June 10, 2002 Library of Congress Issues Report on Digital Talking Books

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

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the Library of Congress recently issued a progress report on its Digital Talking Books (DTB) project. Digital Talking Books: Progress to Date - May 2002 updates the project's initial publication, Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future - July 1998.

A Digital Talking Book is a collection of electronic files arranged to present information to readers who are blind and physically handicapped through alternative media. A DTB 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. DTBs will provide end users with more flexibility in navigating through a document than was previously offered by analog audio cassettes.

"Production of current titles in DTB format is scheduled to begin in 2004," said NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke. "The effort to convert from an analog to a digitally-based program will be completed by April 2008. At that time, approximately 20,000 retrospective audio titles will be available in digital format."

NLS has been working on the development of a Digital Talking Book since 1997, when it took the lead in the collaborative effort to develop a national standard for this new medium. In December 2001, members of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) voted to approve "Specifications for the Digital Talking Book" as an American National Standard. On March 6, 2002, the standard was approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002.

NLS completed a computer-based Life-Cycle Cost Analysis Model to compare the costs of the current audio cassette program with projected costs for the proposed Digital Talking Book program. In 2001, NLS established the Digital Long-Term Planning Group, made up of consumer representatives and network librarians, to plan for the deployment of digital information technology through the national network of 136 cooperating libraries.

NLS is currently creating a digital collection with the development of digital recording systems, a low-complexity mastering system, experimental digital talking book production tools, and converting analog titles to digital. NLS has also designed and programmed a software-based digital talking book player that runs on a personal computer. In cooperation with the Industrial Designers Society of America, NLS is sponsoring a contest for industrial design students, challenging them to design the exterior of a portable digital talking book player. The contest will be judged in June 2002 and announced in July.

Free copies of the 54-page report are available in large print, braille, and recorded cassette from the Reference Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 1291 Taylor Street, NW, Washington, DC 20542. To expedite requests, use facsimile (202) 707- 0712; telephone (202) 707-5100; or e-mail nls@loc.gov/ref. The report is also available on the NLS Web site at www.loc.gov/nls.


PR 02-080
ISSN 0731-3527