Monday, February 02, 2004

Report on current digital talking book players on the market

TAP Information Services and Mid-Illinois Talking Book
Center have completed a critical analysis and
evaluation of portable audio devices intended
primarily for use by the print-impaired to access and
enjoy digital talking books.

Five devices were examined and reviewed: The Victor
Reader Classic Plus and the Victor Reader Vibe from
Visuaide, the Scholar from Telex Communications, the
BookCourier from Springer Design, and the Book Port
from the American Printing House for the Blind.

Among the five devices reviewed at least three
lineages are discernable. The Victor Reader Vibe and
the Telex Scholar are descendants of portable CD
players that have been on the consumer market for
years. Their hardware and software designs have been
enhanced to make them more accessible by and useful to
print-impaired users. The Book Port and BookCourier
are siblings in the large, raucous family of digital
playback devices that contain no moving parts and use
flash memory. The Victor Classic Plus, on the other
hand, seems to be designedly descended from the analog
audiocassette playback device used by print-impaired
users in the U.S. for decades.

All five devices were fairly easy to install and begin
using. Overall, the Book Port seemed to be a better
device than the BookCourier, and the Victor Vibe
seemed to be better than the Telex Scholar. Because
of the various design lineages, however, it is very
difficult to select a best device from the three
finalists: Victor Classic Plus, Victor Vibe, and Book
Port.

Recommendations include: the need to intermingle the
three design paradigms, perhaps incorporating more PDA
functionality as well; the need to standardize the
design of the keys a bit; and the need for greater
accessibility to more file formats on a single device,
including proprietary file formats.

The complete text of the report is available on the
MITBC website at
http://www.mitbc.org/projecthalfinal.doc.

The Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center (www.mitbc.org)
is a sub-regional library serving the blind and
physically challenged in central and northwest
Illinois. A talking book center provides library
services via toll-free telephone and U.S. mail. Books
and magazines in Braille and audiocassette formats are
available to readers enrolled in the program. MITBC
is part of a statewide network administered by the
Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of
the Illinois Secretary of State. The statewide
network is tied to a national network under the
administration of the National Library Service for the
Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the
Library of Congress.

TAP Information Services provides a wide variety of
services supporting libraries, consortia, government
agencies, museums, publishers, and other organizations
in the information industry. Services include:
support for projects, research reports, strategic
planning, workshops, writing and editing, conference
services, consortial negotiations and agreements, and
speeches.

For more information about this report, please contact
either Tom Peters at tapinformation@yahoo.com or Lori
Bell at lbell@alliancelibrarysystem.com.

No comments: