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NLS-REPORTS  February 2004

NLS-REPORTS February 2004


Network Bulletin No. 04-06 (Digital long-tern planning group)


National Library Service for the Blind <[log in to unmask]>


NLS Documents for Network Libraries <[log in to unmask]>


Mon, 2 Feb 2004 09:28:06 -0500





TEXT/PLAIN (1209 lines)

Network Bulletin No.  04-06

Date: January 23, 2004

Subject:       Digital Long-Term Planning Group

Index term:  Report from the May 2003 meeting

The Digital Long-Term Planning Group held its fourth meeting
on May 7 - 9, 2003.  A summary is enclosed.

Enclosure: Attachment 1
Attachment 2: mailed in the print copy to the Network on January 23, 2004.

For further information contact:

Robert McDermott
Automation Officer
(202) 707-9313
[log in to unmask]

Digital Long Term Planning Group
May 7 - 9, 2003

Group Members Participating:
Stephen Booth, NFB
Jerry Buttars, Utah
Kim Charlson, Massachusetts
Paul Edwards, ACB
Barbara Goral, Colorado
Karen Keninger, Iowa
Margaret McGrory, CNIB
Karen Odean, Illinois
Irene Padilla, Maryland
Jim Scheppke, Oregon
Deborah Toomey, New Jersey
Guynell Williams, South Carolina
Michael York, New Hampshire
Bob Axtell, NLS (Recorder)
John Cookson, NLS
Kurt Cylke, NLS
Judy Dixon, NLS
Brad Kormann, NLS
Bob McDermott, NLS (Chair)
Michael Moodie, NLS
Steve Prine, NLS
Carolyn Sung, NLS
David Whittall, NLS

Wednesday, May 7

9:00 - 10:30   Opening Statements

Kurt Cylke welcomed new member Irene Padilla, state librarian of Maryland, and
Margaret McGrory, executive director of the CNIB Library for the Blind, to their first
meeting.  Bob McDermott then asked members to talk about their reflections since the
last meeting.

Guynell Williams  noted that the group still seemed unfocused as to the direction of
the DTB.  She thought that there should be agreement  by this time and that we should
be able to tell the network what the direction would be, such as a decision on using
flash memory, CD, MP3 player, or something else.  She felt that by now we should
have more agreement on such issues as the cost of flash memory or the viability of
providing mass storage with multiple books.  She further noted the need for some
direction to the network libraries on the production of digital audiobooks; some
libraries are going forward with plans to produce digital audiobooks and some are
waiting for more direction.

Cylke stated that NLS is on track in the development of the digital talking book.
NLS is quite sure the medium will be flash memory.  Cylke clarified the role of the
digital long-term planning group.  It was formed to provide NLS with new and
different ideas on areas to explore in the emerging technology and to give its reactions
to decisions being made concerning the development of the digital talking book.  It is
an advisory, not a decision-making, body.  NLS is following the experiment with the
OTIS player in Illinois. That experiment has only 24 participants and lasts only four
months, but it is nevertheless of interest.  NLS has proceeded with digital recording
using its low-complexity mastering system (LCM) in its studio, has begun testing the
LCM in regional libraries in Texas, Montana, and New Mexico, and will soon be
issuing a recommendation to network libraries.

Gerry Buttars reported that he had recently met with state chapters of NFB and ACB
and talked about new technology.  They like the move to digital, flash memory
because it affords a machine with no moving parts and good navigation features; but
they are concerned about the durability of MP3 players and the idea of multiple books
on a machine.  Overall, some seemed enthused with the new technologies, while
others would like the program to stay much as it is.  Utah is pursuing streaming
broadcast for its radio reading service.  The state groups did express total confidence
in NLS's ability to build a new product.

Stephen Booth has been using a variety of players for DAISY books, including Victor
and Telex.  They give a good feel for the DTB.  They are newer and easier to operate
and provide food for thought about the questions raised in these meetings. Other
developments, such as Web-Braille, are also interesting.  Booth said the ability to
download new books has changed the way he reads.  These new technologies also
seem to be generating a change at the NFB Training Center.  In the past, people came
in, saw the technology, and walked away.  More and more people coming in now
want to use it.

Karen Keninger is planning to upgrade Iowa's recording program and is interested in
developments in that area.  Iowa patrons are using more and more technology.  Web-
Braille is creating a desire for NLS to supply braille displays.  Karen has used a Victor
from RFB&D and liked its flexibility.

Michael York noted that this was only his second meeting, but he had a deeper
appreciation of the size of the program and the cost of the new technology.  The new
technology will have to last many years, and he encouraged us to look very widely at
what is available and to invest wisely.

Karen Odean pointed out that NLS service has always been tailored to patron needs
and that we need to continue to do that with the new technology.  Providing a five
hundred title device for those patrons who wanted it would be such a tailored need.
Severe budget limitations are the main focus of many libraries around the country and
libraries need to know how the new technology will affect their ability to deal with
straitened circumstances.  Centralized distribution might allow them to place more
emphasis on reader advisors. Odean is looking to the Mid-Illinois e-Audio project to
provide some information on what people like and do not like in the new technology.

Deborah Toomey finds these discussions both exciting and frustrating.  We have
many opportunities to provide highly useful technological advances in our service, but
we have a clientele with a wide range of abilities and must meet the needs of all of
them.  Even side selectors on the cassette players cause problems for some users.  We
need to develop even easier controls while still providing more features for power
users.  She is pleased that we are taking the time to proceed carefully.  The digital
world is here now.  Patrons are using streamed radio reading service.  She is lucky to
have some staff who are technically proficient enough to provide support.  But we
need to proceed with caution.

Paul Edwards noted four issues that have come up since our last meeting that he feels
warrant more discussion.  First, the publication of more commercial e-books in the
DAISY format will extend the range of reading material available.  Second, new mass
storage players are becoming more viable with a forecast that a five gigabyte storage
unit will cost $15.  Third, the evolution of new e-book and audiobook publishers is
trending towards smaller publishers. Fourth, while the group cannot direct NLS what
design to choose, NLS is getting close to committing to a design and he would like to
know how close that commitment is.

Margaret McGrory related the latest developments at CNIB.  It is building a 93TB
digital repository, which should be available in July.  The new system (IDLS) will
track digital books through production, control the versions of books in progress,
provide for e-delivery, and maintain an archive.  The system will have portals for
adults and children, the latter including games and chat rooms.  There will be an
option for progressive play streaming audio with short lag time, which will replicate
the experience of browsing a shelf and sampling a book.  Users will have multiple
delivery options they will be able to read an audiobook online or to request a book
to be delivered on CD or any of the other existing formats such as cassette or braille.

