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Understanding DAISY


DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information SYstem and refers to a way to create works called DTBs or Digital Talking Books. This means "digital textbooks, or a combination of synchronized audio and text books." DAISY is based on the ANSI/NISO Z39.86 standard for formatting (encoding) information. The National Information Standards Organization, NISO, has developed over two dozen standards for various purposes, of which Z39.86 is incorporated into DAISY. The DAISY specification is made up of rules and requirements necessary to create digital/audio books, specifically, XML and SMIL files requirements. The DAISY specification is used to create DTBs according to agreed-upon standards. In this way, DAISY-compliant files, and the products made from them, can be used by the widest possible audience. To date, the DAISY 2005 specification is the latest version of this standard.

The primary purpose of DTBs is to provide alternate versions of print-based works that include synchronized audio. More specifically, DTBs allow an alternate version that functions in much the same way as a print-based work. For example, a traditional tape cassette recording of a book in audio does not allow users to access its content efficiently; these tapes must use cumbersome fast-forward and rewind functions, leading to built-in hit-or-miss access to content. DTBs eliminate this and other content-access difficulties. Another advantage of a DTB version of a work is accessing its content through the use of a computer and computer mouse; this allows users to be free of many physical constraints involved in accessing print-based content, such as lifting and holding a book and turning its pages. DAISY books outputs are usually web-based, server-based, or CD-ROMs.

The audience for DTBs is large and varied and includes—

  • general users, who may benefit from the variety and multi-function aspects of a DTB
  • blind and low-vision users, who can access DTB versions of print works
  • dyslexic and other users, for whom a DTB may be easier and more enjoyable to read and use than a print-based text
  • ESL and ELL users, who may benefit from the variety of types of access to the content of a DTB
  • other users, who may benefit from the variety of types of access to the content of a DTB
  • educators, who may create and/or use regular or custom-made DTBs tailored to their individual student and whole-class needs

Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY)

Technical standard for producing accessible and navigable multimedia documents.

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Digital Talking Book (DTB)

Digitally encoded files containing audio portions and full text to increase quality and availability of information to print-disabled persons.

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Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.

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Format and content of an electronic fileset, comprising a digital talking book and requirements for playback devices.

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XML (EXtensible Markup Language)

Universal format for structured documents and data. Set of rules, guidelines, and conventions for designing text formats for data.

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The DAISY Consortium
"The DAISY Consortium was formed in May, 1996 by talking book libraries to lead the worldwide transition from analog to Digital Talking Books." DAISY's official web site serves as an important source of information for all things related to this standard. Their guidelines publication is particularly useful for anyone creating DTBs and is available on site and for download, free of charge.

"A Rosy Future for DAISY Books," by Jay Leventhal and Janina Sajka, Access World, Vol.5, No. 1, 2004.
This short article gives a good overview of the history and nature of a DTB.


DAISY Consortium

Established the International Standard for the production, exchange, and use of Digital Talking Books.

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