This past April, the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a division of the Library of Congress, entered the first phase of its transition to a digital playback system, as well as releasing an upgraded version of its pilot download website. Beginning with the testing of 5,000 digital players by NLS patrons in their homes, NLS has begun to launch a full-scale production and distribution of 26,000 players per month, ensuring continued access to reading materials for more than 500,000 registered users.
New to the NLS program is a state of the art online component, called the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site. This new site for blind and physically handicapped patrons of NLS now provides better than ever access to digital audio books and magazines. The State Library's Talking Book Services web site will soon be providing access to this site for its patrons.
The State Library's Talking Book Services Director, Pamela Davenport said, "This transition from the old four track audio cassettes to this new format represents a new digital reality." Davenport continued to say that "this transition shows that blind people have the ability to do what everyone else is doing in a world of Twitter and Facebook."
Readers may press buttons on the new NLS digital talking book players to quickly navigate the book structure, combined with the high-quality human recording, making the new digital NLS download books one of the most significant advancements in the provision of talking books for blind and low vision people.
Talking Book Services staff members have been anticipating this transition for over 10 years. According to NLS, veterans are being offered the new digital talking book players first. The library currently serves over 700 veterans. Thus far, recipients of the new device have responded positively. Users no longer have to turn over the four track tapes which makes for easier operation. The State Library's Talking Book Service currently serves nearly 7,000 patrons. The library will receive a monthly allotment of players to keep up with the growing demand for the transition.
For more information about the State Library's Talking Book Services, visit www.statelibrary.sc.gov/Talking-Book-Services.