With the impetus of a significant donation from Microsoft, CNIB decided to focus
first on building the digital repository and e-delivery component of its IDLS, and then
on building its digital collection.  It will begin deployment of digital books this year
and plans to discontinue analog production at the end of FY2004.  A deployment of
about 1,000 Victor machines is planned for June.  Clients who can afford to pay for a
playback device will be encouraged to do so.  Those who cannot will be provided
with machines funded through donations.  In some provinces, clients have access to
government subsidy programs.  With 26,000 clients, CNIB cannot afford to purchase
 machines for all of them on charitable donations.

The CNIB project has been carried out in partnership with Microsoft Canada, IBM,
Navantis Inc., Corus Entertainment, and Open Text Corporation.  For e-delivery, they
use the Microsoft commerce server, on which the (a service like
Amazon) interface is based, and the CNIB e-delivery has many similar features.

McGrory's talk generated a lot of discussion and questions.  About 25 percent  of
CNIB's users have access to a computer.  Some use it for searching the catalog and
ordering books to be delivered from the CNIB collection.  The children's portal has
games, moderated chat rooms, and other services, as well as books.  The cost of
building the system will be about $5 million, of which the infrastructure technology is
about $2 million.  The annual cost of operation is expected to be about 15 percent of
the latter.  CNIB has about 100,000 patrons, with 26,000 library users.  Circulation is
about 1.8 million books per year.

Kim Charlson reported that the Massachusetts regional library recording program is
now completely digital, using Sound Forge.  She is interested to hear what others are
doing and is very interested in the Mid-Illinois experiment, a pilot program using 15
Otis players sent out to users preloaded with a book from   This is an
opportunity to try something different and learn from it.  She is interested in versatile
machines and thrilled with the web magazine experiment.  We need a system with
multiple delivery systems (streaming/broadband) to meet all needs.  But this
versatility is making life more complex for the librarians.  They now have five to six
formats to handle.

Jim Scheppke emphasized that state libraries are facing unprecedented problems.  He
noted that Governing Magazine had an article on state libraries under fire, meaning
that their plight was serious enough to have reached the notice of a magazine on state
and local government.  At the Western State Libraries meeting, many spoke of
devastating budgets.  Some have lost half their budgets, and some face threats to their
very existence.  The Minnesota State Library has lost nearly all of its staff, and
governors in Florida and Washington are seeking the elimination of their state
libraries.  We must appreciate this situation.  Scheppke is looking for productivity
increases at lower costs: quality service with fewer people.  He expects no quick
turnaround in the situation.  He is defending his talking-book program, trying for no  cuts
or the best he can get.  He has been successful so far.

Barbara Goral says that Colorado, too, is facing severe deficit.   The state library lost
$100,000 from a budget of $400,000.  But she also noted that it was the talking-book
program that saved the state library.  The state library was slated for elimination, but
the talking-book patrons mounted a successful campaign to save it.  Still, the library is
facing more work with fewer people and less money.  The patrons are excited about
and eager for the new technology.  Goral is  concerned about how older patrons might
react to a machine with multiple titles on it.  She does not think most of her older
patrons could handle it.  Finding a book could be a problem.  We must keep it simple,
even if it is bigger.  She also noted that people are overwhelmed by the Internet.
There is too much information and no quality guide.

In a group discussion, several members expressed appreciation to NLS for the
intensity of the work being done in the conversion to digital and maintaining the old
system at a high level at the same time.  NLS expressed both hope and worry that we
could continue with the pace because we are entering a phase requiring a lot of
contracts and the contracting infrastructure at the Library of Congress is in very bad
shape.  NLS is aware of budget problems: Minnesota is a striking example.
Rehabilitation agencies are also in bad shape, and relocation of the libraries for the
blind to them is not a solution.  The statistic that book sales are dropping in all areas
except e-books was noted with interest, though its significance was questioned.
Concern was expressed about multi-title books in relation to the problems patrons
used to have with "in container with" books.  NLS is on track to have 20,000 books
and sufficient machines available in 2008.

10:45 - 12:15  Books for the Blind in the 21st Century

Michael Moodie chaired this session.  He presented a vision of the future DTB
reading experience with two different cases.  In one, a student uses her talking book
player throughout the day, employing a wide range of navigation features to jump
back between text and tables, to read and turn off footnotes, and to use bookmarks
while checking other parts of the book.  In another, an eighty-five-year-old man uses
his player with fewer features, often letting it play for hours, but still can identify how
much of the book is left or manage other simple features.  Moodie distributed the
document NLS Digital Talking Books Program: Key Requirements and Assumptions.
As a result of the discussion, a few revisions were made.  The revised document is
attached (Attachment 1).

It was suggested that the document reflects a near-term plan, assuming physical book
distribution from network libraries.  Distributing books from a central facility might
make sense later.  Even with centralization, reader advisory services are necessary,
perhaps in the form of a small state office for reader advisory service.  There was a
suggestion that, in twenty years, customer service could be provided on the web.  NLS
commented that "user driven" means that we will respond to consumer desire for

Participants discussed the capabilities of future readers and whether or not they would
be more computer literate.  It was suggested that even if they were computer literate,
their skills would not be usable when they lost their sight.

Most of the discussion centered on the requirement for a stable (25-year) player and
the requirement that the player be based on an open standard.  Those requirements,
and much of what has been presented so far, imply that NLS is planning to design and
build its own machine.  NLS currently buys cassette machines that are built to its
specifications under a competitive procurement contract.  Contracts are re-competed
every five years.  Someone suggested that NLS might buy off-the-shelf technology,
resulting in much back and forth discussion.

Canada is using off-the-shelf technology, the Victor, in its digital program.  As stated
earlier, patrons must buy their own machines, though donations can subsidize patrons
in need.  Buying off-the-shelf technology speeds getting the new technology to the
patron.  By contrast, the design-and-build approach takes a long time and is always
behind the latest advances in technology.  Playback machines are no longer as stable
as the cassette player, with its 25-year life period.  The technology is now changing
much more rapidly.  Patrons are already expressing disappointment that they are still
on cassette technology.

Is the requirement for an open standard too limiting?  There may be technology that
we could use to great advantage but is available from only one company.  Standards
development is slow and often becomes open only at the end of a product life cycle.
We should be looking for technology at the beginning of its life cycle, so that it will
provide longer service.

NLS presented a counter-argument, referring to RNIB's history with a proprietary
design and the adverse effects when the company no longer provided support.  If we
went to off-the-shelf equipment, we would be locked in a relationship with one
company, which could go out of business and drag the program down with it.  NLS
patrons are not required to purchase their own equipment.  NLS has to provide and
maintain thousands of machines.  We have to procure them competitively.  We have
some very specialized requirements to provide reasonably easy access for the blind.
Our production is too small for companies like Sony to alter their designs for us.
Also, we have to control the playback machine specifications, stringently so if we are
going to repair the machines and keep them in service.  Off-the-shelf machines
change components frequently.  Those changes would create a very difficult repair
situation for NLS. We can consider not repairing machines and throwing them away,
but the machines would have to be very inexpensive.  It is highly unlikely that
commercial products will meet all needs for durability, etc., especially in an
inexpensive machine.  Will machines become cheap enough that we do not have to
supply them?

