of new and improved services that can be provided by local libraries to the end users, such as shorter delivery times, customised distribution formats to fit different kind of playback equipment, no waiting time for borrowing popular titles and so on.

Most of these new services will be dependent on use of wideband digital communication network for talking book distribution. This new form of distribution may eventually take over completely replace sending of DAISY books by post on a data carrier such as CD-ROM. Instead, the talking book media can be produced by the local library.

Preparing for the future – e-text, talking newspapers, hybrid books

DAISY technology may be used for other types of production than just plain talking books. TPB aims to start using DAISY as the format also for pure e-text books as soon as agreements have been made with the publishers. TPB will also promote the of the DAISY format also for "talking newspapers", i.e. where the text has been narrated.

TPB regards the concept of the "hybrid book" as a very attractive kind of publication for the future. A hybrid book will contain information in doubled formats: e-text and audio. Text and audio will be fully synchronised, which will be a powerful form of media for e.g. dyslectic readers.

Future production in DAISY format at TPB

TPB plan to stop recording in analogue format in January 2000 at the latest. By then, all involved subcontractors will be geared up for efficient, full-scale DAISY production.

Production in DAISY 2 format will however start during 1999, to build up a reasonably large collection of DAISY titles as soon as possible. During this time, we will fine-tune the involved production technology.

Transferring existing archive material

TPB has over half a million playing hours currently stored on open reel magnetic tape. The most important part of this collection will be converted to DAISY format, using PC technology and software tools developed by the DAISY Consortium.

Efficiency in the "tape transfer" process is of course highly important. TPB will set up a system locally that will demonstrate the principles and methods for the process. TPB:s contracted producers will have the ability to copy this set-up or to develop even better solutions.

Live recording

TPB will have an experimental studio geared up for efficient direct recording in DAISY format. This studio may be used for small-scale regular production work, but will also be used as a reference installation for our producers.

In our own studio, we will concentrate upon self-assisted narration work, where the narrator controls the main part of the recording work without assistance from a studio technician. Our contracted producers may however choose to work in a different way.

Audio quality testing

In our own studio, we will be able to measure audio quality of DAISY books, as well as to make judgements on other aspects of the production, such as the quality of the narration itself.

The studio will be have high quality equipment installed, though one of the goals is to demonstrate how high audio quality may be produced by using rather modestly priced equipment, due to the fact that digital audio quality will not be degraded in the production or distribution process.

Storage format

The audio data in a DAISY book needs to be compressed in some way, and this compression in many cases needs to be a part of the recording process. Using uncompressed (PCM) audio format would result in high costs for archiving, and would also mean that talking book material would need to be compressed in a separate step before distribution.

It is of course important to choose a digital audio storage format that offers the best possible trade-off between audio quality, data size and necessary computation power for encoding.

The goal for TPB is to offer maximum possible sound quality for materials with a relatively short play length – say up to 15 hours. For larger materials, as for example many textbooks, a slightly lower sound quality will be accepted, since it will be of importance to fit one title onto one single carrier, such as a CD-ROM disc. The data size is also of great importance when it comes to electronic distribution of DAISY books.

TPB plans to use MPEG Layer-3 audio as the standard format for our books, since this type of compression offers a great flexibility in compression factors and sonic quality. The disadvantage with MP3 is that it takes quite a lot of computation power to encode, which may result in less efficient production.

For highest possible efficiency, ADPCM will still be used in some cases, especially when sound quality is less important than production speed.

New technology for audio compression may come into use at TPB as soon as it becomes standardised enough. We have for example great hope for the TwinVQ technology.

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 1999 Conference Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.