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NLS: That All May Read

Audio book distribution system design

For: Digital talking book distribution analysis. Task 2 - System design (Final report : June 29, 2006)

Section 3 - All Mass-Duplication Distribution System

This section of the report presents the envisioned design for the All Mass-Duplication DTB distribution system. Because this approach uses the current book distribution model, the changes necessary to network library and NLS operations are relatively modest. The major components of operations are first presented and any necessary changes are cited and estimated, followed by the estimated major costs for audio book production under this system.

3.1 Book Distribution Operations

Most audio book production and distribution operations would remain unchanged under an All Mass-Duplication system. Major facets of these operations are listed below, with any necessary changes that must be made noted along with estimates of any associated impacts. A steady-state operation is assumed after the transition is completed, RC production has ceased, and all patrons have DTBMs.

3.1.1 DTB Title Numbering System: It is noted that NLS has decided that all titles concurrently produced in both RC and DTB formats during the transition period will have the same title numbers, and that all DTB titles produced in retrospect will have the same title numbers as their RC counterparts.

3.1.2 Book Production: Future DTB production will be about the same in magnitude (titles and copies) and subject mix as current RC production. Approximately 2,000 new titles will be produced annually in digital format, and all titles will be mass-duplicated in an average quantity of 911 (ranging from the upper 400’s for the least popular to 2,000 for the most popular titles). NLS contractors will narrate and mass-duplicate DTB titles in multiple copies, being provided DTB cartridges and containers customized for the program as GFE, which they will load with audio book data, label in print (with 36 point font) and Braille, and allocate to network libraries in the manner done currently. NLS mass-duplicators will employ media duplication in a manner identical or similar to that described for DOD Center duplication, or in some other manner that will achieve similar ends.

3.1.3 Service Standards/Quality Control: NLS will conduct the same types and degree of quality control for new DTB production as is currently done for RC production, which will include periodic site visits to manufacturers and continuous statistical quality control via sample lot testing.

3.1.4 Copy Allotment: The copy allotment process for DTBs will be similar to that now used in the current RC allocation process. The analysis of patron demand made in Phase 1 has shown that the comparative demand for a title does not fundamentally vary by library location. The patron base will therefore continue to be the most important factor driving copy allotment order quantities, but collection storage space constraints will also be a factor, as they are now, though relatively less so with DTBs because of the smaller size. Fiscal limitations impacting production lot sizes may also prove to be a constraint on the size of the lots that will be allocated to libraries. Bibliographic information for new titles will be downloaded from PICS at several junctures by the libraries, for the same purposes as now.

3.1.5 DTB Cartridge: The DTB will be a customized Flash Memory cartridge, of 256 MB capacity, using a USB 2.0 connector, white in color, and labelled in both print (using adhesive/pressure-sensitive label stock) and Braille (as an overlay). It will be about the size of a cassette, and is assumed to be 3/8" thick. It will be very durable and require no rewinding. About 95% of all titles will fit on a single cartridge, and almost all other titles will fit on two cartridges.

3.1.6 DTB Container: The DTB container will be made of plastic and blue in color, and measure approximately 6" deep x 5" wide x 0.75" thick. It will be neither clear nor have any sight holes in it. It will be hinged and openable from the top, have the buckle-type fastener straps used on the RC container, and be stackable. It will be labelled by NLS mass-duplicators in essentially the same manner as the RC container, with two print and one Braille labels. It will hold a single Flash Memory cartridge, and there will be only one size of container. The container will have a pocket for the standard 3" x 5" pick ticket/address card used by all network libraries, and the pocket will be designed to hold the card firmly in place. The container will be designed so that the cartridge is held face-up, and the container will not close unless the cartridge is properly oriented. The dimensions of the container will conform with the USPS specification for a flat rather than a parcel, thus possibly expediting deliveries and returns.

3.1.7 Unit Identification Technology: As provided by NLS mass-duplicators to libraries, there will be no external identification on the DTB cartridge other than: (1) "Property of US Government" (probably written onto, but possibly molded into, the case); (2) information for quality control purposes, in both print and barcode, which will contain the cartridge manufacturer, year of manufacture, capacity, and lot number; and (3) an FCC symbol. The cartridges will contain neither barcode labels nor RFID tags that uniquely identify the cartridge. Each cartridge will have a unique ID, but it will be internal and machine-readable only by plugging-in the cartridge.

