Digital Talking Books (DTBs)
On this page:
- DTB Playback Software
- DTB Playback Hardware
- DAISY-Capable Playback and Production Options
- Reviews and Comparisons of DTB Products
The term "digital talking book" (DTB) is frequently used to refer to books that comply with the Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) specifications, such as books created by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, or Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. The term DTB has, however, increasingly made its way into the mainstream so that the phrase is beginning to mean any kind of audio book prepared with digital audio. As a result, consumers need to become familiar with content and playback technology required for it so that they can be sure of having a successful reading experience.
This page focuses specifically on DTB-related information. For more generic digital audio resources, please refer to other resource pages posted by CAST on the NIMAS site.
For discussions of DTB technology, consider subscribing to the Dtb-talk listserv.
Several Windows- and Linux-based DTB players are freely available; however, consumers will need to ensure that the content they want to read will be accessible using these players. We recommend checking with the content distributor to request playback software recommendations. Also, users will want to know each player's hardware requirements as well as information on the status of product development. Two free Windows-based players are—
- AMIS, which displays images and reads alt text at image location
- TPB Reader, which reads alt text but does not display images
One player for the Linux platform is Listen-up, which was developed a few years ago. It can be accessed through CVS at the link provided. Finally, Emacspeak, commonly available with most Linux distributions, also supports reading of DAISY content.
Many commercially-available options for playing DTBs on Windows-based computers, using software, are available. Products included in the list below have a primary function of reading DTBs. See other sections of this page for playback and production options that may be useful for creating or reading DAISY content, but may have additional functionality.
Commercially available DAISY reading software specifically for PC computers includes—
- Book Wizard Reader, which displays images and reads alt text at end of page
- EaseReader, which has been recently been upgraded to recognize DAISY3 format
- eClipseReader, which displays images but does not read alt text
- FS Reader, which recognizes DAISY2 and DAISY3 formats, as well as RFB&D's AudioPlus format
- gh Player: gh describes the Player's capabilities as including display of images; recognition of DAISY2, DAISY3, NIMAS, RFB&D's AudioPlus format, and MathML-in-DAISY; but does not read alt text for block-level elements
- Victor Reader Soft, which recognizes the DAISY3 format, but does not display images
- katieplayer, which is a Mac OSX player for DAISY2 format
Portable devices that can play DAISY content often can play other audio formats as well. Products listed in this DTB Playback Hardware section have the primary function of playing DAISY content but may have other features, too. For example, these devices can often play CD audio and MP3 formats. Other audio file formats may also be supported and should be listed in the product specifications on each company's site. Portable hardware devices are available from companies such as—
*Humanware's ClassMate Reader can read NIMAS files.
DAISY-Capable Playback and Production Options
A number of companies have incorporated the ability to play or to create DAISY content into products that have additional functions. Scanning software and portable Braille and audio-based note-takers are especially likely to include DAISY-related features and functionality. Please read feature lists and discuss the tasks you wish to accomplish, to ensure that you purchase products that will meet your expectations.
Guerrilla Technologies' Extreme Reader is a reading solution that offers users the ability to listen to DAISY content on CD. The product incorporates HumanWare's DAISY-reading software, Victor Reader Soft. Gorilla Technologies also makes MobilEyes, a reader that also incorporates a scanner and a magnifier for on-the-spot access to printed text.
Kurzweil Educational Systems develops products to assist people who have print-based disabilities. These products are primarily scanning and reading software, but they are able to read some DAISY content as well. Their software can transform scanned texts (or text from other sources) into structured DAISY content using text-to-speech.
Springer Design's BookCourier plays DAISY 2.02 content, along with some other formats. It is a portable hardware device that includes the ability to transform content into voiced text-to-speech.
See also the Other Conversion Tools page for information about the Save As DAISY add-in for MS Word.
Reviews and Comparisons of DTB Products
A number of articles and papers have been written that compare DAISY reading software and hardware. Consumers may find these documents of interest as they learn about DAISY; however, the features of the technology are constantly evolving and improving. We recommend that dates on publications be taken into consideration. Discussing products with developers, having a hands-on product demonstration, and/or downloading a demonstration copy of software are all helpful.
Web sites that may be useful when considering product purchases include—
- Access World, an online publication of the American Foundation for the Blind, frequently provides reviews of DAISY playback technology
- Beyond the Text, research conducted by the National Center for Accessible Media
- Project Hal (Handheld Accessible Libraries) Final Report, 2004, prepared by Tomas A. Peters of TAP Information Services
- Reviews and Comparisons of Digital Talking Book Players, a paper prepared by David Andrews for the CSUN conference, updated periodically