Braille Book Review

July-August 2008

In Brief

The following information is reprinted from an issue of NLS Flash, a newsletter created to bring current information on NLS progress in digital technology to patrons, library staff, and other interested individuals.

NLS Flash, April 2008
volume 4 issue 1

Patrons test digital talking books and system

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) recently conducted its final test of the digital talking-book system with patrons. User comments, which are now assisting NLS to identify areas for modification before manufacturing begins, were both positive and helpful.

Fifty blind patrons of the Connecticut State Library tested a mix of standard and advanced digital talking-book players and the system over a three-week period.

"My experience testing the digital player was rewarding," said Connecticut field test participant Bruce Woodward. "The machine was easy to use and lightweight." Participants also appreciated the players’ compact size, speed, pitch restoration, the ability to index, and the bookmark feature, which allows readers to pick up reading right where they left off.

Advanced players were tested by fifty patrons from the NLS download pilot group. Testers appreciated the enhanced sound quality, tone, volume responsiveness, and the players’ variable speed capability. “From opening the box to downloading and reading that first book—all was intuitive, effortless, and fun,” said download participant Deborah Kendrick, an Ohio-based journalist.

All patrons used the machines in everyday settings as they normally would. NLS has now collected comments and suggestions from all participants and is evaluating results.

Consumers and network librarians hear digital implementation plans

Consumers, network librarians, and state librarians who serve on the Digital Transition Advisory Committee were given demonstrations of the new digital players, flash cartridges, and duplication equipment when they met at NLS Thursday, March 27, and Friday, March 28.

Senior engineer Michael Katzmann demonstrated production models of both the basic and advanced players and talking-book flash cartridges so that each member could experience the players features and instructions. As members inserted cartridges, the players announced machine status. When they pressed keys, such as "rewind" and "fast-forward," the room echoed with instructions. Proposals for manufacturing the player and flash cartridges are currently being evaluated and an award is expected within thirty days, Katzmann said.


The following announcement may be of interest to readers. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped reserves the right to publish announcements selectively, as space permits. The item mentioned, however, is not part of the NLS program, and its listing does not imply endorsement.

AFB guide to assistive technology products for sale

AFB Press, the publishing arm of the American Foundation for the Blind, has released the 2008 AccessWorld Guide to Assistive Technology Products. The 2008 edition includes detailed profiles of more than 280 products for people who are blind or visually impaired, including 30 new items. The publication offers evaluations of cell phones, PDAs, Global Positioning Systems, screen readers, braille printers, CCTVs, and other items. Features include a comprehensive guide to buying accessible cell phones, a list of evaluations from AFB’s technology magazine AccessWorld, and a resource section with manufacturer names and contact information. The AccessWorld Guide is for sale in paperback and as an ASCII text file on CDROM for $34.95. Free online access to the Guide is provided with a print or CDROM purchase. Online-only access to the Guide is available for $19.00. To order call 800-232-3044 or visit

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