It was noted that the cost of braille displays may drop significantly and that another
generation of equipment is coming.  Perhaps we should add a requirement that the
player have a braille capability.  NLS recognized that we could have an output for
braille devices.  The player features list developed as part of the NISO project
references braille output.  It was proposed that there needs to be more emphasis on
braille by making it a key requirement. People should not be required to use audio
format for books that have full text, even if those books come only from non-NLS
sources.  NLS responded that this was a reasonable request but would not promise to
incorporate it without further evaluation.
A topic from the previous meeting was raised: the proposal that we stop sending one
book at a time and develop a playback machine that can be loaded with many books,
perhaps 500, to send to patrons.  It was suggested that this would place blind people at
a disadvantage, having to rely on a mediumless book system while sighted people still
use physical objects.  It was countered that a mediumless system would not be hard,
that an interface could be designed that could handle a multi-title system.  But there
were reasons other than ease of access for single-book media, like choice and flow.
One requirement for the system is that it must accommodate impromptu requests.

1:15 - 2:00  The User Study

Judy Dixon gave a progress report on the user study.  Dr. Corinne Kirchner, a leading
expert on demographics of the blind population, has been hired to create a Request for
Proposals (RFP) for contractors to carry out the study.  The RFP is about ready.  NLS
will be hiring a disability expert as a consultant about related factors that the study
may explore, such as living alone and how that affects independence.

The study is planned as a telephone survey and is expected to take a few weeks.  The
goal is to contact 500 patrons, assuming the standard response rate of 70 percent.  The
 purpose is to get basic demographic information about our users to influence our
design for the distribution and usage of the DTB.  Part of the study will involve
observation of a smaller number of patrons performing operations on equipment in
order to get some idea of how well our patrons can be expected to use DTB players at
various levels of complexity.

The group offered comments and suggestions:

Evaluate reactions  to synthetic speech, recognizing that there is a
learning curve for synthetic speech that could skew the results
toward unusability.  It was suggested that this should be in the
observational study, though some thought this would not be

Expect negative answers regarding use away from home, because
many people do not use the current machine that way.

Rework the question about who has access to the Internet, since the
response would not reveal if the person can or does use it for
themselves it only tells about potential.  We need to ask if they use
the Internet themselves or if others do it for them.  Some who
respond that they have access may, in fact, call someone and ask
them to get the answer.

How do you ask if the connection is broadband or dial up?
Assess who will have physical difficulty with the controls.
Ask about their ability to handle something they have now.
Can we ask about the sleep switch?  Someone wondered what we
would do if we knew they used a sleep switch.
Should we ask about type of reading?
Ask if patrons go to other sources such as Bookshare or use public
libraries for commercial audiobooks.
Ask about the use of newspaper/radio reading services
How do we ask about satisfaction with the machines or barriers to

2:00 - 2:45  Recording System for Digital Talking Books

NLS has started recording books digitally.  It has developed the low-complexity
mastering system (LCM), intended for digital recording in network library studios.
The group was given a demonstration of the digital recording facilities in the NLS

3:00 - 4:30  NLS Technology Program

Bob McDermott discussed a handout giving an overview of the NLS technology
program a list of the NLS technology projects organized by topic (Attachment 2).
The group was not asked to prioritize, but rather to provide comments and ideas.  As
to priorities, most of the projects are related and required in order to complete the
overall plan.  The issue is one of maintaining the right sequence in order to maintain

Progress was one of the main topics of discussion in this session.  While this group is
seen as getting more focused, there is an eagerness for more concrete decisions.  The
network librarians noted that patrons have been expressing their desire for something
new.  When asked what it is that patrons are expecting, the answers were less
concrete.  The patrons just want something new. They know change is coming.  They
want to see it happen.  They want to know why we haven't implemented CDs in the
program.  In Canada, the CD format is popular and has waiting lists.  The ease of use
of the Victor is appreciated: they like the navigation, bookmarking, and quality of
sound.  In the Mid-Illinois study, the participants liked the clarity of sound and
portability of the OTIS and the fact that it is not a cassette format.  Someone noted
that the patrons are eager for new technology even if they do not know the details.
They only know the current program uses old technology.

In response to a question on the digital mastering plan,  NLS explained that it is
aiming for 200 digital titles in DTB format for FY2003 and all Titles in DTB format
in FY2004 and beyond.

Scheppke agreed that the plan is not on the wrong track.  It makes sense.  Though in
the past he said that the changeover is taking too long, he is now resigned to the 2008
target.  But the state librarians need technology that will improve productivity and
lower costs.  That is their big issue.  The abstract promise of technology is the ability
to store a lot of books on a small device.  NLS is not planning to take advantage of
that.  Not using that ability does not make sense.

There was a question as to how a multi-book device could improve productivity.  It
could lower the amount of daily shipping and receiving.  Patrons would select a home
library and it would be sent to them.  It was suggested that other options, like Web-
books or a centralized distribution facility, might have some impact in that area.  It
was accepted that they would, but a centralized distribution facility requires funding.
The current NLS DTB program has big, expensive components: flash memory, the
player, and distribution centers.  What if Congress does not fund it?  NLS noted that
Congress historically has been good to the program and knows the transition will cost
a lot.  But  we don't know the cost differential between the current program and the
new one.  Perhaps production costs of the new program will be lower.

NLS was asked about the results of the project to obtain narrations from commercial
producers.  NLS has had some difficulties in that area.  Some commercial books do
not meet NLS specifications: they have multiple narrators, music, etc.  Quality control
has also been a problem.  Commercial recordings don't always maintain their sound
level, they have chapters missing, or they have other quality issues.  In general, the
products need more work than NLS expected.  There are other companies that might
be better, but issues exist there as well.

It was asked if NLS is still considering putting a hard drive into the player and letting
the user copy a book into the player.  That way users could build their own libraries.
NLS feels that is technically valid but economically questionable.  A player would
need 20 to 80GB of storage.  The NLS consultant has said that the additional cost
would be $65-85.  The target cost for the player is $150.  A hard drive nearly doubles
the price.  It was suggested that 40 books would fit in 39GB of storage.  Oregon might
be willing to fund the machine, if it saved labor.  New Jersey would not be interested
in funding machines.  It was suggested that shipping a player with a number of books
would work well for books in series.  For example, a library could send the whole of
the Wagons West series at one time.  The logistics of handling books in groups was
questioned.  Even if adding a hard drive is somewhat more expensive, if it saves on
the medium and on processing, it may be feasible.  Some considered the whole
concept highly questionable.  It was suggested that development be carried out in
steps, first getting the "one book on one media unit" rolling, then considering adding
other options for distribution.

