Open Source Digital Talking Book Player

Discussions around miscellaneous technologies and projects for the general membership.
cannona-p40
Member
Posts: 79
Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 1:32 pm
Location: Iowa City, IA
Contact:

Open Source Digital Talking Book Player

Postby cannona-p40 » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:07 am

Hi all.

I have been working at the Church for about three and a half months. During that time, my primary focus has been accessibility; making our sites more accessible, and improving our services to persons with disabilities, especially the print-disabled. One particular technology I have encouraged the Church to adopt is the Digital Accessible Information System, or DAISY for short.

DAISY is an XML based open ANSI approved standard for creating digital talking books. It has gained broad support in the print disabled communities and most agencies that produce books for the Blind have either already switched to the format or are in the process of doing so.

Currently, the Church records the Ensign, New Era, Friend, as well as most of our other major publications for the blind. These recordings are currently being distributed on cassette, but they are recorded at half-speed and we utilize all four tracks of the cassette separatly. This results in being able to fit about 6 hours on a single 90 minute cassette.

The reasons I believe that DAISY would be a good move for the Church are many. First, as mentioned above, it is for all intents and purposes an industry standard. On the other hand, the 4-track format is being supported less and less. Because it is based upon cassettes, and since cassettes are becoming rather scarce in general, the cost of the players and media continues to rise.

Another reason is that the DAISY format is much more flexible than the old 4-track standard. Properly created DAISY books allow the reader to quickly and easily jump from section to section, chapter to chapter, page to page, and even paragraph to paragraph. (As you might imagine, this especially makes a huge difference for the scriptures.) The user can either listen to the book being read by a human reader, or read the text on the screen. The user can add book marks, tell the player to automatically read or skip footnotes, and search for text, among other things. In comparison to cassettes, where the only navigation available was rewind and fast-forward, the increase in functionality is huge. In fact, many books which would not have been practical to produce on cassette, like the Topical Guide or Bible Dictionary, can now be made available Through DAISY

Finally, because the format is open, it doesn't require too much alteration to our existing processes to implement. The audio portion of the book is typically encoded in the MP3 format, which we are already producing for lds.org, and we use XML in our publication process, so the text can be easily incorporated.

So far, I have received an enormous amount of support for this proposal, but we still have a ways to go before we can begin to make a public release. Still, I am very optimistic.

The only area about which I have some concern regards the availability of playback devices. The least expensive hardware player sells for about $200, and a software player can be had for $50. Unfortunately, at this time, no good freeware players exist. However, the news in this regard is not all bad. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the Library of Congress, has adopted DAISY, and so all eligible persons in the United States will soon be able to borrow a DAISY player at no cost. Also, because the format is based on mp3 files, the books will be able to be played in a standard MP3 player, although they will lack many advanced features when played in this manner.

However, this is not really a new issue. The 4-track format also requires a special player, and unlike Daisy, there is no less functional alternative. So, I believe that over all, more people will have access to DAISY than had access to the 4-track standard. Still, the accessibility to DAISY could be better, which brings me to my reason for posting.

I am wondering if there is anyone who would be interested in working on an open source DAISY player? I think it would be nice if we could have a solid freeware player to distribute with our DAISY titles. This is how I envision such a player working:

After the application was installed on the users machine, it would check to see if an internet connection was available. If one was, it would display to the user a library of content. This would include all the books, magazines, pamphlets, ETC. that we make available in DAISY. They could pick the titles they were interested in and they would be automagically downloaded, unzipped, and installed in their local library by the program in the background. If they chose a magazine, the
program would give them the choice of downloading just that issue, or subscribing to that publication. If they subscribed, new issues would be automatically downloaded on program startup, or optionally, we could have the program check in the background on system startup.

If the user did not have an internet connection, they could still load books from CD or their local hard drive.

Once the book was downloaded from the internet or otherwise loaded, the user could browse the table of contents, jump from paragraph to paragraph, and everything
else a good Daisy player supports. It would also show the text of the book in sync with the audio. There would be controls for enlarging the text, changing the color and contrast, and anything else that might help a partially sighted user. For the totally blind person with no screenreader, the application
under windows could easily be made self voicing with the Microsoft Speech Engine. It may also be possible to do something similar under the Mac as well.

Other possible features could include:
Ability to slow down or speed up the audio (a commonly requested feature in DAISY players).
Ability to begin listening to books as they are being downloaded.
Support for skippable content
advanced text searching
ETC.

I thought that the best language for this project would probably be Python. Python generally requires less development time than some other languages, it has broad cross-platform support, and although it is an interpreted language, there are ways to create native windows executables that are not too large. Also, I happen to know Python, so that is also a plus. :)

I considered Java, like the Family History Dept. uses for the Family Search Indexing app, but that requires either the user to have the right JRE installed, or that they have an internet connection. Neither is a supposition I feel we can safely make. Java also has a bad record when it comes to playing nice with screen readers, although that can usually be alleviated by some smart programming.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I'm very much interested in people's feedback on this, and in finding out how many folks would be interested in helping out with development.