3.1.8 RC Operations in Libraries: ManTech is making no significant recommendations regarding necessary changes to RC distribution operations in network libraries, because the medium is being phased-out and libraries can continue to do business-as-usual while phasing-in DTB distribution. However, three suggestions are made for consideration which are consistent with those made for DTBs: (1) identify a copy (container) as property of a specific library (to enable returns if misdelivered) either by having the printed name of the library on the container barcode label (if containers are barcoded), or by affixing a "Return To" type label (it is noted that READS libraries have this information, i.e., a unique ID, in the first 3 characters of the container barcode used – but this is only usable by READS libraries); (2) use pick tickets with a pre-printed USPS-standard barcode of the library’s zip code to expedite returns from patrons – not all libraries now have the ability to print a barcode of the patron zip code on the pick ticket, but virtually all use printers/publishers who can pre-print the barcode of the library zip code on the pick ticket; and (3) implement continuous and, if possible, system-assisted weeding of the collections as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

3.1.9 Service Standards in Libraries: The same service standards that now apply will apply to the distribution of DTBs from network libraries. These standards vary somewhat by library, but generally most libraries try to ship all orders within either 24 or 48 hours from the time of receipt or generation (if Profile-Select).

3.1.10 Policies in Libraries: Libraries will have discretion RE both patron copy limits and loan periods for DTBs, as they do now for RC books. It may be that copy limits in the first years of the transition period may have to be tightened relative to the present (because libraries now have such mature and extensive RC collections), but after several years can in all likelihood relax them to current levels. A veterans-priority approach must also be employed for both DTBM allocation and DTB distribution, as mandated by law.

3.1.11 Processing of New DTB Copies: New DTB copies received by network libraries would be processed in a manner similar to that now performed for RCs. If a library uses item identification for containers for inventory control/circulation, then barcode labels would be affixed in this step. It is recommended that the barcode label also include print uniquely identifying the library so that copies misdelivered to other locations can be returned. If a library does not use container item identification, then it is recommended that some type of print label be affixed to the container that uniquely identifies the library so that containers with lost address cards can still be returned. This is especially true because cartridges will be more expensive than cassettes, so libraries will want copies returned since they will otherwise have to use locally-purchased cartridges to replace lost DTBs.

3.1.12 Inspection of Returned Copies: There will be significant changes in this function, and it will be greatly simplified relative to what is required for RC inspection. Most (95%) of DTB titles will have only one cartridge in one container, whereas the average RC book has 2.3 cassettes per copy; for the 5% of DTBs that require more than one cartridge, there will be a second container (effectively a second "Volume"), which will appear as an "A", "B", "C" or "D" suffix to the Title Number. No rewinding will be necessary, which accounts for most of the labor required in the inspection function, and there will be no spooled or shredded tape, or jammed reels with which to contend. The cartridge will be much more robust than a cassette, but the USB connector must be inspected to insure that there is no damage.

However, two tasks/checks must still be performed in the inspection function: (1) cartridge-container agreement, i.e., staff must insure that the correct cartridge is in the correct container (and that the container is not empty); and (2) staff must insure that there are no foreign objects in the container.

3.1.13 Role of Multistate Centers: MSCs will play no role in the storage and distribution of DTBs, as opposed to the role that they play in the current system for distribution of backup RC titles and some titles removed from library collections (titles numbers less than RC06000). MSCs will, in all likelihood, store some DTBMs, packaging for DTBMs, and batteries for DTBMs. The planned NLS DAMS system will enable network libraries to download titles as necessary, and libraries may also make copies of DTB titles from any copy of the title available in their collections, which will eliminate the need for MSCs providing copies to serve as "masters."

3.1.14 In-House Duplication: All libraries will use a PC-based tool that NLS is developing to duplicate in-house copies of DTBs (either for local/special interest materials or to augment copies of NLS titles). This tool will allow the copying of one title onto multiple cartridges simultaneously, or multiple titles onto multiple cartridges simultaneously. The essential system components are a PC, cable, USB "Hub," and the application software.

