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DZB - A German Library for the Blind Goes Digital

Thomas Kahlisch | Deutsche Zentralbücherei für Blinde zu Leipzig |
Postfach 10 02 45 | 04002 Leipzig | Germany | Thomas.Kahlisch@dzb.de


The paper describes our approach to turn the talking book production of DZB, the oldest library for the blind in Germany, into the digital world.

The digital world for blind and visually impaired persons has a common name: DAISY (Digital Access Information System) is a standard and technology, which has to be developed, as a powerful tool, to produce accessible multimedia documents [1].

In a five-year time frame, DZB turns the production, archival and distribution process into a high technology level.

The presentation describes:

  • How we will convert analogue tapes into a digital format [2].

  • How staff members learn to produce digital magazines and to structure books.

  • What kind of equipment is necessary in this process?

The main focus of this work is, to improve the access for blind people to information and provide them, with new technology, which is designed for all.

1 Introduction

A talking book library is traditionally an analogue working division, which takes care of producing, archiving and distributing books on tape to a particular group of users. To turn this library into a digital thinking and working division it is necessary to:

  • educate staff members, to reorganize the whole production process

  • elp the readers, to use new equipment and

  • very important, tell the "share holders", that the process is expansive but useful and will be successful for all.

To get into the digital world, we began in Leipzig two years ago, with the production of different audio magazines on the computer. Staff members learned to cut and paste by using the mouse and to store audio data on disks.

Because of the remaining analogue world, most of the blind users are still using cassette recorders, we also need to work on mechanisms, to convert digital into analogue data.

Until now, the advantages of the digital audio representation, fast and high quality access to information, have not been provided to the main stream of the blind users in Germany. Currently, powerful mp3-players are available and become a less expansive alternative to the high end DAISY-Players. Many of the blind users are now familiar with text reading systems, screen readers and Windows PCs. So that we can say, it is time for DAISY in Germany.

2 Digital talking book production in the DZB

The approach described here, is the way, how DZB is solving the task. Other organizations may go different ways, depending on there current conditions.

To provide the user parallel with talking books on tape and on disk, it is necessary, to convert digital produced books back into analogue data. For this purpose, special hardware is needed, which is expansive and only necessary, until the library is not longer providing analogue tapes. We try to keep these costs low.

Also we have to consider, that the good old archive, available on tapes, needs to convert into the digital format quickly. At the DZB we have 100.000 open reels waiting, to become digital and structured into the DAISY format. If we want to solve this task in ten years, 10.000 tapes per year must be converted.

The following approach is set up to use hardware, which is already available in our studios and allow us, to provide both, the traditional cassette and the CD-ROM. That is why, most of the books are still read on tape and will be converted later into the digital format. The following section describes this digitalisation process.

3 Digitalisation of talking books

An analogue produced talking book is converted into the DAISY format and distributed to the users by proceeding the following tasks:

  1. Analogue to digital conversion

  2. Creating and structuring a DAISY book

  3. Archiving and distributing digital books

3.1 Analogue to digital conversion

The conversion of analogue recorded data is done in five steps:

  1. Analogue streams of 4 tape machines (2 tracks each) is parallel processed by a PC
  2. Audio stream is stored on hard disk
  3. reverse tracks are turned into the correct order
  4. WAV files are checked by the operator
  5. Files are stored on a DLT drive and can be used for the structuring process

3.2 Creating and structuring a DAISY book

DAISY technology allows to create books, which are consists of synchronized audio and text data. In the DZB we currently produce DAISY books with audio information and a table of content (TOC). The TOC is the Navigation Control Centre of the DAISY book, which can be used by the user to explore and navigate through the structure of the book.

Structuring is a process, which has to be done by a human operator. Structuring means to define, whether a DAISY book can be navigated by using the structure elements of a book (chapter, section and subsection) and/or by page numbers.

