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65th IFLA Council and General


Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 - August 28, 1999

DAISY in Japan; Sigtuna Project and the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities

Hiroshi Kawamura
Information Center
Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities
1-22-1, Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162 JAPAN
Fax: +81-3-5273-1523
Tel: +81-3-5273-0601
e-mail: hkawa@ibm.net


The Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD) has been leading the development of Digital Audio-based Information System (DAISY) in Japan with its unique software development project, Sigtuna Project, with a vision to support the print-disabled readers in developing countries. The Sigtuna Project provides three major DAISY compliant software products. The author, who is the one of the founders of the DAISY Consortium, outlines the Sigtuna Project. The current situation of DAISY Talking book implementation conducted by JSRPD is also reported.



DAISY, Digital Audio-based Information System, has been developed as the next generation digital talking book standard by the DAISY Consortium consisting of major talking book producers and suppliers in the world. DAISY provides print-disabled consumers with equal opportunities for information access such as handling of a table of contents, pages and other indexes. DAISY allows versatile distribution methods of talking books including books on CD-ROM and Internet distribution. With DAISY, talking books will be preserved virtually forever. Being an open standard based around existing W3C standards, DAISY is rapidly getting industry support which will ensure stable availability across the world at reasonable cost and reliability.

In addition, while the DAISY playback systems promise to keep backward compatibility for old specifications, the Consortium is working to update the DAISY specifications in order to meet the users needs and rapid change of technical infrastructures. Since DAISY supports synchronized text, audio and images, DAISY compliant multimedia materials will probably be the best example of the universal design concept of information dissemination, which is accessible by everybody.

Further information on DAISY is available from its official web site:

2. A brief history of the DAISY Consortium

In August 1995 during the General Conference of IFLA in Istanbul, the author finished his 5 years office of the Chairman of the Section of Libraries for the Blind/IFLA, SLB in short, with an open forum on standardization of digital talking books. Since then the author has been working on the development of DAISY as an open standard to ensure the international inter library loan of talking books for the print-disabled in the 21st Century.

As the DAISY Consortium was established in May 1996 in Stockholm, the author went around the world to coordinate the World Field Testing of the DAISY/Plextalk system in 32 countries including 5 continents. The World Field Testing was successfully closed with unanimous support for the DAISY Talking Book concept and its development process to include user participation.

The DAISY Consortium appointed the author to the interim project manager in April 1997 until the Consortium employed the full time project manager, George Kerscher in October 1997. The author was invited by to JSRPD in April 1997 to get more liberty for the development of DAISY.

In May 1997 in Sigtuna, Sweden, the Consortium organized an open forum on the file format of DAISY to seek for an agreement on file format with major organizations remaining outside of the Consortium. The forum created a consensus that the DAISY Talking Book files should be in standard format and that a standard to synchronize audio with full text need to be developed by an international standardization body such as World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

With expectation of a successful result of the forum, the author requested three major manufacturers concerned, Labyrinten, Shinanokenshi and Productivityworks, and two renowned researchers in the field, George Kerscher and Jun Ishikawa, to join a project meeting to be held immediately after the forum at the same place, Sigtuna. As a result of this meeting, three companies and two researchers joined the Sigtuna Project of JSRPD to contribute to a new W3C standard, Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL), and the revision of the DAISY Specifications in line with the consensus.

3. Sigtuna Project

Sigtuna Project develops three software products; recorder, browser and telephone browser. Sigtuna Project allows the developer to release commercial version of the products for maintenance reason. Therefore the products are free of charge for organizations entitled but at the same time they may be sold to for-profit organizations and others in industrialized countries. All Sigtuna software tools are bi-lingual and designed to be easily localized for different languages.

3.1. Sigtuna Digital Audio Recorder

Sigtuna Digital Audio Recorder, Sigtuna DAR in short, is a software system which provides sufficient capabilities for the creation, editing and production of DAISY Talking Books which is compliant to DAISY Specifications 2.0. The most current version to date is 2.016. The software will be updated to follow XML based DAISY Spec. 3.0.

With Sigtuna DAR and a HTML editor, you may easily create a DAISY compliant synchronized multimedia materials including audio, text and images, or modify the existing DAISY Talking Books to create multimedia materials. Sigtuna DAR may support enhanced web contents accessible for all.

Key Features

  • Original recording, editing and importing already recorded materials
  • Teleprompting of text for direct recording and synchronization
  • Adding synchronized text utility
  • Automatic phrase recognition on recording
  • HTML or XML files support
  • W3C SMIL synchronization support
  • Playback function for checking recording and separate playback of materials
  • Recorded results playable through DAISY compliant playback equipment and browsers
  • Multiple Standard Windows CODECS including MP3 supported
  • DBCS supported

Hardware and Software Recommendations

  • Windows 95, 98 or Windows NT
  • Sound Card (Soundblaster compatible)
  • Pentium 200 with 64 megabytes of main memory and 1 Gigabytes of disk space


In developing countries and Japan:
JSRPD may provide license to non-profit organizations which provide information services to the print disabled free of charge. Licensee doesn't have any right to request support and redistribution although JSRPD will try to provide internet based support services.

Contact for license applications:
Hiroshi Kawamura
e-mail: hkawa@dinf.ne.jp

In industrialized countries other than Japan:
The DAISY Consortium member organizations may apply for a license to JSRPD.

A commercial version will be available from software vendors under the name of lpStudio Plus.

3.2. Sigtuna Browser

Based on the pwWebSpeak of the ProductivityWorks, Sigtuna Browser reads web pages by voice synthesizer and plays DAISY Talking Books too.

