Talking Book News Bulletin, Fall 2008.........Español

Internal Links
Director's Report
Award-Winning Books
Holiday Closings
Organizations for the Blind

Books Worth Revisiting - A Kiss of Vampire Fiction
Tips and Reminders for Better Service
Related Links
Loan Policy
Spotlight on Texas Books
Disability Information & Referral Center
National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

Director's Report

Greetings! Here is the latest news:

Requesting a Digital Talking Book Machine (DTBM): Many of you were beginning to wonder if you would ever see this day, but you will soon be able to put in your request to receive a digital talking book machine! 

  • The first day to make a request is Friday, January 2, 2009. Staff will not be able to take requests before that day.
  • To make a request, call 1-800-252-9605, send a fax to 1-512-936-0685, send an email to, or mail in your request to Talking Book Program, Reader Services Dept., P.O. Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711-2927.
  • Requests will be entered into the queue as received, beginning January 2nd. Only one request per patron can be entered.
  • Your account must be in good standing for you to be issued a DTBM.
  • Staff will not make the decision as to who gets a machine. The request queue is automated, so the automated system will issue machines based on the status of your account.
  • Staff will not be able to look at the queue and tell you where you are in the queue. Staff will be able to tell you if your name is in the queue.
  • If you have too many overdue materials or materials that are too long overdue, you cannot be issued a DTBM.
  • We will only receive a limited number of machines at a time, so everyone will need to be patient. NLS does not expect to have enough machines for everyone until 2012.

If you have questions about the distribution of DTBMs or what you have to do to keep your account in good standing, please call a reader consultant at 1-800-252-9605 for assistance.

Talking Book Program rules adopted:  The rule review period was closed on October 1, 2008. No substantive comments were received about either the repeal of the current rules or the adoption of the new rules. The commissioners of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission repealed the old rules and adopted the new rules at their October 20th meeting in Rockport. The new rules go into effect twenty days after the order signed by Commission Chairman Sandra J. Pickett is submitted to the Office of the Secretary of State. 

Overdue notices:  We will be sending out a second round of overdue notices in mid-November. If you receive a notice and still have overdue materials, please return them so that your accounts may be put into good standing. If you have already returned the items by the time you receive the notice, simply disregard the notice or call 1-800-252-9605 and ask a reader consultant to check your account to make certain that the items have checked in and are off your account.

Donations to the Talking Book Program:  The Talking Book Program receives donations every year from individuals and organizations. In order to recognize those whose generosity allows us to enhance our basic services and also offer new services, we will begin printing the names of our donors in future newsletters. We will not publish addresses or specific amounts of donations. If you make a donation and wish to remain anonymous, please let us know in an accompanying note.
How are donations made, and how are they used? Many people make donations in honor of someone on a special occasion (such as an anniversary) or in memory of someone who has died. The program occasionally receives a donation through someone’s will or from a foundation or group. Most donations, however, are simply made in appreciation for the services of the program. All donations are tax-deductible. Donations may be used for the general support of the program, or they may be used for specific projects. For example, the Unabridged service which some of you use is totally funded by donations. We also purchase many of our large print books with donations. Donations will pay for most of the new studio that is being built. 
If you wish to make a donation to the program, please make your check out to “Texas State Library” and write either on the check or in an accompanying note that the donation is for the Talking Book Program. Donations should be mailed to Talking Book Program, P.O. Box 12516, Austin, TX 78711-2516. If you would like to discuss making a bequest through a will or foundation, please contact me at 512-463-5428 or send an email to

Newsletter by email:  Do you want to receive our newsletter by email instead of on paper? If so, please call a reader consultant at 1-800-252-9605 or send an email to Tell us that you want to change your newsletter preference to email and give us your email address. The newsletter also is available on our web page at and on the new toll-free information line at 1-866-388-6397.

Until next time,
Ava Smith, Director, Talking Book Program

Award-Winning Books

Many of us pay attention to award-winners because they help us find some of the best writers. Here are some award-winning books from the last few years. BR = Braille; DB = downloadable; LB = large print RC = recorded cassette. To order one of these books, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for its number.

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
BR 17209, DB 16389,or RC 61389
John Newbery Award winner in 2006, outstanding American book for children. Young teens experience new thoughts and feelings, question their identities, and search for meaning in life and love. Grades 6-9.

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
DB 62400 or RC 62400
Hugo Award winner in 2007, best science fiction or fantasy novel. Robert Gu, a renowned poet, survives Alzheimer’s. While taking high school classes to retrain his brain, he unwittingly becomes part of a plot to take over the world.

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin
BR 17160, DB 64325 or RC 64325 Edgar Allan Poe Award winner in 2007, best mystery novel. In 1836 Istanbul, a court eunuch investigates who is killing military cadets. He suspects former Janissary soldiers who are planning to rebel. Violence and strong language.

