Network Bulletin No.: 08-40 (Corrected from no. 08-39)
Date: October 10, 2008
Subject: Digital talking books
Index term: Digital transition update
In its attempt to keep network libraries informed about the progress in making the transition to
the digital talking-book system, NLS is providing the following information. Discussed are machine
production and its schedule, cartridge and container availability, and third-party purchase of cartridges and
In mid-June 2008, the Library of Congress awarded Shinano Kenshi/Plextor of Culver City,
California, a contract to produce the standard and advanced digital talking-book players. When mass
production commences, Plextor, the electronic equipment division of Shinano Kenshi, will produce twenty
thousand digital players a month at a cost to NLS of $157 per player (including license fees). NLS will
receive the first two pilot production players in December 2008 and two hundred units will be shipped for
quality review in early January 2009. The first five thousand players will be distributed in February 2009.
Mass-production players will arrive at machine-lending agencies in early May.
__Cartridges for digital books__
On August 22, 2008, the Library of Congress awarded Northstar Systems Inc. of Rancho
Cucamonga, California, a contract to manufacture USB flash-memory cartridges, which will be used to record
audiobooks for distribution to the NLS cooperating network for circulation to patrons across the
country and overseas.
The initial contract funding of more than $6.2 million will enable Northstar to manufacture audio
flash cartridges on which NLS will record both new and existing titles over the next year. The base
contract covers three years with a unilateral government option for an additional four years.
Northstar is obligated to furnish participating libraries with blank cartridges at prices defined by a
formula in the contract. Libraries may purchase one thousand or more pieces per order directly from the
manufacturer. These third-party cartridges will be a different color than those used by NLS
and will not have the "Property of the U.S. Government" notice. Details about specific procedures for library
and individual purchases are being determined and will be announced when finalized.
The cost of flash memory is quite volatile and has dropped precipitously in recent years. In order
to benefit from the long-term drop in memory price and to reduce manufacturer risk, the memory price
component of the cartridge is tied to the three-month average of the memory-market price (as listed on
DRAMexchange.com) prior to scheduled delivery. The total cost for the cartridge comprises a
fixed price for the cartridge without memory and a market-pegged price, which fluctuates fortnightly, for the
Recently the cost of 512MB memory fell to a price close to smaller capacity memories.
Cartridges with a capacity of 512MB (which will hold an NLS digital book that exceeds a reading time of 45 hours)
represent the best value to NLS and libraries during the current market climate.
Prices will vary based upon current flash-memory costs. Current memory prices would translate
into cartridge costs for libraries as follows:
Cartridge quantity Capacity Cost
1,000 pieces 512MB $4.83
5,000 pieces 512MB $4.77
1,000 pieces 1GB $5.75
5,000 pieces 1GB $5.69
Third-party purchasers are advised to check listings on DRAMexhange.com or to contact the
vendor before ordering cartridges.
NLS is still determining who the third-party vendors will be and will notify the network as soon as
agreements have been finalized. Libraries that choose to purchase cartridges in quantities of less
than one thousand at a time will be able to purchase those from the identified third-party vendors.
LC Industries in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, was awarded the contract to produce the digital
talking-book cartridge mailing containers. Plans are underway to make mailing containers available for
network library purchase. The current projected price is $.70 each in lots of 220 plus shipping and handling.
These containers will be identical to those used by NLS, except that they will be a different color and
will not bear the Library of Congress seal. Vendor contact information will be provided to the network as soon
as it is available.
For more information contact:
Assistant Chief, Network Division
[log in to unmask]