Traditionally, Talking Books were played on records, and then, as the technology changed, on cassette tapes on specially adapted machines. Moving into the future, Talking Books are in the process of becoming digital files on CDs or another device. These books allow users to skip directly to specific places in the book, insert bookmarks, and more.
There are two types of players for reading digital talking books—stand-alone players and software players that are used on computers. The stand-alone machines are the easiest to learn to use, and they can be small and portable. They are also the most affordable players for people who do not own a computer. MP3 files and commercial music CDs can also be played on these players.
Digital talking books are not really things that you can hold, although they usually come on a CD-ROM today. Rather, they are files, which may also be available on the web. To put it technically, digital talking books are well-organized collections of computer files produced according to specifications that are published in the standards that define them. They are a medium-independent information access-and-delivery technology—the files can be stored on CD, in a directory, or on a memory card—that is based on open standards, primarily the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language), pronounced “smile.”
A fully coded book in the DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) format can have many levels of navigation, accessed by using the player’s keypad or buttons. For example, Level 1 could be chapters, Level 2 could be subheadings within a chapter, and Level 3 could be paragraphs. Using the appropriate keys, the user can navigate forward or backward through the book using these levels. The user can also go to a particular page, navigate by phrase (as defined by the book’s coding), or place a bookmark at a memorable passage or at the beginning of a section to be studied. Digital talking books can include both text and audio files.
When digital talking books contain text, it is possible to send the text to a braille embosser or display it on a refreshable braille display or on a screen—in any font and font size. It is also possible to check spelling and search for text the way one can now search on the web.
No longer does one have to wait for that long rewind or fast forward; digital talking book players take one forward or backward almost instantaneously. They also allow users to increase or decrease the speed of the reading using speech compression—they cut the pauses between words rather than just increasing the speed at which the book is played. So, a favorite narrator will seem to be reading very quickly in his or her own human voice, instead of sounding high-pitched like a mouse.
Digital talking books are a particular kind of electronic book—the kind defined by and for people who are blind or otherwise print disabled to best meet their particular information access and reading needs. Digital talking books will not work on players that are not designed to play them.
Questions to ask when purchasing digital talking book players:
- Do you want a portable player or a software player that runs on your computer?
- Do you want a player that plays CDs or a player that plays files transferred directly from your computer?
- Do you want a full-featured player or is a player with some features enough?
Book Wizard Producer
Software that records, edits, and masters digital talking books. Can work with narrator input, text or multiple sound files.
Book Wizard Reader
Software program for reading DAISY books.
Digital talking book player that offers the option of reading the text and listening to the audio independently. As the audio is played, the on-screen text is highlighted and can be accompanied by images that are embedded in the document or those which "pop-up" in synchronization with the associated audio.
DAISY reader that supports open source DAISY media, Bookshare.org, NFB NewsLine and media created with eClipseWriter. Has built-in web browser to assist in downloading DAISY books from the web. Compatible with XP, Vista and Windows 7.
Software that enables users of DAISY books to download tiny encrypted files called DTB-DNA™ and DTB-RDNA™ from a website, intranet or password-protected web-portal and convert them into DAISY 2.02 text only and full text and audio media on a PC. eClipseWater opens the downloaded files and, guided by a build book wizard, users may select the DAISY type and audio format. The DAISY book renders the DTB-DNA file into a structured audiobook at the average rate of 11 seconds per page when rendering to WMA audio (rendering speed will vary depending upon PC speed and resources). Books created with eClipseWater may be read with eClipseReader, Windows Media Player or a solid-state WMA player.
Software that enables users of DAISY books to download tiny encrypted files called DTB-DNA™ and DTB-RDNA™ from a website, intra-net or password-protected web portal and convert them into DAISY 2.02, DAISY/NISO 2002 and DAISY/NISO 2005 text only and full text and audio media on a personal PC. eClipseWater opens the downloaded file and, guided by a build book wizard, users may select the DAISY type and audio format. The DAISY book renders the DTB-DNA file into a structured audio book at the average rate of 11 seconds per page when rendering to WMA, MP3 or ASF audio (rendering speed will vary depending upon PC speed and resources). eClipseWater Pro is an enhanced version that renders over 30 formats of accessible media and includes a built-in CD burner designed for DAISY digital talking books.
eClipseWriter Personal Edition
Software that converts electronic file formats such as Word, HTML, .TXT, and .RTF and unlocked PDF into digital talking books. A "Save as DAISY" feature allows users to open any of the supported text formats and create accessible portable audio media with heading, page, phrase, table and list navigation completely automated from start to finish, guided by a step-by-step wizard. Also allows user to burn a DAISY CD automatically when the automated rendering process is complete. Includes a simple DAISY recorder for recording meetings and lectures that may be reviewed and navigated with DAISY players.
Software that converts electronic file formats such as Word, HTML, .TXT, and .RTF and unlocked PDF into digital talking books. A "Save as DAISY" feature allows users to open any of the supported text formats and create accessible portable audio media with heading, page, phrase, table and list navigation completely automated from start to finish, guided by a step-by-step build book wizard. Also allows users to burn a DAISY CD automatically when the automated rendering process is complete.
Application that allows users to read DAISY-formatted talking books on a PAC-Mate or desktop PC.
Software player that provides complete access to digital talking books.