Everyman by Philip Roth
BR 16617, DB 62522 or RC 62522
PEN/Faulkner Award winner in 2007, best American work of fiction. An aging advertising executive confronts the loneliness of growing old, regrets his philandering and other faults, and ponders the failings of his sexual and physical self. Strong language.

The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck   
RC 59770
National Book Award winner, 2004, best fiction. In 1854 Paris, Paraguay’s future dictator falls in love with an Irish courtesan who follows him home and shares his imperialist dreams. Some explicit descriptions of sex, some violence, and some strong language.

The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman           
BR 16879, DB 63562, LB 5210, or RC 63562
Spur Award winner in 2007, best western short novel. A valuable antique rug is found after it was supposedly lost in a fire that killed a notorious murderer. A retired Navajo police officer finds an evil skinwalker. Some violence.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
BR 17079, DB 63287, or RC 63287
Pulitzer Prize winner in 2007, best general non-fiction. Traces Islamic fundamentalism from 1948 to Al Quaeda’s attack on the U.S. in 2001. Violence and strong language.

March by Geraldine Brooks
DB 64617 or RC 64617
Pulitzer Prize winner in 2006, best fiction. Reverend March, the husband and father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, becomes a chaplain during the Civil War. He gains new insights while hardship hurts his family. Strong language and some violence.

The Inheritance of Loss  by Kiran Desai
DB 64261 or RC 64261
Man Booker Prize winner in 2006, best novel from a citizen of Ireland or the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1986, a retired judge lives with his cook and granddaughter in the Himalayas. An insurgency disrupts their lives. Strong language, some explicit descriptions of sex, and some violence.

Texas Talking Books will be closed for these holidays.

Thursday and Friday, November 27 and 28, Thanksgiving Holiday
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, December 24-26, Christmas Holiday
Thursday, January 1, New Year’s Day
Monday, January 19, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Of course, you can leave a message or send e-mail on a holiday.

Organizations for the Blind

The Kentucky Talking Book Library’s newsletter recently published contact information
about organizations serving the blind. TBP thanks our Kentucky colleagues for permission
to reprint this article. For more information, call TBP’s Disability Information and Referral
Center toll-free at 1-800-252-9605.

American Council of the Blind (ACB) Members include individuals interested in the well-being and rights of the blind. ACB of focuses on education, legal advocacy, and public awareness. Their monthly newsletter, The Braille Forum, is available through their Web site or in Braille, cassette, large print, and e-mail formats. Contact ACB at:

Address: 1155 15th St, NW, Suite1004
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-467-5081
Web site:

Contact ACBT’s president, Dr. Ed Bradley
for a chapter near you.
Phone: 713-802-2150
Web site:

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) AFB has promoted technology and information since 1921 to help the blind lead healthy, independent lives. AFB’s centers for literacy, vision loss, and employment and have a strong presence in public policy. Helen Keller worked with AFB for more than 40 years. AFB houses archives devoted to her life and writings at its headquarters. Contact AFB at:

Address: 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-502-7600
Web site:

Address: 11030 Ables Lane
Dallas, TX 75229
Phone: 214-352-7222

Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Formed after World War II, BVA provides services for legally blind veterans regardless of whether they were blinded on duty or after completing their service. Their representatives, who are themselves blinded veterans, travel the country to counsel veterans and their families about rehabilitation services, assistive devices, and other programs. Their quarterly newsletter, BVA Bulletin, is available on their Web site, on cassette, and in large print. Contact BVA at:

Address: 477 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-2694
Phone: 202-371-8880  
Web site:   

Contact national vice president, Dr. Sidney
Ordway, for a group near you.
Phone: 210-657-0059
Web site:

National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Founded in 1940, NFB is an advocacy organization with 55,000 members. NFB offers public awareness, scholarships, research initiatives, and operates NFB-Newsline, a news service for the legally blind that makes local and national newspapers available over the phone. TBP patrons who are legally blind can sign up for Newsline by calling toll-free at 1-800-252-9605. Contact NFB at:

Address: 1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230-4998
Phone: 410-659-9314
Web site:

Address: 314 E. Highland Mall, #253
Austin, TX 78752
Phone: 512-323-5444
Web site:

Books Worth Revisiting: A Kiss of Vampire Fiction

Vampire fiction, as one might expect, has become one of the most popular of genre fictions. Originally viewed as a subset of horror fiction, it has developed and mutated into several other genres. Vampirism can now be found in fantasy and science fictions, as well as serious historical fiction, and it is the hottest trend going in romance fiction. Here are three important “must-reads” of the vampire world.

