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NLS Press Release

Network Libraries Prepare for Distribution of Digital Talking Books and Players

For Immediate Release:
April 11, 2007
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or [email protected]


Digital Transition Advisory Committee meets to discuss distribution issues affecting NLS patrons

WASHINGTON, DC—As the 2008 launch date for digital talking books and players nears, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, is preparing its library network for the transition. As part of this effort, the Digital Transition Advisory Committee met on January 30-31 to discuss recent implementation developments. NLS established the group, which succeeds the Digital Long-Term Planning Group, to inform staff about transition progress and distribution plan updates.

"NLS wants to ensure its network libraries have all the resources necessary for a successful digital conversion," says NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "The recent meeting provided us an invaluable opportunity to update committee members on current distribution plans as well as address and prepare for challenges libraries may face as they begin circulating digital audiobooks and players."

During the meeting, the group considered a variety of issues, including: book and player distribution; digital-book shelving and duplication; circulation system modifications; machine monitoring issues; and, copy allotment. Following presentations on the current transition budget, the digital transition timetable, and the status of digital talking-book development, the committee examined how budget resources might affect libraries and the distribution of digital books and players.

In particular, as result of technology and cost-related factors, NLS has altered its short-term distribution plans for digital audiobooks. Instead of implementing a hybrid model—mass producing popular titles while duplicating less-read titles on an as-needed basis—NLS has opted to mass duplicate all book titles. Hybrid distribution is not yet cost effective because the technology required for duplication-on-demand is still under development. It would also require libraries to update their circulation systems to accommodate duplication-on-demand centers. However, NLS plans to adopt a hybrid system once full implementation is achieved because it will be more economical in the long-run. Full implementation is expected to occur three to five years after the launch date.

Because funding and technology-related factors will affect player distribution throughout the transition, it will be important to keep libraries apprised of changes throughout the process. As a result, the Digital Transition Advisory Committee also explored various communication methods to update network libraries on distribution-related issues. These included Webinars, reading services, PowerPoint presentations, notices advising libraries on how many digital machines they will receive, and a communication plan to supplement the Flash newsletter.

With the completion of the first Digital Transition Advisory Committee meeting, NLS is well equipped to move forward with two distribution-related projects. During the upcoming pre-launch test, patrons selected by eight regional libraries will test current prototypes of the digital talking books and players. NLS will also examine digital copy allotment of older book titles in a separate project.

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 www.loc.gov/nls/businessplan2006.html. For enrollment information, visit www.loc.gov/nls or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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Posted on 2011-01-10