Phrase detection and signal tones can be used in this structuring process to automate this task. DZB talking books are produced, without signal tones. That is why the operator has to do the whole process manually. In case of a novel, this is an easy task. To structure a schoolbook, it becomes to a time consuming process, which has to be carried out carefully. Staff members are trained to do this job.

3.3. Archiving and distributing digital books

There are more then 7.000 talking books in the DZB, which have to digitalized and structured. In this process different kind of data will be produced and stored save. The following kinds of data will be created:

  1. WAV files are created in the A/D conversion

  2. DAISY master are created in the structuring process

  3. Distribution master are compressed DAISY masters

These data are currently stored on DLT tapes. If we get the appropriate money, we will set up a powerful archival system, which provide us with random access to the data. At the end it is estimated, that our archival system has to handle 60 T byte of information. Distribution to the users will be on CD-ROM. To get one DAISY book on one CD-ROM, the information has to be compressed. By using mp3 encoding until 40 hours of reading can be stored on one disk. The user has one book on one CD-ROM and can use it on DAISY players like victor or on most of the mp3 players like Rio Volt SP250, which are available on the free market.

One blind staff member in the DZB is responsible, to provide a user help desk to the customers of the library. This Service is called LOUIS (Leipziger Online Unterstützungs- und Informationsservice für Sehgeschädigte Computernutzer) [3]. The service provides information via phone, e-mail and on the internet and helps the user to learn to use DAISY players and books.

4 Hard- and software

To establish the approach described here, the following information technology is necessary:

  1. Powerful production server

    The server stores 1 t byte of audio data on a RAID system and is available over the network.

  2. Archival system

    A robot based archival system stores and refreshes t byte of data. Staff members will have access to this system by using there workstations.

  3. Recording PC in the studios

    All studios are equipped with analogue and digital recording systems.

  4. A/D workplace

    This workplace is used for the digitalisation process. It is a PC running a particular software "DZB Converter" and 4 good old tape machines, which are delivering the analogue input.

  5. Authoring workstation

    It is a pc to create and structure DAISY books.

  6. Powerful CD burning and labelling system

    It is used to create the distribution media.

The following special software is used:

  1. DZB Converter and SAMPLITUDE

    The "DZB Converter" is developed by a small company in Leipzig called Marian, Internet: www.marian.de. The software has been adapted for some other libraries for the blind in Germany. SAMPLITUDE is a main stream audio production software developed by SEKD in Dresden, Internet: www.sekd.com.

  2. LPStudio Pro and LPStudio Plus

    These are the DAISY production tools. The software is developed by Labyrinten Data Systems, Internet: www.labyrinten.se.

  3. Structured Editor

    Is a powerful XML Editor to produce DAISY books. It is created by the Danish Library for the Blind, Internet: www.dbb.dk.

5 Time frame

The DZB schedule is set up in a five years time frame, to establish technology to turn the production process into the digital world.

2002 is the year of planning the project and to start with the digitalisation. At the end of this year, we will have 100 DAISY titles available to our users. In autumn we will begin with 25 test users, to see what we have to improve before the full service can be provided to all.

2003 and 2004 it is scheduled, to set up a powerful archival system and to speed up the digitalisation process.

2005 and 2006 are the years we will look carefully to Braille and Large print book production with DAISY technology.

This is our time frame how it looks today. But you know, things often change rapidly in the digital world. And we do not know exactly how fast things will develop and what kind of requirements will guide us into a different ways.


  • [1] DAISY - Digital Access Information System

    URL: http://www.daisy.org.

  • [2] Kahlisch, Th.: Turning 100 titles into the DAISY format. DAISY Technical Conference, Los Angeles, March 2001

    URL: http://www.kahlisch.de/pub/daisy-la.html.

  • [3] Ulrich Jander: LOUIS (Leipziger Online Unterstützungs- und Informationsservice für Sehgeschädigte),

    URL: http://www.dzb.de/louis