Library staff will either download the required DTB file from the NLS DAMS system, or use any copy of the title in-stock to serve as a master in the duplication process (which cannot be done for cassettes). This process will be inherently simpler than the process used for in-house duplication of cassettes. Less duplication work should be required for replacement of damaged copies of popular titles (damaged copies of low demand titles are generally not replaced) because DTB cartridges will be more durable than RCs. However, the requirement for replacement of lost copies of popular titles will be unchanged, i.e., the increased durability of cartridges will not reduce the estimated 3% (of circulation) loss rate. Finally, the amount of facility space required for in-house duplication can be reduced because there will be no master copy storage, and because not as much space will be required for the equipment as that needed for RC master-slave duplicator configurations.

3.1.15 Library-Owned Cartridges: It is recommended that libraries label cartridges that they own (i.e., that they purchase) with a print label, uniquely identifying the library so that mis-directed/mis-delivered cartridges can be returned to them. Although each cartridge will have a unique, internal (machine-readable) serial number, it will have to be plugged in so that the serial number can be read. Even after plugging it in and reading it, there would be no way for a library in receipt of a misdelivered cartridge to determine the owning library (without a common database of serial numbers that all libraries could access). An external print label is therefore recommended for this identification, and is warranted given the relatively high price of the media (assumed to be $6 per cartridge).

3.1.16 Updates to CMLS and BPHICS: Library interactions with both the CMLS and BPHICS systems will be essentially unchanged. Libraries will need to update CMLS as to whether a reader has a DTBM, and update BPHICS with the serial numbers of DTBMs in their inventories.

3.1.17 Changes to Library Information Systems: The following changes and enhancements to library information systems will be necessary or, in some cases, highly desirable in order to successfully implement the All Mass-Duplication DTB distribution system.

3.1.18 DTB Collection Storage: We propose that DTBs be stored in an area separate from RC’s, i.e., that RC and DTB copies not be “interfiled.” If DTBs are to be stored in title sequence, as most libraries do, rather than using random or terminal digit storage, then because of the different container dimensions the shelving for DTBs should be profiled differently than the shelving now used for storage of RCs. In both instances, the container stacking in a shelf opening is 8-high, but there are only 6 stacks per shelf opening for DTBs as compared with 7 stacks for RC’s. However, because of the smaller container height, the shelf openings in the DTB shelving will be 10-high, as compared with 6-high in the RC shelving.

This shelving configuration is appropriate for both 1-deep and 2-deep container storage. In composite, one shelf section of DTBs will have 43% greater container storage capacity than one shelf section of RCs. Or expressed differently, DTBs will require 30% less storage space than RCs. It is noted this is true for title number sequence storage using fixed storage slots, and that even greater efficiencies can be achieved using random or terminal digit storage.

3.1.19 Possible Random Storage of Retro DTBs: Many books that are now in the RC offerings will be republished as DTBs, and many masters for theses titles have already been converted to digital format. But unlike new books, the title numbers of these retro books will not be in a predictable title number sequence when mass-duplicated. A random storage capability should therefore be provided to readily locate these titles in storage and to save space.

To prepare for random storage, the storage aisles, shelf sections and shelf openings will have to be numbered, and the format of the inventory record will have to be changed to accommodate the location of each title. Provision must also be made for recording the location of a new retro title as it is being put away and for determining the storage location for a returning copy. The pick tickets for retro titles will then show the title location number, and the tickets will be printed in location sequence, rather than in title sequence.

In considering random storage for the retro collection, it should be noted that the Austin library uses a copy-specific form of random storage, which is quite comprehensive, and requires that all containers be bar coded. The suggested retro random storage would be title-specific, and would be much simpler and easier to implement.

3.1.20 Weeding: The potential for somewhat faster weeding than is currently done was cited in Section 2, but the Phase 1 final report described how weeding should generally be postponed until after a title has had about 3 years in the collection to circulate; this finding was corroborated anecdotally by several librarians during the site visits. Over the next 3-to-5 years (when the title is more than 4 but less than 8 years old), annual weeding can be performed which, along with attrition due to loss and damage, will further reduce the number of copies per title to what is essentially a final, residual level. It is estimated that ultimately (over 8 years) approximately 50% of the original DTB copy production allotment can be weeded from library collections and reused for mass-duplicated copies of new titles, with the rest remaining in library collections.

In the current system, this value is about 47% and is from a very mature system with some titles in the collection 25 years old, but is not performed quite as aggressively as it could be (with no reduction in service levels because the copies are excess); hence, the 50% estimate is used for DTBs in the future steady-state system. It is recommended that libraries perform weeding on a continuous rather than periodic basis. It is also recommended that, if possible, library information systems have the capability of the Texas system to automatically manage weeding by continuously applying decision criteria and prompting daily actions (using weeding pick tickets).

