CHICAGO, June 1, 2000 — Microsoft Corp. today announced a licensing arrangement with Labyrinten Data AB and isSound that will enable text-to-audio synchronization of eBooks created for the Microsoft® Reader format.
Announced at the annual Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC), the technology will give publishers the option of including additional information within their eBooks to enable synchronized audio narration. This will enable consumers to freely switch between the audio and text versions of an eBook so, for example, they can choose to read the text of one chapter and then listen to another chapter being read aloud.
The technology, developed by Labyrinten Data of Falk ö ping, Sweden, and isSound of Ewing, N.J., will enhance the Microsoft Reader client to accommodate synchronized audio data and allow it to be played back in a variety of ways. The technology will combine the benefits of on-screen reading with the freedom and accessibility of audio books.
“Sometimes, the only thing better than reading a good book is to have someone read it to you out loud,” said Dick Brass, vice president of technology development at Microsoft. “With this innovative technology, Microsoft Reader will offer the book lover yet another way to enjoy a great title, with lots of flexibility and control. For the vision- and print-impaired, it can also open up whole worlds of reading that were not readily available before.”
As part of the licensing agreement, isSound and Labyrinten will also create enhanced versions of their LpStudio/PLUS toolkit to support production of mixed media materials for Microsoft Reader.
Microsoft Reader currently ships with the Pocket PC and is scheduled to be available for other platforms later this summer. Text-to-audio synchronization in Microsoft Reader will not be included in the initial release, but are planned for incorporation in a subsequent version. Likewise, the tools for publishers to implement the new technology into eBook titles are scheduled to be available after the first version of Microsoft Reader is released.
“The unique nature of our publishing tools makes the creation of synchronized media materials both simple and straightforward,” said Anders Frankenberg, managing director of Labyrinten. “Support for the Open eBook and DAISY standards further enhances the eBook publishing process.”
The enhanced capabilities of Microsoft Reader will open the door to a wide range of advantages for book lovers, including greater flexibility to enjoy books and more value in learning from books by hearing words as well as seeing them on screen.
“Having Microsoft embrace the ongoing efforts in digital talking books by providing these capabilities directly in a mainstream product like Microsoft Reader is a major step forward in the evolution of electronic books,” said Mark Hakkinen, CTO of isSound. “The benefits to all readers – particularly to those with visual and learning disabilities – highlights the tremendous potential of eBooks to enhance our lives.”
“As the leading supplier of spoken audio for Microsoft Reader, Audible fully supports this technology development,” said Brian Fielding, senior vice president of Content, Business and Legal Affairs at Audible Inc. “This allows more consumers to use and appreciate our collection of audio book titles and also has useful applications in the world of education, thus furthering the development of eBook technologies for text and spoken audio.”
Future versions of Microsoft Reader incorporating the technology will help ensure that persons with visual and print disabilities are included in the eBook “revolution.” The capabilities for enhanced navigation of audio content developed specifically for talking books for the blind are critical to applications such as education and take the concept of audio books to a new level of usability.
In support of efforts to establish an international standard for the production, exchange and use of the next generation of audio books, Microsoft, through its relationship with isSound and Labyrinten, will donate a portion of revenues generated through this licensing deal to The DAISY Consortium, an international nonprofit group dedicated to defining a standard for digital talking books specifically for persons who are blind or print-disabled.
“Microsoft Reader’s support of text and audio synchronization will greatly benefit students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. This is a welcome and necessary step toward ensuring that the world of eBooks is fully inclusive and accessible to all readers,” said John Churchill, senior vice president of operations at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.
“Several years of development for the low-vision market, in addition to our work with the DAISY Consortium, has contributed to this exciting publishing technology,” said Jan Lindholm, founder of Labyrinten Data. “I am delighted it will be made available, providing eBook access to a wider audience.”
Labyrinten Data AB is a subsidiary company of Dolphin Computer Access Ltd., United Kingdom. Dolphin is one of the leading companies within the area of adaptive computer equipment for people who are nonsighted or partially sighted, worldwide. Labyrinten is a Swedish software company with over 16 years experience, specializing in producing digital audio and multimedia solutions. Labyrinten is the leading development company for the Digital Audio-based Information SYstem (DAISY) consortium.
isSound is a provider and developer of software products for the auditory enabling of the Web and related applications and software. It provides software to audio-enable both applications and Web devices, and is particularly interested in open standards and creating and maintaining equality of access to information and resources for all people. isSound … because the future is listening.
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