Project Hal Report on Digital Talking Book Players

Lori Bell writes "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. The complete text of the report is available on the
at
MITBC website.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 Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center 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 [email protected] or Lori
Bell at [email protected]"