Home> Press release archive > Library of Congress expands scope of digital download pilot

NLS Press Release


For Immediate Release:
October 26, 2007
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or [email protected]

Pilot focuses on optimizing functionality of download web site, which opens to NLS patrons in 2008

WASHINGTON, DC— The digital talking book download project, launched in October 2006, has evolved well beyond the hopes of its architects. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, recently expanded the project’s scope, allowing more patrons to participate in downloading and reading digital talking books and offering those patrons improved services. The project has also shifted its focus from testing the usability of digital audiobooks to now concentrating on optimizing the functionality of the download web site. As the download project improves, so too will the capabilities offered by the download program when it officially launches in late 2008. This effort is the second stage in a three phase process to implement a digital system.

"More patrons now have a voice in shaping the digital download program. We will utilize patron comments and the lessons learned during this experimental effort to build a robust download program," said NLS research and development officer Neil Bernstein.

The pilot offers its six hundred participants more than ever before. The download collection has grown to more than seven thousand books and thirteen magazines, and includes children’s titles and Spanish-language books. NLS recently added books converted from analog tape masters, whereas before the site only featured materials originally recorded in digital format.

On August 31 NLS revamped the existing download web site. The robust new venue offers patrons more features to improve their download experience. It also embodies more administrative functions for NLS employees managing the project. While the web site has improved, it is still a work in progress. It will be enhanced continually until the final web site is launched in late 2008.

The participant comments on the project are overwhelmingly positive. Though patrons are no longer required to complete a survey for each title they read, they continue to be very vocal on the web-site’s message board and in e-mails to NLS. Because the project is no longer focused on evaluating the usability of digital books and players, input now relates to the operation and content of the download web site.

Patrons praise both the download concept as well as its web site. They enjoy the instant access to titles and find downloading titles more convenient than mail order. The scope and range of choice is also significant: one participant remarked, "I feel as though I am in a library for the first time in my life." Patrons also value the sense of independence and connection afforded by downloadable reading. Other participants praise the detail and care that went into developing an accessible web site: "My compliments to all of you involved in this project. The site is well organized and easy to use. Obviously thought has been given to the bandwidth required for a site of this nature. This project will be a great boon to many of us."

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