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Braille and Talking Books Library (BTBL) now offering digital books

Snuggling up to a good book is a guilty pleasure that is “going digital” for a few techno-savvy customers of the California State Library’s Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL).  BTBL has long offered people with visual or physical disabilities free services including recorded-books on cassette, a special cassette player, Braille books, and mail service to the customer’s home.  Now BTBL is offering customers something more - downloadable digital audio books. The California State Library Foundation is funding the new service.  

BTBL customer in front of computer and traditional cassettes.

In April 2006, BTBL joined Unabridged, a cooperative of national Talking Book libraries, which has contracted with Overdrive, a company that provides downloadable audio books. Once customers sign up for the digital book service through BTBL, they access to select books they can hear directly from their PC, or burn to a CD or, in most cases, upload to their MP3 players or other portable devices. 

Today, of BTBL’s 15,000 registered borrowers about 80 are using the new digital service.  BTBL has about 1600 titles in the digital collection and the average circulation of the books at BTBL is around 60 a month.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped digital books targeted for 2008

The long-awaited digital service through Unabridged has arrived before the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress goes digital in 2008 by which time NLS hopes to have digitized 16,000 titles and 50,000 digital talking book players.  Aimee Sgourakis of BTBL says that some of her customers “just didn’t have the patience to wait for NLS to make the transition to digital.  They are asking for the Unabridged service now,” she says.

Until the NLS digital service is available, Unabridged’s downloadable book users will test and comment on the new format.  One woman suffering from brain damage finds the digital books far superior to cassette books because she doesn’t have to hear the high-pitched screech cassettes make as they fast forward or rewind.  Another customer is excited to be able to burn his reading choices onto a CD.  Though digitized books take a long time to download, and have other minor glitches, customers are enthusiastic about the changes ahead and optimistic that the new formats will be better quality, and easier to use than cassettes, and will be a comfortable size to slip into a pocket.

For more information about BTBL digital book collection email or call (916) 654-0640, or toll-free 800-952-5666.





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