WASHINGTON, D.C. -- January 5, 2005): State libraries for the blind in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Oregon, along with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress, have partnered to launch an innovative digital audio book service for visually impaired users.
Unabridged (http://www.unabridged.info) enables blind patrons to check out and download digital spoken word audio books directly to their computers. The digital audio books can then be played back on a PC, transferred to a portable MP3 playback device, or burned onto CDs.
Member libraries include:
- Colorado Talking Book Library
- Delaware Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
- Illinois Network of Libraries Serving the Blind and Physically Handicapped
- National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
- New Hampshire State Library, Talking Books Program
- Oregon State Library, Talking Book & Braille Services
The first year of the program will serve as the pilot phase, with a limited number of users in each participating state. Early responses from librarians and patrons have been very positive. During the first month of the service, use of the collection has been brisk and reports of technical problems have been sparse. Lori Bell, Director of the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, noted, "I am very excited about this project. Our readers are eager to try digital audio books. Through Unabridged they can browse, select a book and download it directly to their computers."
Unabridged is powered by the new digital audio book system from OverDrive (http://www.overdrive.com). The content is delivered as encrypted Windows Media Audio files, making use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) service. Playback on a personal computer is accomplished using the new OverDrive Media Console (OMC) software. OMC builds on the existing features of Windows Media Player to offer key functionalities useful to digital audio books users, such as MediaMarkers, which allow non-linear navigation, bookmarks, and the ability to skip back 15 seconds in the digital audio book. OMC also enables variable speed playback, an exciting new feature for a mainstream digital audio book system designed for the general consumer market. The OMC offers enhanced accessibility and general usability for blind and visually impaired readers.