Is the cost of flash in the $10-15 range now or just planned for 2008?  NLS's best
guess is that $10-15 will be the price for 250MB in 2008.  But advances in
compression (the AAC algorithm) now allow a 12-hour book to fit in 125MB.  A
125MB flash unit should be in our price range in 2007.  NLS needs to have a floor
price to commit to the use of flash.  What is the backup plan if flash doesn't work
out? NLS will make a decision in July/Aug 2004, during the conceptual phase of
machine development.

Could we use an OTIS player with a flash card?  That would add to the cost of the

Thursday, May 8

9:00 - 9:45    DAD: Project Update

Brad Kormann updated the group on developments of the Digital Audio Development
Committee.  He said that the Digital Audio Development Project will have 50,000
machines and 20,000 books available in 2008.  He reviewed Digital Talking Books:
Progress to Date (May 2002), available on the NLS web site at
<>.  Specifically, he went
through the section "Twenty Steps to Next-Generation NLS Technology", noting
progress where appropriate.  He noted that:
NISO Standard maintenance meeting took place
NLS has hired a management consultant to assist in building the
Four phases of development for the player have been identified:
concept development,  preliminary design, detailed design, and
critical design review
The Life-Cycle Cost Model has been updated with 2002 data
Planning is underway for production of the first 200 titles to DTB
Storage facilities for the DTBs and CD masters are being planned
The Low Complexity Mastering System has been developed for use
in network libraries
An NLS Studio digital storage and networking system is being set up
Digital Rights Management (DRM) continues to be a big
issue should NLS develop its own or use the DAISY system
Requirements for packaging and labeling the media units are being

The group was interested to know when NLS would commit to a medium.  Kormann
responded the decision to go with a particular medium will become firm after the
preliminary design review around May-July 2004.  Cylke added that the new NLS
deputy director position will be responsible for the overall digital effort.  Jean Moss,
the new project coordinator, will  coordinate the logistics of keeping various projects
on track.

There followed a discussion about a digital asset management system and digital
rights management (DRM).  There will be an archive containing an uncompressed
copy of each DTB and a compressed collection copy, similar to the Danish system.
The archive will be used to recreate the collection copies when converting to new
compression algorithms.  The system could be used to add the DRM component,
though NLS has not yet fully defined how it will implement DRM.  CNIB has a
digital asset management system but has not implemented DRM because it has not
found a DRM component that will satisfy publishers.   It is waiting for a consensus
among publishers.  In the meantime it distributes books only on CD and through
streaming download.  The CD titles are in DAISY format, which is probably not
sufficient for U.S. DRM needs.  Publishers do not seem as bothered by CD, as it is
harder to copy.  CNIB has 2,000 titles right now in its digital asset management
system.  None of those titles is from the U.S. collection.

9:45 - 10:30   DTB Numbering Scheme Revisited

Digital talking books will be identified with a book number consisting of a prefix
(DB) followed by a sequence number, similar to the "RC " book numbers for cassette
books.  The question before the group is whether a digital talking book (DB) should
have the same sequence number as its recorded cassette (RC) counterpart, or if DBs
should be numbered with a new sequence, starting with zero.  The group discussed
this issue in the previous meeting and recommended using the same sequence number
for the DB as for the RC counterpart.

Steve Prine introduced the discussion with a summary of earlier NLS practice: from
1935 to the mid-1960s, book numbers were not assigned.  The practice began (for
audiobooks) with the talking-book collection, each book having a prefix of TB
followed by a sequence number.  The magnetic tape collection was assigned MT as a
prefix and each book had the same sequence number as its TB counterpart.  This
collection was later dispersed.  The recorded disc collection followed the same
pattern, with the RD prefix and the same sequence number (starting in the 6000s).
The cassette book collection (no longer extant) used a CB prefix and a new sequence
number.  The recorded cassette books took the place of TBs and RDs, using an RC
prefix and continuing the sequence numbers started by the TB/RD collection,  with no
duplicate sequence numbers being assigned. The flexible-disc books used an FD
prefix and the same sequence number as their matching RC or RD.

Prine said that using the same sequence would make things easier for NLS, but he
was concerned that it would cause problems for network libraries.   NLS plans on
reissuing 10,000 titles from the RC series as digital talking books in the DB series.
They will not be distributed in any particular order.  If NLS issues them with the same
numbers as the counterpart RC titles, network libraries will receive books with widely
separated numbers.  This may cause problems in shelf planning.  Also, the problem
will continue into the future because NLS may continue to reissue RC books as DBs
well after regular production of digital talking books starts.  Prine is concerned that
the network libraries will be unable to make rational plans for shelf use and as a result
will have to shift their collections frequently.

In group discussion, it was noted that librarians have the shelving problem now.  They
frequently have to shift their collections. The Northern Conference, canvassed on the
issue, did not have strong feelings one way or the other.  One librarian suggested that
a new consecutive sequence would be easier for her staff.  Another member of the
group thought that using the RC sequence would be easier for patrons.  NLS said that
it cannot guarantee that the DB packaging would be compatible enough with RCs for
DBs and RCs to be shelved on top of each other.

It was suggested that we consider a more advanced ID system that would support
random shelving of books.  Maybe we should look at embedded chip technology to
support circulation and replace barcode scanners with more efficient technology.  It
was asked if books that include text files could be identified through the book
number, but this was thought too hard to implement.   The catalog could identify them
however.  It was pointed out that NLS needs a decision soon so that it can assign
numbers to the 200 DTBs that are about to be produced.

A recommendation was postponed until Friday.

10:45 - 12:15  Commercial Audiobook Future

Eileen Hutton of Brilliance Audio and president of the Audio Publishers Association
(APA) made a presentation on the state of commercial audiobook publication.

A 2001 APA consumer survey concluded that 12 percent of U.S. households listened
to audiobooks in 1995 and that number rose to 22.5 percent by 2001.  Last year, 23
million households listened to audiobooks.  The market for audiobooks is growing
faster than the market for print books.  In the past, the standard audiobook reader was
considered to be a middle-aged business man.  Now women outpace men,
representing 76 percent of the readers.  Audiobook readers span all age groups, with
most in their mid-40s, though there is an increase in younger readers, with those
under 30 representing 15 percent of the population of readers.

Based on that 2001 survey, the APA user profile estimates 50 percent have incomes
over $50,000, though use by the lower income group is growing. Seventy percent of
users have some college education and 39 percent are college graduates; 34 percent
hold professional or managerial positions; 50 percent have made Internet purchases in
the past year.  Users spend, on average, six hours per week reading audiobooks,
mostly in the car.  Use in the home is increasing, mainly for reading while the hands
are busy doing other tasks.  Mass transit use is increasing, though not in airplanes.

