Braille Book Review

November-December 2008

In Brief

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

NLS Flash

September 2008
Volume 4 Issue 3

Northstar Systems Inc. to produce digital audio cartridges for talking-book program

On August 22, 2008, the Library of Congress awarded Northstar Systems Inc. of Rancho Cucamonga, California, a contract to manufacture USB flash-memory cartridges for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Washington, D.C. The cartridges will be used to record audiobooks that will be distributed to NLS patrons across the country and overseas.

The initial contract funding of more than $6.2 million will enable Northstar to manufacture audio flash cartridges on which NLS will record both new and existing titles over the next year. The base contract covers three years with a unilateral government option for four additional years. The books recorded on these cartridges will be distributed to the network of 128 libraries that serve approximately one- half million blind and physically handicapped individuals throughout the United States and its territories. The cartridges purchased under this contract will permit all NLS recorded books to be issued on either 512 MB or 1 GB cartridges. This will enable each recorded book to be contained on a single cartridge, greatly improving the current patron's experience of receiving multiple four- track cassettes. In addition, Northstar is obligated to furnish participating libraries and interested patrons with blank cartridges at prices fixed in the contract. Specific procedures for purchase by these parties are being determined.

Northstar has a manufacturing network that includes plants in Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, China, and Singapore, providing a total of one million square feet of production space. The corporation is an active member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, SD Association, USB-IF Committee, Compact Flash Organization, and MemoryStick Organization.

In June 2008 contracts were signed with Shinano Kenshi Corporation Ltd./Plextor-LLC of Culver City, California, to begin production of digital talking-book players and with LC Industries in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, to produce mailing containers for the cartridges. This Northstar Systems contract is the final agreement necessary for the conversion of the national talking-book program from analog to digital.

Player production tc "Player production" Shinano Kenshi is reviewing the pre-production prototypes of the digital talking-book players—designed and produced by Battelle in late 2007—to verify compliance with all NLS design specifications and requirements. Simultaneously, Shinano Kenshi is engaging subcontractors and suppliers to produce plastic and electronic components of the digital talking-book players. Both are critical phases in preparing for mass production of the new digital talking-book players.

Training tc "Training" SI International, an information technology solutions provider engaged to develop training strategies for NLS and the network staff, issued recommendations this month for best methods to prepare network library staff for the implementation of the digital talking-book program. After determining the efficacy of these recommendations, NLS will issue a new contract to develop the training program.


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. The items mentioned, however, are not part of the NLS program, and their listing does not imply endorsement. Free reading service for faxed documents

ReadThisToMe is a free reading service for blind and low- vision people in the United States and Canada. To use the service, a client faxes a document to be read to the organization's toll-free fax number: 1-877-333-8848. The first page of the fax should include the client's first name and a callback telephone number. A volunteer reader from ReadThisToMe will then call the client back and read the document. More information is available online at or by calling 1-877-333-8847.

Instructional cassettes for people with low vision

Enrichment Audio Resource Services (EARS), through the EARS for Eyes program, offers free audiocassette lessons that teach adaptive daily living skills to visually impaired individuals and their caregivers. The lessons, modeled after blindness rehabilitation techniques, cover topics such as basic kitchen skills, indoor mobility, managing medications, and adaptive devices.

To enroll in the program, call the organization's toll-free number at 1-800-843-6816. Additional information is also available at

National Braille Press celebrates Louis Braille's bicentennial

The National Braille Press (NBP) has launched several projects to honor the two-hundredth anniversary of Louis Braille's birth on January 4, 2009. NBP has established a new web site at that lists recognition and advocacy events that are being held globally. The organization offers posters that profile Braille's life and depict the braille alphabet available upon request for the cost of shipping and handling. It is also sponsoring a traveling exhibit with biographical images and text that will be on display at sites across the United States from October 2008 through December 2009. More information on these and other bicentennial activities sponsored by NBP is available at or by calling 1-800-548-7323.

Next section of Braille Book Review | Braille Book Review Home Page

Go to the NLS Home Page