RFB&D Starts Book Download Service

Recording for the blind and dyslexic recently began offering many of its recorded books as downloads to members in the U.S. See the RFB&D Auyio Access FAQ for details of how the service works. Books are in protected WMA format, and if you want to play them on something other than a PC, your player must be able to play subscription-protected WMA.

There are some great things about this service:

  • Books are available as quickly as you can download them.
  • You don’t have to purchase or install a user authorization key to use the books.

There are also significant disadvantages:

  • Few accessible players can play these books. As far as I know, your only options are the PAC Mate and some mobile phones, and my experience with the Nokia N75 suggests that even if the phone can play the format, it may be difficult to transfer the books to it (more on that in another post).
  • The only level of navigation available is by page. Each page is in a separate file, so you can use your player’s Next and Previous Track buttons to move by page, but there’s no way to move by section or chapter. If your player has search functionality, you might be able to search for a portion of a file name, such as a page number, to get to the right place, but this would probably be tedious.
  • Many players that can play these books don’t keep your place. If you need to reset your PAC Mate or you shut down Media Player, for example, your place is lost. And the limited navigation mentioned above means it’s not easy to find your place again if you’ve read very far in the book.
  • Most players that can play these books don’t include speech compression, so you generally won’t be able to listen quickly.
  • You have to use Windows Media Player 10 or 11 to transfer the books to your player. This is doable, but version 11 is not the most pleasant piece of software to work with.

The service certainly has value. You can order both the downloadable and CD versions of a book, so if you found out on the first day of class that you needed to read a chapter of a book available in this format by the next class period, you could order both formats, download your book, and use the downloaded version until the CD arrived. And this service makes the books available to people who don’t have or can’t afford a DAISY player. However, RFB&D stated in a recent newsletter article that the organization will soon offer downloadable books in DAISY format, and I, for one, will find that a much more convenient option.

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