Use in the car is a key factor.  According to a Texas Transportation Institute 2002
report, 97 million Americans drive to work alone every day.  Traffic congestion
tripled between 1982 and 1999 and quadrupled in smaller cities.  The average traffic
delay was 16 hours per year in 1982 and 62 hours in 2001.

APA realizes the cassette is out as a medium for audiobooks.  The CD experience has
been bad, especially due to the lack of the ability to bookmark.  APA has met with car
manufacturers.  By 2005-6, most cars will have MP3-CD players or MP3 players.
High-end cars will have DVD players.  An MP3 CD will hold 15 hours of spoken
word.  APA has found that unabridged titles are important.  It is what the readers want
and that is the direction audiobook publishers are taking.

APA is working with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) working group 11
to set standards for commercial audiobook formats and player functionality.  Books
and players built to the standard will carry a logo for "audiobook compatible."  ID3
tagging is built into the book to contain author, title, chapter, and other information.
Members of the DAISY consortium participated in the development of the standard to
ensure that the formats don't conflict DAISY and CEA formatted books should play
on each other's machines.  Automobile companies looked at the WMA compression-
based players for cars but found that consumers were not interested.

Following Hutton's presentation, there was a wide-ranging discussion on a number of
topics.  The following is a summary of the issues raised, organized by topic.

CEA Standard: The standard was ratified last fall and there is not yet experience with
it.  Blind readers would like a variable speed control. That may be one of the "nice to
have" features of the new standard.  Car manufacturers are working on getting the
standardized playback machines with the "audiobook compatible" logo into their cars.

Availability: There are five really big companies and lots of small companies
producing audiobooks.  All bestsellers are being done on audio, as well as most
midlist titles and some specialty titles.  There is no lag between formats, since the
customers want the audiobook as soon as the title is out in print.  Increasing illiteracy
and aliteracy rates are driving this trend to availability in audio.  There is a lot of
duplication in classics; most companies have a classic line.  All print publishers now
have audio divisions, but some agents keep audio rights separate from print rights, so
the print publisher does not automatically become the audio publisher.

Abridged Books: There is a demand for unabridged books, but also a demand for
books under $25.  The demand for abridged is greatest when a book is a bestseller,
first published.  After it is off the bestseller list, the demand drops off.   Some
companies specialize in abridged classics.

Production values: What is the user response to sound effects/music/multiple
narrators?  About 50 percent like multiple narrators and 50 percent do not. It is
probably about the same for sound effects and music.  Some publishers are identifying
these kinds of presentations as audio theater.  There is a trend toward "star" narrators.
Publishers do not encourage authors to narrate but some authors insist. Quality
control varies, but Brilliance assigns a project directory whose responsibilities include
researching pronunciations.

Copy Protection:  The schemes come and go quickly.  The association has not defined
standards for this.  The Open eBook group is working on it.

Library purchases: The Library market is dominated by three publishers   Books on
Tape, Recorded Books, and BBC America.  Hutton's company, Brilliance, does
market to libraries as well and has 70 percent growth in sales to libraries.  Most
libraries greatly prefer unabridged books.  There is no nationwide index of
commercial audiobooks, but Bowker, Ingram I-Page, and Audiofile Magazine (online
site) have good listings.

Cassettes:  Their time is past.  After 2005, new cars will not come with cassette
players, although older cars would remain in use for some years, of course.

Pricing structure:   It depends on the publisher.  It runs the gamut, with some
publishers pricing what the market will bear by title and others pricing competitively
to build new audience.  Others have a more complex schedule of factors for pricing
each title.

Download: It is coming soon. Some companies are working with Barnes & Noble and
Amazon. The effect of downloadable audiobooks on CD obsolescence is unknown.
Some libraries use audio to download books into a collection and load into players for

It was suggested that, since relatives often buy audiobooks for newly blind relatives
before they even know about the NLS program, the audio producers use their web
sites to link to NLS or otherwise partner with us to direct eligible patrons to the NLS
system.  APA is redesigning its web site and might be able to add a link.

1:15 - 2:00    Illinois Collaborative Digital Talking Book Project

Karen Odean reported on this project of the Illinois State Library Talking Book and
Braille Service and one of its subregional libraries, the Mid-Illinois Talking Book
Center (MITBC).  The pilot project offers current popular titles in copyright secure
digital formats from on a portable digital audio player, the
Otis.  The players available from MITBC will hold two or three books.  Pre-loaded
Otis players are sent to patrons and returned for reuse.  Donated funds of $2,000 were
used to purchase eight Otis players and 48 books that were used in the alpha phase of
the project.  A beta phase of the project is to commence in July, adding Hawaii and
New Jersey to the project.

Odean discussed the interim (May 5, 2003) report of the project which was distributed
at the meeting.  A final (July 15, 2003) report is available at

The subsequent discussion noted that:
NLS supports the project but is taking no active role
Audible is responsible for playback device repairs during this test
Staff support this project by explaining how to use books and
players, etc.
There is a proposal to burn the Audible books to CD for the project
next year  that raises issues of the lack of bookmarks on
commercial players, though the Victor machine was offered as an alternative to
a commercial player
Commercial players also run into the problem that they cannot be
mailed as Free Matter for the Blind
It was reiterated that MITBC is buying books and buying players
The questions on participation by others, particularly the financial
issues, are not settled
The question of abridged vs. unabridged titles (presumably meaning
from the collection) was unanswered.  It was noted that
larger books (e.g. King of Torts) could not be loaded onto the Otis at
the highest quality sound, which led to an extended discussion of storage space,
compression rates, and sound quality
It was suggested that funds should not be used to duplicate NLS

There was a more extended discussion of funding for this type of service.  The pilot is
being funded out of a special memorial gift fund.  For an extended period, will the
libraries be willing to fund machines?  Or books?  The books cost $20-30 each.  And
will they also fund repair?  Audible will repair normal wear and tear, but the NLS
experience is that normal wear and tear is not the main repair problem.

There was also a question of how patron requests are managed.  Are they managed
from the library's OPAC, through the site, or through a special web site?
If this is an auxiliary service, how is it integrated into the overall service?

The preliminary results of the project are that the users reported that they liked the
size, portability, and clarity of sound of the machines.  They also reported that they
did not like the difficulty in getting started, that the player was too small, that they
could not read from the tiny screen, and that there was minimal book markup.  Some
said that this was a good way for patrons to get a sample of a digital format.  Even
with the low sampling rate of these books, patrons were impressed with the sound
quality, although some said this was an effect of the headphones.

The session ended with a short discussion of another project, Bob Zwick's recording
of Gutenberg titles onto CD with synthetic speech and distributing the CDs.

2:00 - 2:45    Future Role of Reader Advisors

Carolyn Sung led this discussion, noting that libraries for the blind are organized
differently from public libraries and that the role of reader advisors is key.

