Braille Book Review

jULY-aUGUST 2007

In Brief

Journal Français merges with France-Amérique

In April 2007, the monthly French-language publication Journal Français merged with the biweekly newspaper France-Amérique. Current subscribers to Journal Français will continue to receive the revamped publication, France-Amérique, every two weeks.

France-Amérique features French news analysis, trends, interviews, book and film reviews, travel advice, gastronomy, resources on French-language skills, and information on the French-American community in the United States.


The following information is reprinted from two issues of NLS Flash, a newsletter created to bring current information on NLS progress in digital technology to patrons, library staff, and other interested individuals.

Flash, February-March 2007, volume 3, issue 3

Network libraries prepare for distribution of digital talking books and players

With the launch of digital talking books and players less than a year away, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, is preparing the network of cooperating libraries for the transition. The Digital Transition Advisory Committee, established to advise NLS and to help communicate distribution plans to librarians and patrons, is playing an important role in the preparations. The group met for the first time on January 30-31 to discuss the draft transition plans and develop methods of informing the network agencies about them.

"NLS wishes to ensure network libraries have all the resources necessary for a successful digital conversion," says NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "The recent meeting provided an invaluable opportunity to inform committee members about current distribution plans, seek their advice, and address challenges libraries may face as they begin distributing players and circulating digital audiobooks."

The funding factor The committee, which succeeds the Digital Long-Term Planning Group, examined a range of issues. Following presentations on the current transition budget, the digital transition time line, and the status of digital talking-book development, the committee considered how resource availability at the time of implementation might affect libraries. More specifically, the group discussed how individual library funding will impact book and player distribution, shelving options, title duplication, circulation system modifications, and digital-book copy allotment.

Due to technical and cost-related factors, NLS has altered its original plans for digital audiobook distribution. Instead of immediately implementing a hybrid model—mass producing popular titles while duplicating low-demand titles on an as-needed basis—NLS has determined to mass duplicate all digital-book titles. An efficient hybrid system is not yet feasible because effective duplication-on- demand technologies are as yet insufficiently refined, and diverse library circulation systems would be unprepared to sustain the disruptions duplication-on-demand implementation would be likely to entail. NLS plans to revisit hybrid-system development concepts once full mass-duplication implementation has been accomplished— approximately three to five years after the primary system has been launched and adjusted.

The committee also discussed copy allotment issues. The cost of flash-memory cartridges, which is likely to drop significantly during the next several years, will play a key role in determining the number of copies of individual titles available to libraries throughout the transition. After some discussion, the committee agreed that possible temporary copy allotment reductions could probably be offset through careful management of such variables as declining cartridge costs, cartridge recycling, the use of interlibrary loan, and perhaps some innovative short-term centralized storage strategies.

The NLS equipment control officer briefed the Digital Transition Advisory Committee on NLS policies concerning digital talking-book machine distribution. National readership levels will determine the number of players each regional library will receive. Regional libraries will decide how to allot players to subregional libraries.

As for player distribution to patrons, veterans and Ten-Squared Talking-Book Club members (those readers 100 years of age and older) will receive first consideration. Beyond these priorities, each network library must establish its own lending policies.

Other issues the committee addressed included the learning curve associated with operating new technology, the need to develop a tracking system to ensure the safe return of the digital devices, digital-book shelving requirements, future digital-book download capabilities, digital magazine format, distinguishing advanced from basic players, and demonstrating the new players at 2008 consumer conventions. The group agreed to revisit each topic in detail in the coming months.

Transition communication In addition to discussing the challenges libraries may experience during implementation, the committee looked at effective ways by which network library staff could be kept up to date on transition developments. Because funding and technology-related factors will affect player distribution throughout the transition, it is especially important to keep libraries appraised of changes throughout the process. The committee proposed various communication efforts to facilitate the flow of information. These included online instruction and discussion sessions and a communication plan to supplement the Flash newsletter.

Communication with patrons was an important issue for the group. Members were particularly concerned with how to address misconceptions patrons may have regarding production and allocation of digital players—a process that will occur over a four-year period beginning in 2008. NLS agreed to the committee's request to circulate the current digital transition time line among libraries and patrons. The committee further decided to share this information with patrons through local communication channels.

NLS Network Division chief and committee chair Carolyn Sung said that "the central goal is to get the new talking books and players into our patrons' hands as efficiently as possible. Flexibility and open communication channels are fundamental to making that happen."

Finally, the committee considered how to inform patrons of digital title availability. After some discussion, the group agreed that the current method of announcing new cassette titles—through listings in the bimonthly patron publication Talking Book Topics—should be supplemented with a special notation to indicate the availability of the books in digital format.

Moving ahead

At the end of the first Digital Transition Advisory Committee meeting, NLS was better equipped to move forward with two distribution- related projects. During the upcoming prelaunch test, patrons selected by eight regional libraries will test prototypes of the digital talking books and players. Also, NLS will examine digital copy allotment of older book titles. Both projects will ensure that distribution plans stay on course.

Members of the Digital Transition Advisory Committee Consumer groups - Chris Gray, American Council of the Blind - George Brummell, Blinded Veterans Association - David Andrews, National Federation of the Blind

Network libraries - Lissa Shanahan, Indiana Regional Library, Midlands Conference - Jill Lewis, Maryland Regional Library, Northern Conference - Ruth Hemphill, Tennessee Regional Library, Southern Conference - Bessie Oakes, Utah Regional Library, Western Conference - Karen Keninger, Iowa Regional Library, Consortium of User Libraries

State libraries - Irene Padilla, Maryland State Department of Education Division of Library Development and Services - Robert Maier, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners - Michael York, New Hampshire State Library - Doris Ott, North Dakota State Library - Peggy Rudd, Texas State Library and Archives Commission - Donna Jones Morris, Utah State Library Division

Flash, April 2007, volume 3, issue 4

Library of Congress marks the end of an era and embarks on another Last analog cassette player produced, ushering in a digital era

February 17, 2007, was a historic day for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, as it produced its last cassette book machine (CBM). During a ceremony held on March 1, 2007, in Blue Earth, Minnesota, Telex Communications, Inc., presented NLS with the milestone C-1 player—the 1,248,113th unit manufactured by the company since 1983. This event marks the end of the analog machine's successful era and signals NLS's foray into the production and distribution phase of digital talking books (DBs) and players.

