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Talking Books: Progress to Date > Twenty Steps to Next-Generation NLS
NLS Technical Writings
Digital Talking Books: Progress to Date
Twenty Steps to Next-Generation NLS Technology
When do we change the system?
- When enough patrons demand it, AND
- When digital methods are cheaper than the current cassette-based system.
What do we change to?
- Patrons and providers tell us with a standard and via consultation.
- We use new digital technology to best realize affordable expectations.
How do we know it's better?
- We offer software models of books and players for patron and provider appraisal.
- We use software modeling to compare all system costs, digital versus analog.
This paper outlines steps to take in the design and implementation of next-generation
NLS technology. Two factors motivate change: cost and patron expectations. As
digital methods supplant analog in the consumer entertainment market, technology
approaching obsolescence, i.e., cassette tape, may become expensive, and patrons
are likely to demand features available with digital technology. Access to a
future system will be via two routes: electronic communications and postal delivery
of players and recorded material. This summary focuses on replacing about 700,000
cassette-tape players with digital players, an undertaking in which there are
major cost and risk factors. Before and during replacement of players, software-only
players and establishment of a software infrastructure are planned. We see delivery
at the outset via mass-duplication at contractors' sites, and duplication-on-demand
at specialized centers, followed by postal delivery to patrons. In the long
term, however, we see media inexpensive enough to allow postal delivery of disposable
units containing multiple titles.
To the extent that a list format allows, I present the steps in a roughly chronological
order of dependency. Many activities, however, occur in parallel. I offer the
three-question summary above in deceptively simple terms, hoping to interest
the reader in perusing the outline below to find out how complex the process
really is. The key to success is to manage risk at every step by pursuing as
many options at one time as the budget allows. To distinguish primarily between
low-risk and high-risk activities, I divide the 20 steps into two sequential
phases: design and implementation. (In this paper "digital talking book" (DTB)
also refers to magazines.)
11 steps, 5 years, system approach, low cost, low risk, high visibility.
- Define and prioritize digital talking-book (DTB) features.
- Propose mandatory, desirable, and specialized categories.
- Use the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) process involving
community of users, librarians, advocacy groups, manufacturers, producers,
international borrowers, and lenders.
- Simulate a DTB player using a personal computer.
- Test feasibility and patron interest in specific features.
- Discover and refine user-control preferences.
- Monitor and test parallel efforts.
- Develop a computer-based, life-cycle, cost-analysis (LCC) model for the
NLS system and for candidate digital systems.
- Build an historical cost data set through annual updates of the model
(mandated in NLS LCC policy).
- Examine and forecast long-term trends.
- Estimate critical decision points.
- Determine the cost range where DTB adoption is advisable.
- Design and build prototype digital-collection archiving and access systems,
and stock with legacy and new-production titles.
- For legacy titles, write or buy software to convert familiar NLS analog
products to NISO-compliant digital files, select titles, and convert them
to NISO format.
- Design and implement a system for short-term storage of digital review
- Design and build a local area network to support in-house production
of digital books. Expand to support experiments that provide access to
a large collection of digital works.
- Design and build a long-term archive of DTB files.
- Select an acceptable copyright protection system.
- Consider a system approved for consumer entertainment.
- If A is not acceptable, design and propose a minimum-cost acceptable
system, in consultation with publishers.
- Obtain NISO concurrence, test decoding at three times real-time.
- Develop computer software for DTB production and presentation.
- Develop expertise with the digital audio recording process.
- Build software "authoring tools" to enable DTB production by volunteers
- Begin digital mastering with concurrent text linking in NISO format.
- Compare concurrent audio/text linking with software linking.
- Build modular playback software for multiple platforms.
- Establish a DTB software facility for maintenance and configuration
- Develop software to test conformance of players and DTBs with the NISO standard.
- Develop a suite of sample DTBs that exercise and demonstrate player
- Develop software to test and certify NISO compliance of DTBs.
- Examine distribution methods from a systems perspective, focusing on cost
- Design mixed electronic and media delivery systems such as:
- Postal delivery of media, mass-duplicated at contractors' sites
or duplicated on demand at specialized facilities.
- Electronic delivery direct to patrons from regional centers and,
for special cases, from a national center.
- When considering cost, include regional production, storage, and packaging.
- When considering convenience, include ease of operation by patrons,
librarians, machine-lending agencies (MLAs), volunteer producers, and
- In an options paper express technological choices. Use the cost-analysis
tool developed in step 3.
- Select or design players that best meet the NISO DTB standard.
- Where feasible, use components of popular entertainment hardware to
control cost and promote acceptance.
- Design and test user interfaces required for NISO DTB compliance.
- Build multiple prototype players.
- Evaluate and compare each to find user preferences.
- Evaluate and compare each to assess effects on regional libraries, MLAs,
postal delivery, manufacturers, duplicators, contract studios, volunteer
studios, and repair organizations.
- Design and implement prototype testing to determine life-cycle cost.
- Predict theoretical reliability (mean time between failures), and test
for actual performance; identify vulnerable components.
- Develop a maintenance plan that specifies:
- Which components can be repaired;
- Which components must be replaced;
- Range, depth, positioning, and value of repair parts.
- Predict life-cycle cost (dollars per patron per year) and forecast the
payback point, using the cost model developed in step 3 above.
9 steps, 5 years, high risk, high cost, high visibility.
- Narrow player and media choices by selecting via decision matrix.
- For the players chosen, refine cost estimates and design of packaging,
storage, and maintenance. Get postal approval for packaging.
- For the chosen media refine cost estimates and design of packaging
and storage. Get postal approval of packaging.
- Consider safety, pest control, and pilfering.
- Design and test catalog-access and ordering systems that interested patrons
- Consider patron privacy and library personnel resources.
- Automate updated catalogs from NLS.
- Design and test circulation and inventory-management software for libraries,
MLAs, and NLS.
- For audit, build in self-identification of players.
- Build in statistical reporting that ensures patron privacy.
- Design and test software for international lending.
- Ensure that international copyright requirements are met.
- Design and test software for conversion of books to international formats.
- Test electronic and media delivery methods.
- Evaluate player manufacturers and communications providers.
- Begin the engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) phase.
- Qualify manufacturers who have sufficient production capacity available.
- Establish methods to guarantee the best value in communications.
- Award manufacturing and communications contracts.
- Operate digital and cassette systems simultaneously.
- Scale back production of cassette book machines.
- Produce digital players for field evaluation.
- Full-scale production and deployment of digital equipment.
- Set up QA process at manufacturers.
- Set up QA process at warranty repair and volunteer repair facilities.
- Cease production of cassette players, but for ten years continue repair.
- Establish a method for continuous patron evaluation of the new system.
- Update player software in response to patron preferences and library
- Establish a maintenance process for player and software documentation;
include configuration control.
- Establish a method for continuous evaluation of infrastructure.
- Include librarians, MLAs, international institutional borrowers, and
- Include configuration control.
Head, Engineering Section
Twenty Steps to Next-Generation NLS Technology
Work Accomplished to Date
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