The group thought that libraries varied a great deal in how they select books for
patrons.  Libraries with small reader advisor staffs rely more on reader profiles
whereas libraries with more reader advisors take more direct requests from patrons.
Estimates for profile select ranged from 75 percent to 30 percent. It was noted that
even those patrons who give the library permission to pick their books additionally
make their own specific book requests. As to service timing, turnaround is most
popular and on-demand service is least used.

Libraries also have different philosophies about assigning patrons to reader advisors.
Some libraries assign specific reader advisors to individual patrons and others do not.
Some have reader advisors with specific areas of expertise, such as responding to
equipment questions.  Some libraries prefer each reader advisor to do everything so
that the patron has only one person to talk to.

How would a centralized distribution affect reader advisory service?  Whether in the
100 percent centralized model or the 80/20 split model, it should be invisible to the
user.  Reader advisors would interact with circulation systems the way they do today,
and the system would  select and mail the book from wherever it resides.  This is
similar to the way interlibrary loan works within Florida under the KLAS system.
That idea led the group to diverge a bit onto jurisdictional questions in an inter-
regional library loan how do you keep all your books from being served to patrons
outside your region?

The main question for the session was: if there is no more local distribution of books,
what does a reader advisor do?  While the locus of the delivery service was
considered to have little impact, other new functions were seen as becoming more
important, mainly in technology areas.  Web-Braille has demonstrated the need for
technology advice to patrons.  Web-Magazines is under development and Web-Books
is planned.   Technology advice relates not so much to the use of the new facilities
themselves, but more to the use of the basic systems (browsers and operating systems)
with the accessibility hardware and software.  The question for the librarians is how to
train reader advisors or otherwise build a staff competent to respond to this need.

It was noted that public libraries are showing more interest in reader advisory

3:00 -  4:30   DAD Projects


John Bryant gave a presentation on the project to evaluate the delivery of magazines
over the web.  The project was developed to test the ability of contractors to deliver
magazines in a format suitable for the web, to test the methods of web delivery, and to
evaluate the user reaction to such a facility.  Several questions were raised at the start
of the project:
Should the user be left with the responsibility of finding and storing
downloaded  files or should there be an unpack tool to assist the user
Should we have audio clips for web site text or just text
Do we provide download of articles or full magazines only
Should we adapt a player to do downloading functions
Should we provide a software player to the users and
What should the screen design be

In order to provide magazines in full DTB format, NLS needed to get several of its
planned tools developed: the software player, a validation tool, a quality assurance
tool, and a digital rights management tool.  It also needed to select the testers and
develop a plan for feedback.  Since there was nothing developed to produce books or
magazines in DTB format, it had to provide the magazine producers with a software
player in order for them to check out magazines they produce.

The test is planned to involve 20-50 people, identified as early adopters of
technology.  NLS will place three magazines on the web.  It has assigned a task to
develop the web interface to DigitalNet, the contractor for the Network Library
Services web.  DigitalNet has designed an interface where the user selects a magazine
issue and is presented with a table of contents from which to download the whole
magazine or selected articles.

There was little discussion, other than the suggestion that it would be beneficial if a
regional library could download a magazine and write it to CD for delivery to patrons.

Player Design

Michael Moodie reviewed the steps NLS plans to take for player design over the next
several years:

The first phase is concept exploration.  NLS will consider the medium, interface,
power supply, size, etc.  A later distribution study will determine what medium can
work, based on the cost of the medium, player cost, and  reliability.  NLS will have to
commit to a medium when the distribution study is finished.

NLS has under contract Don Pieper, an expert in product development with
experience in bringing products into production.  He is reviewing the NLS project and
says the task is daunting.

NLS is developing an RFP for the player and media design and development.  The
scope of work includes:
The design of the DTB player
The design of the distribution medium
The development of concepts for a mailing container and a labeling
scheme and
The requirements for a player-medium interface

The plan is to have the RFP out in June.  The proposed machine has many features
and requirements.  NLS is looking for a firm that has brought such a product to

In discussion, it was noted that CD and flash memory were mentioned as possible
media but not a hard disk.  NLS will use the distribution study to narrow down our
options.  It sees no support for the concept of sending out a player with lots of books,
but recognizes support for a player with storage for loading books.  The combination
of an external medium and internal storage could be ideal.

The possibility of CD again raised the question of whether or not NLS could purchase
an off-the-shelf player.  NLS believes an NLS-designed derivative of a commercial
player is more likely.  NLS needs to buy 700,000 or more machines.  They will either
be throwaway machines or will have to be repaired.  If they have to be repaired, then
NLS must have tight control over the manufacture of the machines to ensure the
repairability and the availability of spare parts.  Another consideration with respect to
an off-the-shelf machine is the acceptability of the interface to our patrons.

It was suggested that the current situation is different.  Today there are six software
players and four hardware players that are supposedly accessible.  By the time of the
decision, there should be lots of information on the end-user interface design.

NLS feels, for the reasons stated above, that it cannot buy machines in the
marketplace, but it may be able to contract for something that already exists.  The
producer must be a financially stable company that is not small.  NLS did well when
it went with GE and TELEX.  We must remember the C-2 experience.

Media: Patron Considerations

Moodie invited the group to consider what the reader should be allowed to do with
the media, and what should not be allowed.

For instance, should the patron be able to write to the media?  Probably not.  Patrons
might never return the books if they could write to the media.

Someone suggested that the media have an interface that would allow the copying of a
book from the medium to a computer.

This led to an extended discussion of who should be able to write to the media for
recycling purposes.   Should it be only NLS or should it be NLS and network
libraries?  Some network libraries want the duplication ability they have now for
surplus copies of NLS titles.  The libraries need the ability to duplicate books locally.
They also need the ability to overwrite media that belong to their library, as for locally
produced books.  That brought up the point of who would recycle the books, the
library or NLS.  The answer is probably NLS, since the media would have to be
repackaged and relabeled.  It is easy to lose sight of the labeling issue in a distribution
model that has a lot of recycling, but labeling is one of the toughest parts.

The player should have a cable connection for readers who want to copy from the
media to a computer.  Some readers might prefer reading on their computer.
Someone said that there should be a device that would connect to a computer and
allow our media to plug into it, making it possible to play our books on the computer.

The issue was tabled until Friday and the meeting was adjourned.

Friday,  May 9

9:00 - 10:30   Open Discussion

Book numbering, continued

Prine summarized the problem of shelving that would arise if we used the same
sequence number for DTBs that is used for the corresponding TB/RD/RC books.
There followed a discussion, mostly among network librarians and NLS staff.  It was
thought it would be easier for patrons if the same number were used for the same
recording, whether in DB or RC format, because it would be obvious that they were
the same book.  On the other hand, it might also be confusing to patrons, since the
numbers would not relate to the order in which the DB books were released.  DB
books converted from RC titles released in the past raise different issues from DB
books released simultaneously with RC books.

