Library of Congress facility to make digital talking books
December 28, 1999
(CNN) -- Blind and physically handicapped readers will benefit from the Library of Congress' recent investment in a digital recording facility.
A major step in the development of digital talking books, the new studio follows installation of a digital duplication system at the Library's Cincinnati facility earlier this year.
"These initiatives represent the library's long-term commitment to develop digital technology for blind and physically handicapped individuals," said National Library Service Director Frank Kurt Cylke.
"That's very exciting," said Penny Reeder, who works with the American Council of the Blind in Washington, D.C., as editor of the "Braille Forum."
"A digital format will allow me to search through text in a book," she explained, which is critical to finding material. People with sight "get lots of information in the bandwidth of their vision. I don't get as much because I listen."
She was quick to cite areas where blind people and others with obstacles to reading written text will benefit. "How about cookbooks, or how to fix your plumbing? Novels are good, too," she said, but having non-fiction, historical books and cookbooks more readily available will be of immediate value.
Cylke, the NLS director, said the investment is critical to develop technical specifications for digital talking books and magazines. Once recording and duplication standards are in place the library can "build a digital archives of talking books and magazines," said Wells B. Kormann, the chief of the library's Digital Audio Development Committee. "This will be important when we are able to offer patrons access to digital recordings in the future," he said.
In October, NLS announced a milestone for its braille readers when the first digital braille book was accessed on the Internet. According to the NLS, that signaled a successful two-year effort to develop an Internet distribution system for braille books in the collection.
More than 2,700 braille books created by the Library are now available for download or online use by eligible individuals, libraries and schools with braille embossers, refreshable braille displays and other braille-aware devices.
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