Handiham World for 04 August 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

Daisy book version of Handiham World Summer 2010 is released

AMIS is your friend - screenshot of AMIS Daisy reader

DAISY books provide spoken word audio that is connected to text. The Summer Handiham World will soon arrive in regular print, but that isn’t much good to our blind members, except for the giving envelope that will be enclosed. We are hoping that our members will help us out with a little extra this summer so that we can keep our services coming.

Now we are offering a Daisy version of the newsletter, and we think you will enjoy it. The print edition of the newsletter doesn’t have the complete set of articles that this Daisy version has. The reason is that a print newsletter is limited to only 4 pages. We can make our Daisy version as long as we want.

Why should you use a Daisy book? Well, that is a good question. You may have been satisfied with cassette tape books for the past 30 years or more, and the tapes played nicely in your Library of Congress audio book player. Indeed, that technology has served our Handiham members very well over the decades, but it has its shortcomings. Tapes would sometimes not be recorded properly. Occasionally parts of the audio would be cut off when the tape wasn’t quite long enough. Once in awhile a tape would break and wind itself around the capstan or rubber drive wheel in the player and really make a mess. The cassettes themselves did not hold much program material, even in the 4-track format used in LOC players. The audio quality was poor, and even worse in 4-track mode where the tape speed was half the normal speed. If you wanted to find a particular article or chapter, you either had to guess which tape it might be on (a typical book had multiple cassettes) and which side and track it might be on. This was seldom a big deal if one was listening to a novel, but if you were reading some kind of a textbook or reference book and wanted to find a particular topic, well, let’s just say you had your work cut out for you.

DAISY is an acronym that stands for “Digital Accessible Information System”. It is properly spelled in all capital letters, but generally when I write articles I capitalize only the D so that Daisy production software will say “Daisy” instead of spelling out each letter. In this article, I have mixed both spellings. Maybe some of our readers who use Jaws or Window-Eyes will let me know if those screen readers differentiate between the two spellings. I do know for sure that the Daisy production software behaves as I said, spelling out Daisy if all the letters are in caps.

That little trick is just one of many that I have learned in producing accessible materials for our Handiham members. Even so, every time I work on another production I learn something new. I could say plenty more about that, but I still haven’t told you about the advantages of reading a Daisy book instead of a cassette tape book. A Daisy book can be played, which means to say listened to, on the new Library of Congress players that are currently being issued. You can also listen to a Daisy book on your computer. Often times the Daisy book can be simply downloaded via the Internet, which allows the user to bypass the time-consuming process of using regular postal mail. Your Library of Congress player can play the Daisy book that you download to your computer if you wish. If you don’t like the Library of Congress player or you think it’s too large to carry around when you are going places, you can buy a commercial Daisy player that will double as an MP3 player.

Since Daisy formatting includes the text of the book, you can use your player to search for a term within the text and skip directly to that part of the book. Or you can browse the book’s contents and go to the section of the book, say a particular article, that you want to read. There is no more fumbling around with a box full of cassette tapes that get mixed up, since a Daisy book can fit on a single USB cartridge or in a single folder on a personal computer.

The audio quality of a Daisy book is very good to start with, and it stays that way no matter how many times you play it. A Daisy book doesn’t wear out, break, and get tangled up like a cassette tape.

Are you ready to learn more?

How to get started:

You will need a DAISY book reader. You can easily read DAISY on your computer, but you need a software program to do so. AMIS is a free of charge, open source DAISY book playback software. Version 3.1 is the latest stable release of AMIS. You can view the release notes, learn the latest news, or download AMIS by visiting Daisy.org.

Next, you will need to download the Daisy book, in this case the Handiham World Summer 2010 newsletter itself. It is a zip file, and you will find it on the Handiham website.

Unzip the file with an unzipping utility (built into later versions of Windows or freely available), and place all the files in a single folder. Then use AMIS to open the book. The file you want AMIS to open is speechgen.opf. All the files from the folder must be in the same folder for AMIS to read the book.

I don’t expect all of our readers and listeners to figure this out without running into a few problems. As with anything that must be learned, being patient is definitely a virtue. If something doesn’t work the first time, go back through the instructions and make sure you didn’t skip some vital step. The DAISY website has a frequently asked questions page just for AMIS.

Hopefully you will find that reading Daisy books is both easy and fun. If you haven’t tried Daisy yet, this is your chance! If there are any volunteers out there who want to help us make books into Daisy format, please let me know. It does not require a huge investment, and you may even have all of the computing equipment you need. I am considering making some tutorials and also teaching Daisy book use at our next Radio Camp session in August, 2011.

Links to the resources mentioned here are available on the Handiham.org website. We don’t include links in the text of these stories because they mess up the podcast production process.


Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager
[email protected]

Pat Tice, WA0TDA, is the manager of HANDI-HAM and a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com. Contact him at [email protected].

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