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NLS Press Release

First quarter of digital talking-book download project finishes on a high note

For Immediate Release:
January 29, 2007
Contact: Neil Bernstein
(202) 707-9319 or nber@loc.gov

First quarter of digital talking-book download project finishes on a high note

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, pilot for downloadable digital talking books has ended its first quarter with 100 percent of the participants "checking out" an average of 1.6 titles per week—and the majority reporting a positive experience.

"Through this pilot patrons are able to read digital talking books (DTBs) and magazines and provide NLS with feedback on features such as navigation and audio quality," said NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "This information will help us in making necessary refinements before we roll out the digital talking-book program in 2008. Thus far, the comments have been very favorable."

"NLS has done it once again. It has, in my opinion, come up with something fantastic," posted one patron on the online message board created for pilot participants. "The web site is wonderful; I have had no trouble with downloading books. The sound quality is great; reading with it is a dream. Keep up the good work—can't wait till the actual readers and books are ready in 2008!"

When the pilot was launched on October 13, 2006, participants could download 1,223 titles and 35 issues of 10 magazines. The total number of downloads during the first quarter was 1,901—1,606 books and 295 magazine issues. As of January 4, 2007, these patrons have access to 2,061 titles and 80 issues of 12 magazines.

One hundred patrons from across the country were selected based on their interest in the project and their technical expertise. Using their own high-speed Internet connection, these participants access a special web site with their NLS-designated log-in IDs to download titles. Patrons may search the list of books by author, title, subject, or date; magazines may be searched according to title and issue date. The titles are then transferred from their computers onto commercial flash-memory cards provided by NLS, which are then inserted into commercially available talking-book players that have been modified to read NLS DTBs and provided on loan to the participants by NLS.

Patrons are required to read at least one title per month, then complete a survey before downloading another title. Each survey consists of ten questions that focus on title selection; ease, rate, and usefulness of navigation; and ease of downloading and transferring a title for reading.

To date, 92 percent of the reader surveys received by NLS report that participants have been able to download books and transfer them to their players with relative ease. As for navigation features, 79 percent favored the number of navigation points and 81 percent found the navigation capability helpful. "I fell asleep the other night and missed a lot [of my book], so it’s great to just touch a key and jump back a chapter."

Magazine reader surveys also show that 92 percent of participants have had no problems downloading or transferring their selections, and 91 percent found the ability to navigate helpful. Both book and magazine readers are impressed with the audio quality. "Boy, isn't the flexibility and audio quality just the bees knees," posted a reader. "A tone control with actual bass cut, too!"

NLS will continue to add titles to the program and review patron surveys throughout 2007.

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Posted on 2011-01-10