March 20, 2002 National Standard Developed for the Digital Talking Book

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Robert Fistick (202) 707-9279

A national standard for the Digital Talking Book (DTB) has recently been adopted by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO).

The five-year effort to develop the NISO DTB standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002) was coordinated by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the Library of Congress in partnership with an international committee. The NISO DTB standard will make electronic resources presented in DTB format more accessible to print-disabled readers worldwide.

"This single standard addresses the requirements of a range of agencies serving users with a wide variety of reading needs, said NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke. "It is truly a universal standard that will benefit the blind community for generations to come."

A Digital Talking Book is a collection of electronic files arranged to present information to the blind and physically handicapped reader through alternative media. The most common medium will be human speech. However, a DTB produced in accordance with the new standard can include a file containing the contents of the document in text form, thereby permitting output through synthetic speech, refreshable braille display devices, or visual display in large print.

The NISO DTB standard was built on existing standards and specifications to make use of programming skills and software tools that were originally developed for other purposes. The standard was also based on specifications formulated by blind and visually impaired users who were included in the development effort. Partner agencies include the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (of the American Library Association); American Council of the Blind; American Foundation for the Blind; American Printing House for the Blind; Blinded Veterans Association; Canadian National Institute for the Blind; the DAISY Consortium; Hadley School for the Blind; Assistive Devices Industry Office-Industry Canada; IsSound Corporation; National Federation of the Blind; Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic; Talking Book Publishers, Inc.; Telex Communications, Inc.; VisuAide, Inc.; and the World Blind Union.

NISO is the only U.S. group accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop and promote voluntary technical standards for use in information delivery services for libraries, publishers, and related information technology organizations. NISO standards are developed by consensus under the guidance of experts and practitioners in the field to meet the needs of both the information user and the producer. For its work on the DTB standard, NISO was one of the recipients of the 2001 Collaboration and Coordination Award presented by the International Coalition of Access Engineers and Specialists. For information about NISO's current activities or to download NISO standards, including the NISO DTB standard, visit the NISO Web site at

For more than 70 years, NLS has been a leader in providing library services to blind and physically handicapped individuals. Each year it distributes 23 million books and magazines to a readership of more than 759,000 individuals through a network of 141 regional and subregional libraries. For more information about NLS, visit its Web site at


PR 02-038
ISSN 0731-3527