2006 Conference General Sessions





Gerry Chevalier
445, Rue du Parc Industriel

Longueuil J4H 3V6 Canada
Email: gerry.chevalier@humanware.com

The navigable digital talking book in DAISY format is now widely produced and distributed on CD’s by many libraries for the blind, when played on a compatible DAISY CD player, the DAISY book provides high fidelity audio and the ability to navigate by chapter, section, and page.

However, the distribution of CD based digital books still follows the previous paradigm of cassette talking books where distribution is done through the mail using the free postal service available in many countries. The presentation will describe how libraries are looking to the future where books can be distributed through the Internet. To facilitate such future distribution the libraries are beginning to build sophisticated digital repositories that will contain the books on large servers rather than on shelf-based media. The presentation will describe the advantages of such a distribution system both from the aspect of lower operating costs for the library as well as the user advantage of the ‘always available’ title from the virtual bookshelf. Already, some libraries with repositories are burning CD’s on demand based on a known member’s profile of preferred genres or from direct requests of their customer service departments.

It is a logical next step to bypass this process of CD production, packaging, and mailing to simply deliver the book electronically to the member’s Internet enabled DAISY player. The presentation will discuss the challenges for the player manufacturers to build digital talking book players that are capable of receiving, storing, and playing the books. These players will need to negotiate high bandwidth Internet downloads as recorded digital books are typically very large. The players will need onboard flash memory to store the books, and they will need to provide the equivalent playback functionality of current DAISY CD players

The new players will be very compact like a PDA. They will have a choice of simple or complex user interfaces. As the majority of the talking book library members are elderly or otherwise not experienced with the Internet or the concept of downloading, the player will need to connect to the library, download, and store the book without any user intervention. For more technically aware members the player will need to support a catalogue browse and search feature to allow those members to interact directly with their library repository for their reading choices.

The availability of high bandwidth Internet service will need to be considered. Libraries may approach their government to subsidize the cost of this service based on anticipated savings from the removal of free postal delivery of CD’s.

In the United States, the NISO standard for digital talking books was adopted in 2002. It expanded on the DAISY standard to provide a navigable high quality reading experience of digital books. In 2008, NLS (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress) will launch its NISO digital talking book service. This new service will distribute books through the mail on specially designed digital book cartridges. The new digital players will need an option to interface to the NLS book media so that NLS members can enjoy both the NLS books as well as receive electronically distributed material from NLS and other providers.

Clearly, the future holds much promise for the audio book reader and offers access to more content, faster, and with more playback flexibility than was ever imagined just a few years ago. We will soon not imagine but actually experience a digital talking book player that fits in the palm of our hand, connects without wires to an Internet modem in our home, automatically connects to our library and downloads our book automatically. Instead of looking in our mailbox we will only need to turn on our player, press the Bookshelf button, and listen to which book will have been just received. All of this will be possible without the expense or technical knowledge needed to purchase and operate a PC. The presentation will allow time for the audience to discuss and offer feedback on their preferred functionalities for these new flash based, Internet capable digital talking book players.

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