Dracula by Bram Stoker / BR 08277; RC 31689; RC 40864 (Spanish version):  This is the gold standard of vampire novels, but when Bram Stoker (1847-1912) published Dracula in 1897, he likely never imagined the cult of vampire fiction that would follow. Strictly speaking, Dracula is an epistolary novel, meaning that the whole tale is told through the device of letters and journal entries. Don’t think that seeing any of the myriad Dracula movies has made reading the novel unnecessary. The story is multilayered, fast-paced, and very tense, and many of the interesting details never make it to the screen. The story opens with a real estate transaction in Transylvania (modern Romania) that goes horribly wrong. Readers who remember a time before e-mail and cell phones will be able to appreciate the anxiety of characters being out of touch for weeks and months at a time. Dracula’s actual appearances in the story are few, and the rest of the characters spend their time desperately searching for him and guarding against his attacks, while wondering if they have the ability to destroy the creature before it is too late for them all. Of particular interest for some readers will be the helpfulness of “new technology,” such as the typewriter and the Dictaphone. Despite its horror effects, the novel is suitable for young adult readers. There is some violence, and sophisticated readers will pick up on the subtle sexual undercurrents. 

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice / RC 11056; RC 61222; also available as a BARD download:  When this novel was published in 1976, it created a best-selling sensation, launched the author’s very popular Vampire Chronicles, and introduced the world to that irrepressible fiend, Lestat. What even Rice’s most avid readers tend to overlook, however, is that the vampire of the title is a young man named Louis, and it is his story that the young reporter takes in on his tape recorder. Louis de Pointe du Lac, the last son of a decaying Louisiana family, is made a vampire by Lestat for the most prosaic of reasons: Lestat wants to use Louis’ ancestral home to shelter his dying father. Thus begins the relationship between two of the most antithetical of vampires. Louis is gentle, guilt-ridden, and horrified at what he has become and at what is expected of him. Lestat, caustic and cruel, revels in his evil ways and constantly mocks Louis for his squeamishness. When Lestat perversely creates Claudia as a companion for Louis, neither vampire is quite prepared for the dangerous, clever woman trapped in a child’s body that Claudia becomes. When Claudia begins searching for other vampires, Louis and Lestat have a terrible falling out, forcing Louis and Claudia to flee to Europe. They do find what they seek in Paris, but the results threaten to destroy them all. This novel contains graphic violence and a strong undercurrent of sexuality and may be too intense for some readers.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova / RC 60713; also available as a BARD download:  What if Dracula was a real vampire and had managed to survive into the twentieth century?  This is the premise behind this novel published in 2005 that features historians, archivists, and librarians as its heroes and gives a gracious nod to Stoker’s Dracula. When a young girl discovers an odd book and a packet of old letters in her father’s library, she sets in motion the latest installment in a dangerous hunt for an ancient adversary. The odd little book mysteriously appears among the books and papers of various scholars who then feel compelled to discover its origins and meaning. A promising young historian sets out on the quest when his mentor disappears within minutes of their last meeting, leaving behind a pool of blood. Soon, the historian encounters a young woman from Hungary, a world-renowned vampire authority, who turns out to be the unknown daughter of his mentor. Together, they begin retracing the steps of Vlad Tepes (1431-1476), the unbelievably cruel ruler of Wallachia, whose blood-soaked deeds as Vlad the Impaler and nickname of “Dracula” have formed the basis of the famous vampire legend. Their search takes them from Boston to Istanbul, where they receive invaluable help from a group of equally concerned researchers. The quest takes them behind the Iron Curtain into Hungary and Bulgaria, where vampires are not the only dangers. As the fate of the mentor hangs in the balance, the searchers ponder the link between Dracula and the Greek Orthodox Church. All the hunters must use every ounce of knowledge that they possess to overcome an evil greater than anything the world has ever seen. This book, with some violence and mild sexual situations, is suitable for all adult readers. Mature young adult readers will also enjoy the story, although familiarity with European history is helpful for a fuller appreciation of the plot.


Tips and Reminders for Better Service

Equipment. Talking Book cassette players are just like any mechanical device-they break down from time to time. You'll get the best service from your equipment if you:

  • always use the battery to play your tapes and allow the battery run down completely before recharging it;
  • keep food and beverages away from the player;
  • clean the heads from time to time using a head-cleaning tape (available at stores that carry stereo equipment);
  • don't try to fix a broken player-just return it.

Before returning a piece of equipment, please call or write to let us know you are returning it and to request a replacement. It's a good idea to keep the box your player comes in so you can use it to return equipment if it breaks down.

Loan Period. The normal loan period for braille, large print, or cassette books is 45 days. Please call or write if you need to keep the book longer. Returning books promptly and keeping a list of book requests on file with us will keep a steady flow of reading material in your mailbox.

Broken Books. To let us know you have had a problem with a book, please mark a large "X" on the return label on the left side of our address.

Services. Our staff is dedicated to making the Talking Book Service work for you. Please let us know how we can help by contacting us at:

Talking Book Program
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
PO Box 12927
Austin TX 78711-2927
1-800-252-9605 (in Texas)
512-463-5458 (in Austin)
512-936-0685 (fax)

Page last modified: August 30, 2011