3.1.21 XESS: The XESS system would be used in the future system in the same manner as currently used to redistribute DTB copies from locations of surplus to locations of deficiency. Copies that are not redistributed to other libraries (some 80%-90% based upon input from librarians during site visits) would be formally forwarded to an NLS cartridge and container reconditioning contractor. It is assumed that the proportion of XESS copies forwarded for reconditioning in the future system would be the same as that for the current system.

3.1.22 Reconditioning: Weeded DTB copies from network library collections that are not picked-up by other libraries in the XESS protocol will be forwarded to an NLS cartridge and container reconditioning contractor. On receipt of instructions, the reconditioned cartridges and containers will then be forwarded to specified NLS mass-duplication contractors for reuse in the production of mass-duplicated DTBs.

The containers will undergo an inspection and reconditioning/disposal process very similar to that now done with RC containers, i.e., all labels and residual materials will be removed from reusable containers, and unusable containers will be scrapped. It is expected that approximately 90% of the DTB containers sent by libraries to the reconditioning contractor, rather than about 50% as is the case for RCs, will be reconditioned and reused. Both a new material and the color of the material in the new container will account for this longer usable life.

Almost all the DTB cartridges will be reconditioned and reused. This reconditioning will involve both label removal and cleaning, and the cartridge and label are being designed to facilitate the process. As now conceived, the labels on mass-duplicated cartridges will have to be heated to facilitate their removal. The degree of automation applied to this process will be determined by the reconditioning contractor(s).

3.2 DTB Mass-Duplication and Distribution Costs

In a steady-state distribution environment, an estimated 50% of the cartridges used in mass-duplication will be new and 50% will be reconditioned. Mass-duplication cartridges will be more difficult to recondition than DOD cartridges, and the estimated cost per cartridge is $0.20 (rather than $0.11 for the DOD cartridges). The average cost of duplicating both new and reconditioned cartridges will therefore be about $0.64 ($0.54 for loading and labelling the cartridge whether new or reconditioned, and $0.10, on average, for reconditioning of the cartridge).

An estimated 55% of the containers used in mass-duplication will be new and 45% will be reconditioned. The cost of reconditioning a container is estimated to be $0.33 (i.e., the same cost as for the present RC container). The average cost of reconditioning containers used in mass-duplication will therefore be $0.15. The cost of labels and labelling a container will be about $0.20, whether the container is new or reconditioned. The total average unit cost of reconditioning, labels for, and labelling containers used in mass-duplication will therefore be about $0.35. Therefore the average unit cost for mass-duplicated DTBs in a steady-state environment in which both cartridges and containers are reconditioned and reused, excluding the first costs of cartridges and containers (which will be provided as GFE) will be about $0.99 ($0.64 + $0.35).

The estimated major NLS-incurred costs for audio book production under this system are shown in Appendix 13. Many of the estimates and assumptions that were used are unchanged from those used for the final Phase 1 report. Those that have changed are as follows: the average copies per title has been changed from 925 to 911 based upon the analysis cited in Section 2; the average mass-duplication cost per copy (excluding reconditioning costs and first costs for GFE cartridges and containers) has been changed to $0.74 from $0.80; the average price for a new container has been changed from $0.50 to $0.60 based upon current and near-future expected prices; the unit cost to recondition mass-duplicated cartridges has been changed from $0.11 to $0.20; the DTB cartridge reuse rate (as a percent of production) has been changed from 47% to 50%; and the container reuse rate has been increased, and it is assumed that 90% of containers weeded are reconditioned and reused, based upon input from NLS and indirectly from Battelle through NLS. This compares with about 50% of the RC containers that are weeded which are reused (i.e., about half those weeded are now scrapped due to damage/age).

With regard to network library costs under the All Mass-Duplication system, the analysis shown in Appendix 60 of the final Phase 1 report is still essentially valid. This analysis used FY 2004 values from the NLS LCC model, which are still the most current source data available as of this writing. The only known change in parameters at this juncture is that it is now estimated that mass-duplicated DTB storage in libraries will require 30% less rather than 32% less (used in Phase 1 report) storage space and shelf sections/ranges than that required for storage of an equivalent number of RC copies.

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Posted on 2006-12-05