memo:Fw: Digital Talking Book Standard

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TO: NISO Voting Members (Representatives and Alternates)

All other interested parties

FROM: Michael Moodie,

Chair of NISO Standards Committee AQ

DATE: November 1, 2001

RE: Proposed NISO Standard:

Z39.86-200x Version 1.0.0 File Specifications for the Digital Talking

Attached for your immediate review and ballot is the proposed American
National Standard File Specifications for the Digital Talking Book
(DTB), Z39.86-200x, Version 1.0.0, developed by NISO Standards Committee
AQ. This proposed standard is being circulated for ballot: November 1-
December 17, 2001.

This standard represents the results of over four years of effort by an
international team representing a broad range of stakeholders dedicated
to providing alternative format materials to print-disabled readers. It
is built on specifications and needs formulated by blind and visually
impaired users, who were heavily involved in every aspect of the
development effort.


The DTB standard is important because it makes possible a powerful,
flexible reading system that easily adapts to different types of
documents and different user needs.

A DTB is a collection of electronic files arranged to present
information to the target population via alternative media. These media
can include: human or synthetic speech, refreshable Braille, or visual
display,(e.g., large print).

When these files are created and assembled into a DTB in compliance with
this standard, a wide range of features can be offered:

rapid, flexible navigation;

bookmarking and highlighting;

keyword searching;

spelling of words on demand;

user control over the presentation of selected items (e.g., footnotes,
page numbers, etc.).

These features enable readers with visual and physical disabilities to
access the information in DTBs flexibly and efficiently. This
functionality also benefits persons with learning or reading
disabilities, allowing these readers to receive this information through
multiple senses.

DTBs using this Standard can include content in text form, marked-up
with an XML element set developed for the DTB application. This DTBook
element set will likely have wide-application beyond digital talking
books as it was designed to enable the production of documents in a
variety of accessible formats.


This Standard is a result of many years of work and much collaboration.
The full committee met eleven times across the United States and Canada
and smaller working groups met countless times in person and via
conference calls and email.

Wherever possible, standards or specifications developed by other groups
were used. This draft standard incorporates or references many existing
specifications, in whole or in part, including several developed by the
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and one from the Open eBook Forum

A number of Standards Committee members participate on working groups of
other standards bodies, including the W3C's Synchronized Multimedia
Working Group and the OEBF's Publication Structure Working Group (PSWG).
Cooperation was especially fruitful with the latter group. Our mutual
interest in navigation mechanisms resulted in the PSWG adopting the
basic features of a navigation control file developed for the DTB. In
turn, the PSWG added enhancements that were incorporated into the NISO

One area of cooperation worthy of special mention is the Committee's
collaboration with the DAISY Consortium, an international body
established to develop specifications and tools for the production and
delivery of DTBs. When we began our work, there was fear that we were
trying to displace the DAISY group. DAISY was invited to provide
representatives to Committee AQ and did so, greatly expanding our
international contacts. Very soon, it became evident that sharing our
resources would benefit both groups. We agreed that Committee AQ would
focus on an XML-based standard that would provide capabilities not
possible in their HTML-based specifications. The expertise DAISY
established in creating simpler DTB specifications was invaluable to the
NISO work. As stated in the acknowledgments section of the standard: "It
is no exaggeration to state that without their groundbreaking efforts
and their ongoing contributions to Committee work, this standard would
not exist in anything like its current level of sophistication."

The Standards Committee recommends that this standard be in a continuous
maintenance status. Given the pace of technological change and the
complexity of this document, modifications and enhancements will need to
be made on an ongoing basis in as efficient a manner as possible.


There is strong support for this Standard. At this time one U.S. Braille
translation software package has implemented a facility that imports
DTBook documents and automatically translates and formats them in
Grade-2 Braille. It is expected that similar automated processes will be
developed for converting marked-up documents into large print formats
and for rendering DTBook documents in Braille, synthetic speech, and
large print "on the fly."

Two U.S. agencies, the National Library Service for the Blind and
Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress and the American
Printing House for the Blind, have developed prototype DTB players and
sample DTBs to test the key features requested by users.

The Danish National Library for the Blind has built two production tools
for creating DTBs. The Danish tools can expedite XML markup using the
DTBook tag set, and, building on a tagged file, create a synthetic
speech recording of the document, complete with the required
administrative files.

These implementations were created to interim versions of the draft DTB
standard and now await formal approval of the standard so they can be


Standards Committee AQ is in full support of this standard. It is the
Committee's recommendation that the Standard now be approved and
recognized as a NISO American National Standard so agencies and
companies whose business plans depend on it can move forward with their

Sincerely yours,

Michael Moodie

Received on Friday, 2 November 2001 17:34:55 UTC