Friday, August 29, 2008

NLS continues its progress in digitizing book collection

The following press release was just issued by Missouri’s Wolfner Library regarding the awarding of a contract for the manufacture of cartridges that will be used to distribute digital books from the
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS.)

The unwritten word of this release being issued means that the NLS is moving to the final leg of preparing the books for wider distribution. By having the books available on distribuble cartridges, the books will be available in a format that can be mailed, not requireing the reader to have a computer or internet connection. If they are awarding this contract, then another contract to make players for these cartridges can’t be too far away. After all, what good are the cartridges if consumers don’t have a player.

Granted, people using playback devices such as the Victor Reader Stream already have the capability to insert and play the cartridges, but they can play the files without a cartridge if they’re able to download them from the internet.

But That’s not who the NLS is looking to serve with these cartridges. By making the digital collection available on cartridge means that the NLS is looking to make the books available to a wider audience, such as those who do not own a digital player and still use the 4-track tapes. The purpose of the NLS program is to make books available to those who have a print disability. That mission includes making the accessible books available at no cost to the consumer. If the consumer wants to purchase their own playback device, then they are free to do so. But there are some who can not afford that luxury and rely on the playback devices that are issued by the NLS.

The digitization continues!

Here is the press release:

Subject : Northstar Systems Inc. to produce digital audio cartridges for the talking-book program

Northstar Systems Inc. of Rancho Cucamonga, California, was awarded a contract on August 22, 2008, to manufacture USB flash-memory cartridges for use in distributing recorded audiobooks to patrons of the talking-book program by the Library of Congress on behalf of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Washington, D.C.

The initial contract funding of more than $6.2 million will enable Northstar to manufacture audio flash cartridges on which NLS will record both new and existing titles over the next year. The base contract covers three years with a unilateral government option for four additional years. The books recorded on these cartridges will be distributed to the net work of 128 libraries that serve approximately one-half million blind and physically handicapped individuals through the United States and its territories.

The cartridges purchased under this contract will permit all NLS recorded books to be issued on either 512 MB or 1 GB cartridges. This will enable each recorded book to be contained on a single cartridge, greatly improving the current patron's experience of receiving multiple four-track cassettes. In addition, Northstar is obligated to furnish participating libraries and interested patrons with blank cartridges at prices fixed in the contract. Specific procedures for purchase by these parties are being determined.

Northstar has a manufacturing network that includes plants in Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, China, and Singapore, providing a total of one million square feet of production space.

The corporation is an active member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, SD Association, USB-IF Committee, Compact Flash Organization, and MemoryStick Organization.

In June 2008 contracts were signed with Shinano-Kenshi Corporation Ltd./Plextor-LLC of Culver City, California, to begin production of digital talking-book players and with LC Industries in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, to produce mailing containers for the cartridges.
This Northstar Systems contract is the final agreement necessary for the conversion of the national talking-book program from analog to digital.

Richard J. Smith, Director
Wolfner Library
Missouri State Library
P.O. Box 387
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: 573-522-2767
In Missouri: 800-392-2614
Fax: 573-526-2985

Web Site:

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