It was suggested that interfiling of DB and RC books would not be possible if a new
sequence were used, and that using the old sequence would allow more options.  The
ability to interfile depends on the design of the mailing container, which we won't
know for a while.  It was noted that libraries shelve in a number of different ways, so
NLS should do what it wants.

Discussion shifted to the need to advertise the reissues of RCs as DBs so that people
know what is available. NLS said the large number of reissues contemplated (10,000)
is beyond its ability to advertise through normal publications.  Catalog use is
increasing, so perhaps patrons could use the catalog to find reissues.

In the discussion, people emphasized that they were expressing preferences but had
no strong feeling either way.  Several called for NLS to choose what it felt was best.
In order to close the discussion,  the librarians and COSLA representatives
voted three for the old sequence and six for the new sequence, but again, without a
strong preference.

DTB Medium, continued

The member requesting the continuance said that he had nothing new to add.
Someone said that the library should have write privileges on the media.  Another
related that the National Audio Engineering Advisory Committee recommended the
identification of books using braille labels  in the container if not on the medium

Commercial Audiobooks, continued

The group continued the discussion that followed the Hutton presentation, starting
with the issue of the trend toward books being published simultaneously in print and
audio.  While that would be true for popular books, it would not be true of everything.
How would that affect NLS book production?  If the time comes when most popular
books are published simultaneously in print and audio, which could happen in about
ten years, the NLS role would be to fill in the gaps left by commercial audiobook
publishers.  One member envisioned three phases: first (now), there is too little
commercial audiobook production for NLS to change any practices;  next, NLS will
produce non-commercially available titles and license commercial audiobooks for
distribution; and third, it might rely entirely on licensing.

Aside from the amount being published in audio, NLS also has to consider quality.
The first four  books in the NLS commercial book experiment all failed our quality
control review.  There were serious flaws, such as out-of-order or missing chapters.
There were also production value issues, such as dramatic (multiple narrator) readings
and background music.  On the other hand, commercial books improve timeliness,
and NLS could provide more books with the same funding level.  There is a trade-off.
The NLS position is that, if everyone agrees to accept commercial quality, it would
pursue more licensing.  A consumer group member suggested that an experiment with
only one company was not enough, especially a company notorious for poor
audiobook quality.  Other companies should be considered.  It was suggested that the
acceptability of commercial recordings could be incorporated into the user study.
NLS noted that users gave immediate negative feedback when a commercial book
chapter was missing.

Librarians were concerned that commercial book licensing might lead to the end of
NLS and  reliance, instead,  on public libraries for service to the blind.  Because the
service quality varies so greatly across public libraries, some feared a loss in the
standard of service to the blind community.  A state librarian maintained that the case
was just the opposite, that public libraries should never provide this service.  Public
library service is too inconsistent.

NLS does not foresee that it will stop producing books.  It will continue to produce
them for the program for the blind, but through licensing rather than doing its own
recording.  A problem with licensing is that audiobooks, unlike print books, require
NLS to secure copyright permissions.  Also, unlike a print books, an audiobook
generally has a number of copyright permissions to clear.  The NLS experiment was
done with the one publisher that usually holds all copyright permissions itself for its
audiobooks.  The next step is to take a long-term approach, working with other
commercial audiobook producers to persuade them to seek simpler rights for

The evolution of the medium for commercial books has implications for the NLS
player design.  Commercial books are moving from CD media to MP3 media to files
downloadable from the Internet.  There is a requirement that the player should be able
to play commercial books.  That implies that the player must have internal storage,
particularly if the player does not play CDs.  That led to the idea that, if the player can
play commercial books, perhaps the program could just buy the books, rather than
license them.

Random Shelving

Steve Prine outlined and defined the random shelving strategies in use:
-- New Mexico random on carousel
-- New York City terminal-digit shelving
  Texas random shelving with primary and secondary areas

It was noted that random shelving in a period of transition is not as useful as in a
system where not every book (number) was held in a library.

The New York City regional library set aside one hundred sections of shelving. Books
are shelved within section by the last two digits of the book number.  Once the
collection is separated this way, the books are shelved numerically by the first three
digits.  New York finds this easier to do as it has a constant number of
sections/shelves allotted for the collection.  When it is time to XESS books, the staff
reviews each section to determine what needs to be weeded. While the collection is
shelved this way, NYC uses turnaround shelving at the front end so only titles not
being recirculated have to be reshelved.

This method of storage is a definite plus (for RCs and for DTBs) if a library does not
retain a copy of every title.  Terminal-digit shelving accommodates gaps in the
collection; it gives shipping/receiving staff a location within a section or shelf to find
a particular book number without requiring major shifting of the collection.  The shift
is restricted to a single shelf or within a section.

The Texas regional library has converted all of its shelving to random shelving.  It has
effectively made its entire shelving area "turnaround shelving".  Shelving is divided
into primary and secondary areas.  As books come in (after inspection), they are
shelved in the primary shelving area.  Both books and shelves have bar codes so the
computer system knows the section and shelf where the book is stored. If the copy of
the book is not recirculated within a few days, the book is removed from the primary
area to the secondary area, and the book bar code and shelf bar code are entered into
the system.  If a patron selects a title in the secondary area, or if a reader advisor
assigns a specific title, the computer system will identify the location of the book (in
either the primary or secondary area) so it can be pulled and sent to the patron.

Texas has taken two other steps that have also increased its efficiency and workflow.
First, it uses handheld scanners for checking books in/out and to tie books to shelf
locations.  The scanners are used in the stacks and the information is then uploaded
into the computer system.

The other step Texas has taken is to remove book inspection from the daily
circulation equation.  Books are checked into a holding queue (similar to repair status
in some circulation systems).  This has the effect of updating the  patron record, but
not the inventory record.  Therefore, the patron will be sent a replacement book,
without the incoming book being added back to the inventory.

This step was taken for a specific reason.  First, the library did not have the staff (or
volunteers) on a daily basis to inspect every returned title each day.  However, over
the course of a month there was enough help to catch up with inspection.  By taking
inspection out of the daily circulation process, books could be held until resources
were available to inspect them without delaying the turnaround service to the patron.

Shipping and Receiving

This discussion focused on ways to reduce shipping and receiving costs in network
libraries. One solution would be disposable media.  CDs might be cheap enough to be
giveaways. The quality of the medium would not have to be so high using on-demand
duplication.  Canada does one-way distribution of CDs.  They are not as high a quality
as what is expected in a circulating collection.  NLS used that strategy for FD and
cassette magazines.  The mailers are disposable.  The unit cost per book is a key issue
here.  There is also an environmental issue.  We would have to look into recyclability
of the books.  We would also have to gauge the environmental impact if CDs were
discarded in the current volume of cassettes that are weeded (20 million per year).

