by Gerry Chevalier

(Editor's Note: Gerry Chevalier is HumanWare's Victor Reader Product Manager.)

At the ACB convention in July 2007 HumanWare, the world's leading supplier of the Victor Reader line of CD-based digital talking book players, unveiled its first flash-based portable talking book player, the Victor Reader Stream. The Stream is the result of extensive research in terms of design, usability, and user testing. The Stream is designed to play NISO Z39.86 books, DAISY books and MP3 books and music. NISO Z39.86 is the format that will be used for the new NLS digital talking books.

NLS is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped which is transitioning its four-track cassette talking book service to a new digital service. At the July ACB convention NLS announced that, beginning August 2007, it will expand its trial of download digital talking books to include all NLS patrons who are registered for NLS service by their local library, who have a computer and high-speed Internet connection to download the books, and who also have an NLS-authorized digital book player capable of playing the NISO books downloaded from the NLS server.

Only residents of the United States or American citizens living abroad who are unable to read or use standard print materials as a result of a temporary or permanent visual or physical limitation may receive NLS audio book services. Each individual must be certified first before accessing the NLS audio book services.

The new Victor Reader Stream will be able to play downloaded NLS NISO books as soon as NLS authorizes the player to do so. NLS NISO books are encrypted and any digital player must be authorized by NLS with a decryption code to play the NLS books. HumanWare has discussed the player authorization process with NLS. The development of the web form and NLS operational procedures are currently under way. As soon as NLS concludes this process, Victor Reader Stream users will be able to register for NLS download book service through a simple web form on the NLS web site. Once the patron is registered for NLS download book service, HumanWare will be able to supply him/her with the required software decryption code to install on the Stream. The decryption code will be sent from HumanWare through a simple e-mail attachment.

NLS also announced that it will further expand its digital service in 2008 to begin sending digital recorded books on special cartridges mailed to its members. Included in the Stream package is a short USB cable to allow the future book cartridges to be connected to the Stream and copied to the Stream's SD memory card. For users who prefer to play the cartridge directly on the player, HumanWare will sell an optional book cartridge holder that will clip to the back of the Stream. As with download books, the cartridge books may only be played on an authorized Stream player equipped with the decryption code.

As the newest member of the family of Victor Reader digital talking book players, the Stream offers the same powerful and simple to use user interface made popular by the Victor Reader Classic+ and Wave players used by thousands worldwide. Stream users will find the well known four-arrow navigation keys of the Classic+ and Wave allowing book navigation by chapter and section without the need to memorize complex key combinations. As well, the Stream's telephone-style keypad provides advanced book navigation functions such as entering bookmarks, or jumping directly to a specified page or heading. The Stream also has the popular Key Describer feature of other Victor Readers, allowing you to press a key anytime to announce its function.

The Stream is an ideal companion to the future NLS player because it does everything the NLS player will do, but in a pocket-size package. Once the player is authorized, not only will you be able to play and navigate the NLS books on cartridges but you will also have access to the NLS download books. The Stream has a USB port to connect to your computer so you can transfer downloaded books from your PC to the Stream's SD flash memory card.

In addition to the ability to read NLS books, Stream will also play recorded DAISY 2.02 books from other DAISY producers, including RFB&D. However, every day more and more books and content are becoming available in non-recorded electronic text formats. Stream also has built-in computer text-to-speech to listen to the text portion of full text/full audio books or the text-only books such as those from Bookshare. The built-in speech also provides access to text files transferred from your computer. Indeed, the Stream combines the best features of the NLS player together with the award-winning Victor Reader CD and software players to make Stream the most powerful NISO and DAISY player in the HumanWare family. As an advanced player for recorded audio, e-text NISO and DAISY, and plain computer text, Stream is truly your complete solution in the palm of your hand for all your work, school, or leisure reading needs.

But what about MP3 books and music? As an MP3 player, Stream will not only play your books and music but, using the built-in text-to-speech, it will also announce the book, album and track names. And rounding out its versatile book reading capabilities, Stream will support the popular commercial recorded books from Audible.

Weighing in at only 6 ounces and measuring 4 x 2 3/4 inches, this little player does it all. Consider a player that is not much bigger than a pack of cards that will have the ability to play NLS downloaded books and book cartridges, but will also play RFB&D books, Bookshare books, MP3 books, Audible books, computer e-text, and MP3 music files.

Finally, the Victor Reader Stream also has a voice recording capability for students and professionals who may want to record audio notes, meetings, or lectures. Recording is possible via a built-in microphone or external microphone connection. For listening versatility, the Stream will allow the user to vary the playback speed and listen through headphones or a small built-in speaker.

The best news of all -- priced at only $329, the Stream is your best buy for a NISO and DAISY player offering so much performance and functionality at such a low price. And don't forget, all ACB members receive a 5 percent discount. Visit for complete product information and the opportunity to be first in line to purchase your Stream, or call toll-free, 1-800-722-3393.

HumanWare is confident that you will find the Victor Reader Stream is one of the most exciting products introduced in recent years.

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