Thanks

Aaron Cannon

russellhltn
Community Administrator
Posts: 20763
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:53 pm
Location: U.S.

Postby russellhltn » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:42 am

Sounds like a great project!

Another thing against Java is that they seem to have frequent security updates and the updates don't remove the old non-secure version.

Would anything special need to be done to support Braille devices?

Going back to what you are envisioning, I'd see it as something that could be "flavored" to go to the initial download. For example, since you would be downloading it from the lds.org site, it would go back to that site to find content on install. But another group could do the same thing to have it go to their site.

User avatar
mkmurray
Senior Member
Posts: 3241
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:56 pm
Location: Utah
Contact:

Postby mkmurray » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:48 am

I think this would be a great project to start. It could be hosted on a site like SourceForge, like a few of the other project ideas that have jumped from this site to a real open-source hosting site.

I googled a little about DAISY and found thier official site: http://www.daisy.org/.

Out of curiosity, which standard(s) would you support? the 2005? the 2.02?

http://www.daisy.org/z3986/specifications/default.asp

russellhltn
Community Administrator
Posts: 20763
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:53 pm
Location: U.S.

Postby russellhltn » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:52 am

2005 is the current standard. The 2.02 is the old one. But would the church need to publish to the old standard to accommodate the most players?

Another question: what is the standard computer interface for blind users? The reason I ask is I'd assume that most programmers on this project would be sighted will little experience in coding or even using products aimed at the blind. That creates some user interface issues.

JamesAnderson
Senior Member
Posts: 748
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 2:03 pm

Postby JamesAnderson » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:52 am

This will do alot of good.

One other thing, since the files would be in mp3 format, would one also be able to download them for use on anything that otherwise would play mp3 files? That way even if one was not disabled but wanted the same content, they could grab that off the site and listen to it, just like any other mp3 file now published by the Church and others, albeit without the special/enhanced features that using a DAISY player would bring.

User avatar
mkmurray
Senior Member
Posts: 3241
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:56 pm
Location: Utah
Contact:

Postby mkmurray » Tue Aug 28, 2007 11:44 am

RussellHltn wrote:But would the church need to publish to the old standard to accommodate the most players?

It appears to me that this isn't really a Church project (not yet at least). It is just an open-source project idea proposed by a Church employee at this point.

So I guess the developers on the project can make that decision to support older specifications if they want.

User avatar
WelchTC
Senior Member
Posts: 2088
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:51 am
Location: Kaysville, UT, USA
Contact:

Postby WelchTC » Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:15 pm

One comment in favor of Java is the platform independence. Building in Python still requires you to call specific platform GUI calls. However, I love the idea. Who wants to participate?

Tom

gkearney-p40
New Member
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:18 pm

Daisy

Postby gkearney-p40 » Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:29 pm

This is Greg Kearney from the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. I've done a fair amount of work in the area of DAISY production, I have produced versions of the scriptures with navigation to the verse, the Koran and so on. I have developed open source production software for the Apple Macintosh platform see http://w3.wmcnet.org/dtbmaker/

I'm also a member of the DAISY Consortium and a dyslexic user of DAISY.

A good DAISY playback software that is cross platform is a really important item to have. It should be able to play all three of the daisy standards 2.02, 2002 (this is the format being used by the Library of Congress) and 2005. 2.02 has the advantage of being able to be played on every hardware and software player ever made.

As for braille that is a function of either the screen reader or, in the case of the Mac the operating system.

Greg Kearney

gkearney-p40
New Member
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:18 pm

Postby gkearney-p40 » Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:37 pm

RussellHltn wrote:2005 is the current standard. The 2.02 is the old one. But would the church need to publish to the old standard to accommodate the most players?

Another question: what is the standard computer interface for blind users? The reason I ask is I'd assume that most programmers on this project would be sighted will little experience in coding or even using products aimed at the blind. That creates some user interface issues.

There is no such thing as a standard interface fro the blind. In windows there are two major and several minor screen readers which permit the blind to interact with the visual elements on the screen. These are expensive add on programs which often cost more than the computer itself. It is why many software based DAISY playback tools are self voicing.

On Macintosh computer the screen reader is part of the OS and if the program's interface is written in Cocoa. as most modern programs are, it can be accessed by the built in screen reader called VoiceOver.

Linux screen readers are still in the development stage but Ubuntu has ORCA which seems to work with most applications.

gkearney-p40
New Member
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:18 pm

Postby gkearney-p40 » Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:41 pm

JamesAnderson wrote:This will do alot of good.

One other thing, since the files would be in mp3 format, would one also be able to download them for use on anything that otherwise would play mp3 files? That way even if one was not disabled but wanted the same content, they could grab that off the site and listen to it, just like any other mp3 file now published by the Church and others, albeit without the special/enhanced features that using a DAISY player would bring.

Yes provided care is taken to keep the audio file on the same file level as the DAISY files and that the filenames are keep in playable order so that the book is played back in the right order. My production software always keeps the audio in the correct playable order and so the books can be played in standard MP3 players. I also have tools that convert DAISY to iPod audio book format.


Return to “Other Member Technologies”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest