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NLS Press Release

Digital Talking-book Collection under Development for Blind and Physically Handicapped Readers

For Immediate Release:
July 12 , 2005
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or [email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress is making steady progress toward converting its talking-book collection from an analog cassette format to digital. Four thousand digital talking books have been created to date, and five thousand will be added to the collection annually.

"We have made noticeable strides in the digital conversion project that will transform the way our patrons experience audiobooks," says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "The advanced navigation capabilities and audio quality made possible through digital technology will enhance the way they read and access information."

By 2008, a collection of twenty thousand titles will be available, evenly split between converted DTBs-existing analog cassettes adapted to a digital format-and born DTBs-new books recorded using digital technology.

"Each audiobook undergoes extensive inspection by quality assurance reviewers to ensure it meets NLS specifications," says Robert Fistick, acting chief, Materials Development Division. Those found with audio, narrative, or structural flaws are returned to producers for correction.

Titles are selected for the collection based on merit, popularity, and the book's availability in print. NLS librarians consult national book reviews and bestseller lists as well as monitor publishing trends and patron requests before choosing which books to add each week.

According to Jim Herndon, head of the NLS Collection Development Section, the challenge is to build a well-rounded reserve of titles that meets the informational and recreational needs of a diverse readership. "Because we have to satisfy many reading tastes," says Herndon, "we abide by the same philosophy as any library-we try to find a happy medium." The digital collection will include bestsellers, classics, cook books, and special genres such as romance, mysteries, Westerns, history, and biography.

More than 23 million copies of recorded and braille books and magazines were circulated to a readership of 799,718 in 2004. The International Union Catalog provides access to 423,500 titles (19 million copies). Audiobook readers borrow an average of 31 books and magazines a year. Braille readers average 20 books and magazines a year.

An overview of the NLS digital talking-book project may be found in Current Strategic Business Plan for the Implementation of Digital Systems at For enrollment information, visit or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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Posted on 2011-01-10