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Patrons Test Digital Talking Books and System
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) recently conducted its final test of the digital talking-book system with patrons. User comments, which are now assisting NLS to identify areas for modification before manufacturing begins, were both positive and helpful.
Fifty blind patrons of the Connecticut State Library tested a mix of standard and advanced digital talking-book players and the system over a three-week period.
"My experience testing the digital player was rewarding," said Connecticut field test participant Bruce Woodward. "The machine was easy to use and lightweight." Participants also appreciated the players’ compact size, speed, pitch restoration, the ability to index and the bookmark feature, which allows readers to pick up reading right where they left off.
Advanced players were tested by fifty patrons from the NLS download pilot group. Testers appreciated the enhanced sound quality, tone, volume responsiveness, and the players’ variable speed capability.
"From opening the box to downloading and reading that first book—all was intuitive, effortless, and fun," said download participant Deborah Kendrick, an Ohio-based journalist.
All patrons used the machines in everyday settings as they normally would. NLS has now collected comments and suggestions from all participants and is evaluating results.
Congressional Funding Moves Digital System Forward
Congress this past fall continued to recognize the value of the NLS talking-book program by allocating $12.5 million per year for the next six years (a combined total of $75 million) to help fund the digital transition. The $75 million provides the funding required to produce more than 6.7 million digital books by 2013.
Consumers and Network Librarians Hear Digital Implementation Plans
Consumers, network librarians, and state librarians who serve on the Digital Transition Advisory Committee were given demonstrations of the new digital players, flash cartridges, and duplication equipment when they met at NLS Thursday, March 27, and Friday, March 28.
Senior engineer Michael Katzmann demonstrated production models of both the basic and advanced players and talking-book flash cartridges so that each member could experience the players features and instructions. As members inserted cartridges, the players announced machine status. When they pressed keys, such as "rewind" and "fast-forward," the room echoed with instructions. Proposals for manufacturing the player and flash cartridges are currently being evaluated and an award is expected within thirty days, Katzmann said.