Therefore, in effect we would being buying the "walkman" players twice. They are sold to us higher than retailers would usually sell us a conventional "walkman" type player, as the government allowed them a certain % mark up, to cover the cost of labor to switch out the stereo play back heads for monaural heads, as well as add extra switches to adjusts the playback speed and to hear all four tracks. Without the switch, to play back all four tacks, you would only be able to hear side one track a and side two track b, (side one track "a" is playback side of the tape side number one, you then flip the cassette as you would in any playback machine, that gives you the second side of the cassette, which is side two track "b", when you are done with side two, YOU FLIP A SWITCH THAT SAYS SIDES 3 & FOUR, you then flip the cassette over again and listen to the first side of the cassette, but the machine limits you to side one track "b", and the you flip it again, to listen to the fourth side, which is side two, track "a". a 45 minute cassette is used. They are recorded at 50 the regular speed. Therefore each cassette plays back approx. 6 hours of the recored book.
Both the after market machines, (cassette players), as well as the ones they "give" us have a slide switch which controls play back speed, where you can slow it down by approx. 10% and speed it up to approx. 20%, of the recorded speed. Unfortunately playback at that altered speed also effects the pitch of the play back voice. Some of the after market machines allow you to adjust the pitch of the playback voice to a more natural tone.
Five or six years ago, the NLS/LOC authorized SONY to make one model player that comes factory direct to play the books back. Keep in mind that almost every country that has a 'TALKING BOOK PROGRAM, uses the same cassette playback system. Therefore there are millions of us around the world.
Approx 15 years ago, so well before there was MP3 technology as well as other digital encoding programs, the NLS/LOC formed an international committee to create a new digital format. The main goal was to eliminate the cassette format. Before the cassettes we had "flexible disks" which were very thin flexible disks that you could roll up into a tube. These disks were one sided only and each was approx the same length of playback as one side of the cassette. The cassettes meant far less storage and shipping cost and a boon for the end user..
(It is a shame that the world can get together for an international standard of recording technology, for the blind and disabled, but cannot come together for world peace. However, I chose to look at it a as step in the right direction). The NLS/LOC team who started the ball rolling on the digital format were visionaries. After all they were developing it YEARS BEFORE ANY DIGITAL PLAYERS WERE USED BY THE GENERAL PUBLIC. Before the NLS/LOC got this international committee together. there were only two kinds of digital audio formats, digital cassettes, (A. the players were & are too expensive and complicated to distribute and B. the cassettes do not stand up any better than conventional cassettes, (since they are would also be played back at a slower speed, the stress of the digital tape, would be just as great as the stress on conventionally cassette tape, (both are damaged more when they are played back at slower speeds). CD's were rejected b/c they are too easily copied and too easy to damage, (especially for a blind person).
They came up with a new digital format for themselves. Mind you it was to use some kind of static memory, such as a flash memory card, although they did not exist back then. They wanted a format that was easy to record should a recording become damaged, that would eventuality distribute electronically, even though in those days, the Internet was only used by universities and government.
They were sure the companies that manufacturer conventional cassettes as well as digital cassette tapes, eventally would stop making them. In fact, two years ago, the last firm making standard sized conventional blank cassettes, closed. Congress gave the NLS/LOC a grant to buy up all of th blank cassettes they could world wide, until a new format was finished.
The new format they came up with is called D.A.S.I.Y. format, Digital Accessible Information SYstem.
Here is a link to the web page for the DASIY FORMAT: DAISY: About the DAISY Consortium
State courts ordered APPLE, INC. to make their IPOD web site, easier to navigate and download for the blind and disabled. This ruling also forced the next generation of IPOD Nanos. These have audio "prompts" saying out loud, forward, reverse, etc. That was all that was need for the IPOD to be bale to be adapted for use with the DASIY format and the digital encoding DESIGNED TO WORK UNDER THE DAISY FORMAT.
The encoding controls playback speed, adjustable pitch and the ability to return to the "page" of the book you stop at, when you stop reading.
There are approx 1 million users of the NLS/LOC in this country and there are many more millions around the world.
The books will be distributed two ways, one will be using a cartridge, which will be an oblong shaped plastic housing for a memory card. The cartridge tapers on one side so it can only be inserted into the desktop unit we will be "given". They will be sent to us by mail and are NOT THE SUBJECT OF THIS EMAIL. The other way they will (and in fact are already distributed), is thru a secure web site run by the NLS.
Currently there are two portable players that can download and playback from the secure web site, they each cost approx. $350 to $400 and they have 16 buttons, which is overwhelming to most of the disabled, (They both are meant for disabled students, so they record their classes and then use the buttons to find the correct selection they are looking for).
The NLS and sister libraries around the world ,for recording for the blind and disabled have FOUR categorizes if users.
1. COMPUTER LITERATE DISABLED STUDENTS, (WHICH IS A SMALL SECTION OF THE PIE).
2. COMPUTER LITERATE DISBALED ADULTS, WHO CAN DOWNLOAD BOOKS TO PLAYERS, (THESE A VERY LARGE SEGMENT OF THE PIE).
3 A. NON COMPUTER LITERATE DISABLED ADULTS, WHO HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND WHO CAN DOWNLOAD THE BOOKS FOR THEM FROM THE SECURE SITE, (THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE USERS) AND
3 B. NON COMPUTER LITERATE, WHO DO NOT HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND WHO CAN DOWNLOAD THE BOOKS FOR THEM FROM THE SECURE SITE, AND HAVE NOT THE DESIRE OR ABILTY TO LEARN HOW TO USE A PLAYER THAT WILL NOT TAKE THE NEW DIGITAL CARTRIDGE, THAT WILL FIT THE MACHINE WE WILL BE "GIVEN". THESE MAKES UP A SMALL SECTION OF THE PIE.
My Mom is a typical senor citizen user. She is not computer savvy, buy can use a IPOD. She makes up the largest segment of the pie, (category 3A., as I just described. I would download books to a IPOD with software for the NLS/LOC, she would gladly use it. It would mean a very, very small player that is easy to use. (Designing easy to use devices, is what APPLE, INC. is genius at).
This a boon to any of us who travel. When most people travel on vacation or for work they take a book or two with them. We have to take a player and several green plastic boxes each containing multiple cassettes, (BTW, the more the cassettes are sued the more easily they break, usually just be for you find out WHODUNIT, LOL)! Once on a cruise to Alaska my personal walkman type machines broke, the ship's radio room could not fix it, so they radioed ahead and had a desktop player waiting for me to borrow and then I shipped it back when I got home. Think how much easier it would be iof we could use a IPOD and just download software to make it work with the NLS/LOC format and then download books.
I would gladly buy such software should your firm decide to create it. Trust me, there are millions of us around the world., who are begging for such software.
You can find additional information at the NLS.gov web site.
I as sorry for any typos, between my disability and the late hour, my tying is not the best.
TAKE CARE, JAY