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NLS Press Release

Web Books and Magazines Bridge the Tech Divide for the Blind

For Immediate Release:
December 14, 2004
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or [email protected]

Four libraries collaborate on "Unabridged," a Web site that makes hundreds of popular book titles available to blind and physically handicapped patrons.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Blind and physically handicapped readers are now able to access digital audio books online through the Unabridged-Digital Audio Books for the Blind Web site, a collaborative effort of four regional libraries within the network of the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).

"This venture is of great importance to the future of audio books. We are delighted to have been asked to participate and look forward to working with the innovative management of these libraries," says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "We hope to follow their lead and explore the possibilities of expanding the Unabridged Web site to include NLS's growing collection of digital talking book titles."

Unabridged is a two-year pilot project that provides a library of narrated audio books for patrons of The Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, Colorado Talking Book Library, Talking Book Program of the New Hampshire State Library, and the Oregon State Library, Talking Book & Braille Services.

Patrons can download audio books to their PCs thanks to a Windows Media Audio-based content and delivery system from OverDrive, Inc., a leading digital content solutions provider for publishers and retailers. The audio files can be played on computers, burned to CDs, or transferred to portable MP3 playback devices.

"There are blind individuals who are ready for this. They are computer savvy and understand how the Internet works. This program meets their demand for online access to digital audio book content," says Lori Bell, director, Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center.

The audio book library launched with 250 titles, but Unabridged plans to have 400 by the end of the year. The collection focuses on recently-published fiction but also features popular non-fiction works. The site is limited to patrons of the participating libraries who are issued a digital library card containing an access code.

"This effort will go along way toward setting the standard for accessible, downloadable audio content for print-disabled individuals," says Neil Bernstein, an NLS information technology specialist.

NLS provides a free national reading service to people who can no longer read standard print. The program loans members a wide selection of recorded books and magazines, braille books and magazines, and music scores in braille and large print.

To enroll in the NLS Talking Books program visit or dial 1-800-424-9100. Details on Unabridged Web books and magazines can be found at

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Posted on 2011-01-10