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Created: February 16, 2001.
News: Cover Stories

NISO Releases Draft Standard ANSI/NISO Z39.86-200x for Digital Talking Books.

NISO (US National Information Standards Organization) has released a draft version of File Specifications for the Digital Talking Book [Draft Standard ANSI/NISO Z39.86-200x, Version 3.8] for public review. The draft is open for a thirty-day public comment period (February 16, 2001 - March 20, 2001). "Comments should be sent by email to the Committee Chair, Michael Moodie. Comments will be reviewed by NISO Standards Committee AQ tasked to develop the File Specifications for the Digital Talking Book and will influence the scope and direction of the document. The NISO committee, chaired by NLS research and development officer Michael Moodie, is made up of representatives from nearly two dozen organizations committed to making print materials available to blind and physically handicapped readers in an accessible form."

The NISO standard defines an XML 1.0 element set (DTBook3) for markup of the text files of books and other publications presented in digital talking book (DTB) format; XML DTDs are presented in eight appendices. "The Open eBook Forum Package File (OPF) is an XML file conforming to the oebpkg1.dtd that contains administrative information about the DTB, the files that comprise it, and how these files interrelate. A component of the Package File, the Spine lists the SMIL files included in the DTB in default reading order. The Navigation Control file for XML applications (NCX) provides the reader efficient and flexible access to the hierarchical structure of a DTB as well as direct access to selected elements such as page numbers, notes, figures, etc... This standard is based primarily on a variety of widely used standards and specifications, including several from the World Wide Web Consortium and the Open eBook Forum. Wherever applicable and appropriate standards or specifications existed they were used. The use of these specifications and technologies is intended to promote a fast and consistent adoption of this standard for the target population, while encouraging its extension into mainstream use."

The standard "presents the file specifications for digital talking books (DTBs) for blind, visually impaired, physically handicapped, or otherwise print-disabled readers... DTBs go far beyond the limits imposed on analog audio books because they can include not just the audio rendition of the work, but the full text file and images as well... A digital talking book (DTB) is a collection of electronic files arranged to present information to the target population via alternative media, namely, human or synthetic speech, refreshable braille, or visual display, e.g., large print. When these files are created and assembled into a DTB in accordance with this standard, they make possible a wide range of features such as rapid, flexible navigation; bookmarking and highlighting; keyword searching; spelling of words on demand; and user control over the presentation of selected items (e.g., footnotes, page numbers, etc.) For a full discussion of these capabilities, see the Document Navigation Features List [Navigation Features], developed as the user requirements document on which this standard was based. Appendix 7 'Theory Behind the DTBook3 DTD' also describes the navigational capabilities of a DTB in some detail. The content of DTBs will range from audio alone, through a combination of audio, text, and images, to text alone. DTB players will also take a variety of shapes. The simplest might be portable devices with audio-only capabilities. More complex portable players could include text-to-speech capabilities as well as audio output for recorded human speech. The most comprehensive playback systems are expected to be PC-based, supporting visual and audio output, text-to-speech capability, and output to a braille display."

From the announcement of 2001-02-16:

Date:      Fri, 16 Feb 2001 09:48:06 -0500
From:      "Michael M Moodie" <>
Subject:   Public Comment Period for standard

Draft Digital Talking Book Standard Released for Public Review

A committee of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has completed a document entitled *File Specifications for the Digital Talking Book.* NISO has posted this draft standard on its web site

for a thirty-day public comment period ending March 20, 2001. The committee, chaired by NLS research and development officer Michael Moodie, is made up of representatives from nearly two dozen organizations committed to making print materials available to blind and physically handicapped readers in an accessible form.

File Specifications for the Digital Talking Book defines the formats of the many files that will make up a digital talking book (DTB). It is a technical specification intended for use by developers of DTB playback devices and authors of software used to produce and distribute DTBs. Following the public review period, the specification is scheduled to be updated based on comments received and then sent to NISO with the request that it be accepted as a national standard. The standard will guide the development of the next generation of talking books at NLS and other partner agencies.

Comments on the draft standard should be directed to Michael Moodie at:

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542
Fax: (202) 707-1690

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