The Danes have implemented a one-way, on-demand distribution of CDs.  RNIB did
the same but is having to retreat to a circulating collection because it could not keep
up with the duplication demand.  It now recirculates about 80 percent of distribution
and duplicates 20 percent on demand.  It is possible to design a system to meet the
demand, but that is considered too expensive except when done in a central facility.
The question is, who would pay for such a facility?  It cannot rest solely on NLS.  If
NLS funded the capital investment in the center, state libraries might be willing to
contribute to the operations costs.  They already contract with other centers, such as
the Braille Institute or the Utah State Library for services.  They could outsource their
shipping and receiving, if it were cheaper.

The cost effectiveness of contracting for shipping and receiving was called into
question by one librarian who had looked into using one of the larger centers.
Shipping and receiving in that library used the three lowest cost staff members plus
volunteers to circulate 3,000 books per day, plus machines and catalogs.  Outsourcing
would have doubled the costs.  It was reiterated that state library funding for
centralization would have to be cost effective.  It was pointed out that an attempt at
braille centralization met with some opposition.  There was some fear that a center
would be perceived as a replacement for a local BPH library.  On the other hand, it
was stated that 90 percent of companies do this kind of outsourcing.

On the question of cost for a central facility, a comparison was made to a system
developed for the Albany regional library, which has a mechanical system for
processing its incoming books.  It consists of three modules and cost $300,000-

There was a strong emphasis on the need to maintain local service, even if the
shipping/receiving is outsourced.  The circulation would have to be driven by network
libraries, with their systems communicating with a central system.  The Utah braille
center is not an appropriate model because, for libraries that contract with Utah, the
patrons communicate with the Utah center, not their local libraries, for all services
related to braille.  If NLS goes with an on-demand model for distribution, network
libraries would need the ability to produce books on demand, though in low volume,
for walk-in patrons and the like.

There was an issue that if we go to a one-way distribution, it may have an impact on
the revenue foregone for Free Matter.  It may force us to raise an issue we should
avoid.  In a one-way system, we may run into a public perception of wastefulness,
throwing away all of these CDs.  On the other hand, patrons may use them to build
personal libraries.  It is a public relations question we would have to address.

What if we do not go with one-way distribution and follow the model proposed for
flash memory?   If the cost of media is high, there will be a limited quantity of the
media units in the system.  Will that result in patrons being allowed fewer books at a
time than they are allowed now?  Cylke said that NLS will not do that.  If the cost of
flash is too high, NLS will not go with it.

Since it is likely that the selected system will be a two-way system along the lines of
the flash model, NLS needs to design containers to aid shipping and receiving.  The
group was asked to discuss requirements for shipping containers and labels in a two-
way system.

In a system based on flash memory or the like, there will be no need for the kind of
visual inspection that is done for cassettes.  The container could be transparent or
have a slot for reading bar codes, though a slot would allow for the collection of dirt,
or for rain and snow to get in during mailing.  We might consider radio frequency
identification (RFID) systems for the books in order to get away from some of the bar
code problems.  It was suggested that in ten years the postal service may require RFID
labels on everything.

For mailing labels, it was suggested that we might use a sticky label with the patron
address.  It would be peeled off, revealing the return address on the container.  This
might cause a problem for circulation systems that check books back in from the
mailcard.  The possibility was raised that the cartridge and the mailing container may
be integrated, all-in-one, though that raises problems of exposure to dirt and rain and

Conference Program

Ideas for the program for the next national conference were solicited.  Among the
suggestions were:

Shelving strategies and options
Patron technical support
How to use Web-braille and web catalogs
General statement of system change: core values, reader advisor vs.
technical support
Web-magazine demonstration
The Time/Warner project, NLS plans, and commercial audiobooks
  Progress on Canadian project experiment in Illinois and elsewhere
 Radio reading services and libraries

Next Meeting of the Digital Long-Term Planning Group

Given the DTB schedule, two options were suggested for the timing of the next
meeting: wait at least nine months for developments, or have a shorter meeting
(which had been suggested at the last meeting).  The group recommended a full two-
and-a-half day meeting after nine months or after the media study has been
completed.  The meeting will be scheduled between March and June 2004 depending
on the media study and on other meetings taking place.


National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Digital Talking Books Program

Key Requirements and Assumptions

This document was generated by NLS in conjunction with the Digital Long-Term
Planning Group that is assisting NLS in preparing for its digital future.  The
requirements and assumptions listed are assumed to be valid over a five to fifteen year
period, and would need to be revisited when considering a longer planning horizon.

System Basics
System is consumer-driven.

Basic service must be free to the user.  Alternative services such as Web-Braille
requiring that the user supply some equipment may be offered, but a free version of
the same service component must be provided.

System must be affordable by both NLS and network libraries.

NLS primarily supplies materials and playback equipment and the network primarily
supplies direct service (reader advisory) and circulation of items to patrons.

NLS must offer a stable player design that users and libraries can learn and become
proficient with.  A system where the player and its user interface changes frequently
will not be successful, as the less adaptable patrons will be lost when the player
changes, and libraries will have too many types of players to explain.

Similarly, since NLS is responsible for maintaining the players, the player must be
either a throwaway or a stable design NLS can provide parts for and can easily

Player (and medium) must be based on open standards so that NLS can procure
products competitively from a number of sources and so that the loss of a single
company does not eliminate our only source of a product.

The player must be highly durable and easy to clean.

The user interface of the player must be able to accommodate users with physical
disabilities (limited strength/dexterity, use of mouth stick/breath switch, etc.).

Player must be portable and operate off AC power and rechargeable batteries.

Player must produce high-quality sound.

Player should be able to play commercial audiobooks.

Player must support fast, flexible navigation through document, along with other
functions identified in NISO feature sets.

Medium must be robust, withstanding rough handling by patrons, long-term storage in
environment, and postal handling.

Medium must be designed to ensure good listening experience for each user, regardless of
many users have already read it.

Medium must be easy to manipulate by persons with limited dexterity and enable

Distribution System
A large proportion of program users are technically unsophisticated and unable to handle
complexity.  A channel must exist that will reliably deliver books to such patrons in a
that they understand and can manage.

System must provide distribution channel not based on physical medium (e.g., web-based

System must support timely access to current NLS-produced material and allow material
to be
selected by the user directly or via profile selection process.

System must deliver material to user at least as fast as current USPS-based system.

System must support duplication of copies at the network level.

System must deliver the main body of audio materials in human speech or in synthetic
that is at least as good as human speech.

Materials distributed to patrons must be in a specialized format to protect copyrighted

System must support direct circulation of magazines to patrons.

Addition of titles to system should continue to be based on NLS collection building

NLS-produced collection consists of unabridged titles.

The number of titles produced annually by NLS should not fall below current level.

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