Although the introduction of digital talking book machines is not the first technological revolution that the Library of Congress has maneuvered, it may well be the most dramatic!
Starting the week of September 14, 2009, Kansas Talking Books will begin delivering new machines to veterans and centenarians who have expressed an interest in receiving a digital player. In a design and development stage that spanned nearly eight years, the digital players and book cartridges have arrived in Kansas and in all states for distribution to registered users.
“This is so exciting,” explained Toni Harrell, Director of the Kansas Talking Books Division. “We’ve been waiting for this date, and now it’s here. Our talking books users are going to love the new machines.”
Easy to use, smaller, and more compact in design, the new players resemble a flat, book-size box with large buttons, a single built-in speaker, and weigh about two pounds. The players have excellent sound quality plus the capability of speeding up or slowing down the tempo of the narrator without distorting the speech.
Books come loaded on a digital cartridge that is about the same size as a cassette tape, but connects to the player via an internal USB port. Each cartridge can hold 46 hours of audio, so all but the longest books can be contained on a single cartridge. For users, this means there is no need to flip tapes over, remember to hit the toggle switch, or ever rewind a cassette tape.
When a book cartridge is not in the slot, users can press any button and find out its function. In this way, the user can become familiar with the machine before starting the first book. In addition to receiving books through the Kansas Talking Books Division, users can go online, select books, and download from the NLS site onto a memory stick or flash drive.
The Library of Congress began offering audiobooks to the visually and physically disabled on long-play records in 1934, adding books on cassettes in the late 1960s and now moving into the digital age in 2009.
There is no question, this will be a new generation of talking books for more than 700,000 registered blind and disabled users across the country.
For more information about Kansas Talking Books and the new digital machines, check out the website: www.kslib.info/talking or call 1-800-362-0699.