The DAISY Project
A new digital talking book system - how it all began.
The DAISY project started in 1988 with the recognition of dissatisfaction with the current system of the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille, TPB. TPB (now MTM) is a government library serving both public libraries and print impaired university students. For the advanced talking book user it is very time-consuming to read analogue talking books. There simply had to be another way, the digital way.
In 1991 TPB applied for a government grant for a three year project to develop a new digital talking book technique. The original plan was to operate a DAT player from a table of contents on a PC. These plans were soon abandoned because of the widespread acceptance of CD-ROM players and the new CD-R disc.
The two most important goals for the three year project were to develop a system that could:
- Store more than 20 hours of continuous speech on a single CD-ROM disc.
- Give the reader random access to the talking book from the table of contents.
In July 1993 TPB commissioned Labyrinten Data AB, a Swedish computer company, to develop software that could demonstrate the principles for recording and playback of digital talking books. The talking book software was built on the DAISY concept (Digital Audio-based Information System). The core of the concept is the phrase-based storing of audio files. Additional requirements were:
- Ability to skim the text, phrase by phrase or section by section, where section is a collection of phrases
- Ability to search for different parts in the text-based table of contents
- Ability to search for specific pages in the talking book
- Ability to place and search for bookmarks in the book and in a future version
- Ability to underline text and take notes in the talking book
In 1994 the first prototype of the DAISY Playback for Windows was ready. The project and the prototype were presented at the ICCHP Conference in Vienna in September 1994.
From the beginning the intention was to show how a new digital talking book system could make it easier for university and other students to use and get access to the information recorded in their course literature. But around the world there was a growing interest for a new common format for all talking books.
In 1995 things began to happen rapidly. In April 1995 some institutions, interested in the new digital technique, met in Toronto. A Japanese company, Shinano Kenshi/Plextor, had ideas about how to develop a specific digital talking book player.
TPB invited other talking book libraries and organizations to form an international consortium for promotion of a new digital talking book standard, based on the DAISY concept. In May 1996 in Stockholm the DAISY Consortium was founded.
The initial members were:
- The Japanese Association of Libraries for the Blind
- The Spanish National Organization of the Blind, O.N.C.E.
- Royal National Institution for the Blind, RNIB (United Kingdom)
- Swiss Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired, SBS
- The Dutch Library for Visually and Print Handicapped Students and Professionals, SVB
- The Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille, TPB together with The Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired, SRF.
At the Stockholm meeting an agreement was formed and Ingar Beckman Hirschfeldt, TPB, was elected chairman of the DAISY Consortium.
The objectives of the consortium were set to:
- Establish the DAISY concept as a de facto standard for digital talking books for the print impaired and for commercial audio books.
- Manage the project, develop appropriate tools and systems and promote the concept.
- Manage the use and licensing of the DAISY concept and properties to maximize the benefit to print impaired people.
The DAISY project in its first phase, the so called "standard version", was finished in 1996. The "professional DAISY system" was planned to be developed in international cooperation by the DAISY Consortium.
The DAISY Foundation was established in Amsterdam. The consortium members also constituted the board of the foundation.
In October 1996 a consortium meeting was held in Cambridge. Association of Talking Book Libraries (Germany) consisting of 25 libraries was elected as a new consortium member. Several libraries were interested in the DAISY concept although they did not want to become members of the consortium. Interested institutions were invited to join the DAISY Consortium as associate members. Associate members could take part in the open sessions of the meetings and had access to the software.
In April 1997 Hiroshi Kawamura was elected temporary manager for the DAISY Consortium. He also conducted a world wide field testing of DAISY digital talking books played in a prototype of a Plextalk CD-ROM player.
During a round table meeting in Sigtuna (Sweden) in May 1997, DAISY file format issues were discussed. A suggestion was made to change the file format to another format that is a de facto industry standard and can integrate with the HTML format.
After this decision, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, RFB&D joined the DAISY Consortium as the tenth member. Other recent members are Australia New Zealand Blindness Agencies, The Danish National Library for the Blind, DBB, and Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons, JSRD (who shares membership with The Japanese Association of Libraries for the Blind).
In August 1997 George Kerscher was elected manager for The DAISY Consortium, and in October an Executive Committee was elected (Chris Day, Kjell Hansson, Hiroshi Kawamura and Lino Rios Mejias).