Key Features

  • Navigation by text , headings, links, Tables, Forms or user defined elements
  • Reading by page, element, or word, including spelling of words
  • Support for synthesizers - SoftVoice, DECTalk Access 32, Microsoft Speech SDK, SAPI compliant speech synthesizers and SSIL compliant speech synthesizers
  • DAISY playback engine is integrated
  • DBCS supported

Hardware and Software Recommendations

  • Windows 95, 98 or Windows NT
  • Sound Card (Soundblaster compatible)
  • A supported speech synthesizer
  • Pentium 200 with 64 megabytes of main memory and 10 megabytes of disk space


By downloading from: ftp://ftp.normanet.ne.jp/pub/ Free of charge. Users are allowed to use Sigtuna Browser for non-profit purpose only. Redistribution is not permitted. Users have no rights to request support. There will be a BBS support by JSRPD for users.

3.3. Sigtuna Telephone Browser

Sigtuna Telephone Browser enables the telephone user to navigate the WWW and listen to the DAISY Talking Books. This system is designed for easiest access to the JSRPD servers including DAISY streaming audio files.

Key Features

  • Simple navigation using the telephone key pad
  • Access to text as well as audio including the DAISY Talking Books
  • Installable on PCs under Windows 95, 98 and NT
  • Provides Web-based services to diverse user communities
  • Access to Local, Intranet, and Internet Information.

Hardware and Software Recommendations

  • Windows 95, 98 or Windows NT
  • Telephony Card and sound card that supports TAPI
  • Link for Internet or Intranet Access (if such access is required)
  • A SAPI compliant synthesizers is required.
  • Pentium 200 with 64 megabytes of main memory and 10 megabytes of disk space.


The software is currently being beta tested. When it is released, further information will be available at http://www.dinf.ne.jp

4. DAISY talking book implementation in Japan and JSRPD work plan

JSRPD has been working on nation wide DAISY installation project since July 1998 funded by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The Ministry had a policy to enable all 72 libraries for the blind which are subsidized by the government to produce DAISY Talking Books. Taking this government policy and the current situation of volunteer based talking book production into account, the author decided to build an infrastructure which provides libraries for the blind with volunteer based DAISY production system.

There are two ways of shifting from analog to digital talking book system in terms of master recording. One is digital mastering and convert digital master to cassette, the other is analog mastering to be converted to DAISY. Based upon many users reactions, first JSRPD set out the minimum sampling rate for ADPCM encoded DAISY Talking Books; 22,050hz. Then JSRPD has given 2 days training of tape transfer from analog to DAISY and editing by Sigtuna DAR to all libraries for the blind. The same training was given to more than 200 volunteers of 30 active volunteer groups across the country at the same time to convert 2,500 analog titles to DAISY in support of libraries for the blind. Currently 500 DAISY production systems are ready to work and at least half of them are working already.

If we simply stuck to digital mastering including direct DAISY recording or PCM master recording, we couldn't find the way to implement the DAISY system when we were offered an extraordinary budget from the government. In addition, we found that originally structured DAISY title which makes the most of the structuring ability of DAISY may not be simply converted to analog cassette, for example. Author believes that JSRPD adopted the easiest way of changing over to DAISY from analog talking books.

In short, creating a cassette master followed by conversion to DAISY with Sigtuna DAR is relevant to the Japanese situation, in terms of economy, making the most of volunteer support, and technical reasons such as structuring and length of a mail order catalog being produced by Roba-no-kai in Kyoto.

The project covers following items;

  1. installation of CD-ROM based DAISY Talking Book Production System with Sigtuna DAR complete with CD-R, DVD-RAM, LAN and dial-up internet connection at all libraries for the blind
  2. training for recording engineers in libraries for the blind
  3. conversion of 2,500 analog titles to CD-ROM DAISY Talking Books to be stored in each library for the blind
  4. lending of 1,800 Plextalk units for end users through libraries for the blind
  5. setting up an online information service on in-process titles of DAISY Talking Books
  6. building a DAISY legal documents server on the web accessible via Internet or telephone
  7. updating Sigtuna software tools and provision of training for trainers
  8. publication of a large print catalog of 2,500 titles of DAISY Talking Books, and posting of bibliographic data file of those titles in Excel format and in computerized braille data format on JSRPD web.

With the completion of JSRPD project on DAISY implementation, 500 recording units will be working for production of CD-ROM based DAISY Talking Book. In year 2000, nearly 10,000 titles per year will be produced at more than 100 production sites. The most critical issues on DAISY production here in Japan is the coordination of production and distribution. So far libraries for the blind in Japan found excuses for duplicated production of talking books. Some worst case showed the fact that more than 30 libraries produced the same best seller.

But the advent of DAISY has changed this situation. Since DAISY, I believe, could solve almost all technical problems caused by analog system which prevented shared and coordinated production in the country, libraries for the blind have no reason to produce the same title among themselves and are requested to establish a user-centered policy, which results in a quick change over to DAISY Talking Book System.

Since the JSRPD has implemented infrastructure on which libraries for the blind may establish a nation-wide network of DAISY production/distribution system by themselves, it will start focusing on Sigtuna software development to meet the variety of needs of print-disabled people including dyslexics and the intellectually disabled. Because of this integration of DAISY into universal design concepts in WWW or electronic publishing will be more and more focused by JSRPD.

JSRPD with its expertize will also focus on international cooperation in developing countries using Sigtuna software tools. Those tools will be updated and distributed free of charge to promote the DAISY in developing countries in support of people with print-disabilities.


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