"Analog audiocassette and cassette-book machine technology has been the backbone of the NLS system, but it is outdated and nearing the end of its useful life," said Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "Our patrons have heightened expectations of service improvements, especially those who are tech savvy. Their expectations, along with the impending obsolescence of key elements of analog technology, warrant the conversion to a digital system."

The CBM has proven popular, reliable, and useful to generations of talking-book readers. Since 1969, 1.5 million CBMs have been manufactured and distributed to more than 25 million NLS patrons. These machines were designed to play audiocassettes recorded at 15/16 inches per second on 4-track tapes, allowing up to six hours of playback time per cassette. Throughout the machine's existence, NLS has continuously enhanced the machine's functionality. However, recent advances in digital technology promise to further improve the patron experience.

Spare parts purchase

Despite the digital transition, NLS will continue to support the needs of cassette book readers. CBMs will remain in circulation throughout the transition period until digital titles and players are fully integrated.

"Though production of the CBM has ceased, NLS will continue to provide CBMs from our existing inventory and cassette audiobooks to our patrons during the transition to digital talking books and players," said Michael Katzmann, chief, Materials Development Division. "The use of CBMs will decline rapidly with the introduction of the digital player; however, we expect some patrons to continue using CBMs beyond 2012."

CBMs will be needed for patrons wishing to read audiobooks that have not been converted to digital. Additionally, some people will prefer using familiar technology. To ensure ongoing availability of CBMs through 2011, the full transition period, NLS invested nearly $5.6 million in spare parts to repair CBMs as needed. NLS researched and analyzed the repairs made over the past several years to determine which parts would be needed to keep CBMs functioning through 2011. The spare parts purchased—mostly rubber parts and playback heads—will be used for routine repairs needed to keep the CBMs in working order.

In total, sixty-six different types of parts were purchased to repair up to 575,000 machines. These parts are expected to last as long as the current life cycle of the C-1 player, which is estimated at ten years. C-1 No. 1248113, the last CBM manufactured, is expected to be in service until the digital transition is complete.

Moving forward

With CBM manufacturing past, NLS is fully focused on producing and distributing digital talking books and players. Flash-cartridge procurement has already started and will be followed by flash-cartridge production and duplication. In August, NLS expects to begin manufacturing the initial lot of DB containers and labels. This is the last step prior to full player procurement.

Digital Talking Book (DB) Milestones
- Defined and prioritized DB features
- Coordinated development and publication of Specifications for the Digital Talking Book (ANSI/NISO Z39.86)
- Simulated DB player using a personal computer
- Developed computer-based, life-cycle cost analysis (LCC) model for the NLS system and for candidate digital systems
- Developed computer software for DB production and presentation
- Developed software to test conformance of players and DBs with the ANSI/NISO standard
- User survey
- Player transition study
- Distribution flash cartridge study
- Player and flash-cartridge design contract awarded
- Distribution-system design contract awarded
- Distribution-system design contract Phase I and II
- Preliminary design review
- Player and flash cartridge developed
- Designed DB containers and labels
- Web-Magazine pilot concluded
- Web-Book pilot launched
- Digital data-management system designed

Start 1/12/04-Finish 10/1/08
The following ongoing projects, set to conclude in 2008, are shown with start dates in parentheses.
- Distribution system implementation (10/1/06)
- Flash cartridge production (3/1/07)
- Flash cartridge duplication (5/1/07)
- Manufacture initial lot of DB containers and labels (8/1/07)
- Full player production (9/1/07)

For information on the NLS digital project, contact:
Jean M. Moss
Digital Projects Coordinator
Fax: (202) 707-1690

To view the Strategic Business Plan on the Web, visit:


The following announcements may be of interest to readers. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped reserves the right to publish announcements selectively, as space permits. Items mentioned, however, are not part of the NLS program, and their listing does not imply endorsement.

2007 braille college football schedule available

The 2007 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) braille college football schedule is available again this year, including 119 Division 1-A and some requested Division 1-AA teams. Also included are the results of the 2006-2007 bowls, the Associated Press top twenty-five final polls, the 2007-2008 bowl schedule, and more. The cost of the schedule is $10.00.

To order, contact:
Allen H. Gillis
302 Schaeffel Road
Cullman, AL 35055
(Please make checks payable to Allen H. Gillis.)
For more information call (256) 734-4047 or e-mail

Biography of Louis Braille wins book award

The biography Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius (BR 16790), published by the National Braille Press, was selected as a winner at the May 2007 New England Book Show. The book, by C. Michael Mellor, won in the category General Trade, Illustrated. The book is among 160,000 new titles published in the United States every year.

The annual juried New England Book Show, which has been held in Boston since 1956, recognizes the year's most outstanding works by New England publishers, printers, and graphic designers. Books are selected for their design, quality of materials, and workmanship.

NLS patrons may request Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius from their local libraries. To purchase the book, contact the National Braille Press at 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115-4302; visit its web site at ; or call 800-548-7323 or (617) 266-6160, extension 20.

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