Talking Book News Bulletin, Fall 2009.........Español

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Director's Report
Digital Q & A
Holiday Closings
Pearl S. Buck
Readers' Favorites
Elmer Kelton
BARD titles
Books Worth Revisiting: Three by Anya Seton

BARD: Braille and Audio Reading Download

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:

The Digital Talking Book Machine (DTBM) is here! The Talking Book Program (TBP) is now receiving and distributing the new digital talking book machines (DTBMs) and digital talking books (DTBs). If you have not put your name on the waiting list, it is not too late to do so. Please call a reader consultant at 1-800-252-9605 and ask to be put on the list. You also may send a request via e-mail to   

We want to caution patrons that we receive only a limited number of DTBMs each month, so the wait will still be several months for those at the lower end of the waiting list. If you are a veteran, you will receive a DTBM sooner, as veterans receive priority by law; however, veterans must put themselves on the list, as we are not automatically sending out DTBMs to veterans unless they are on the waiting list.   

The new DTBMs have many exciting features. The sound quality is much improved from the current cassette players. The DTBM talks to you and tells you what each button is and how it operates. A portal on the side of the machine allows you to insert a thumb drive and play books downloaded from BARD and Unabridged. Most users are enthusiastic about the “sleep” button, which allows the user to select fifteen-minute increments of playtime before quietly fading out. Best of all, the new digital flash cartridges contain an entire book on the flash drive, which means no flipping and changing of cassettes and no rewinding when you’re done!

Please remember that your account must be in good standing before you may borrow a DTBM. If you have too many overdue books or too many lost or damaged machines on your account, then your ability to borrow a DTBM will be delayed. 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.

Shortage of digital talking books (DTBs):  As with any new startup, problems do pop up that cause delays. Some production problems have slowed down the distribution of the new digital talking books (DTBs). Right now, we do not have as many titles available for patrons to use with the new DTBMs, as we would like. Because of the shortage, we will be limiting all patrons to a quota of only five (5) DTBs at a time. This limit will be in effect for the foreseeable future. We must do this to guarantee that some DTBs are always available for patrons. Overdue DTBs will be counted against your quota, so it will be very important for all of you to return your books promptly when you finish them. Mismatched DTBs also will count against your quota, so be certain that you put the right cartridges in the right containers before mailing back your DTBs. 

Automatic selection of digital talking books (DTBs): Because we have a limited number of DTBs right now, it is very difficult to offer automatic selection for specific types of books, such as westerns or romances. Instead, we can offer automatic selection for any DTB that is on the shelf and available to be mailed out immediately. Many patrons are telling us that they want a DTB to play in their DTBMs, regardless of what the book may be. If you sign up for DTB general selection, you likely will get books that you do not care for, but you also may discover a new author or a new type of book that you really like and will want more of. General selection of DTBs will automatically be screened against your preferences for sexual content, strong language, and violent content. If you do get a book you do not like, simply put it back in the mail to us, and another book will be selected and mailed to you. 

Latest news on the cassette players:  Remember, you do not have to give up your cassette player just yet. Even if you are loaned a DTBM, you may still use the cassette player we have loaned to you. As long as we have cassette players to loan, we will issue one to any patron who wants one. We will continue to issue you a replacement machine when the one you have no longer works properly, after the defective machine is returned to us. With the shortage of DTBs expected to be ongoing for the next few years, the odds are high that a book you may want to read will only be available on cassette. Much of the NLS catalog may not be converted to digital cartridge or may not be converted for some time. This situation holds true for those of you who read magazines supplied by NLS. Many magazines are now available on the BARD download site, but other magazines will only be available on cassette for some time to come. 

We are experiencing shortages of cassette machines; so if you are not using your cassette machine, then please return it to us. Since new machines are no longer being produced for NLS, we try to repair and refurbish all older machines to put back into service. Unfortunately, many machines that are returned to us cannot be repaired and put back into service. And if you do return your machine to us for any reason, please call a reader consultant at 1-800-252-9605 and alert us that the machine is in the mail, especially if you want a replacement machine.   

Where is the due date so I know when my books are due? Each book that we mail to you has a reversible mailing card in a slot on the mailing container. On the front side of the mailing card is your name and address, and on the back side of the card is our name and mailing address. Each mailing card has a due date printed on it. The due date is when that book is due back in our Circulation facility. If you do not mail the book back so that it reaches us on or before that date, then the book shows overdue on your account until it is checked in. The due date is printed near the bottom of the front side of the mailing card, just below your name and address. It says, “DUE DATE: mm/dd/yyyy”.

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 toll-free information line at 1-866-388-6397.

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

Many patrons have asked this question about the new digital machines.

Q. What is the difference between the standard digital machine (DS) and the advanced digital machine (DA)?
A. The advanced model has all the same features as the standard model, but has an additional row of buttons that allow additional book marking and navigational features.

Call the Disability Information and Referral Center toll-free at
1-800-252-9605 for information about disabilities and health conditions.

Texas Talking Books will be closed for these holidays.

  • November 11, 2009            Veteran’s Day
  • November 26 and 27, 2009 Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving Day
  • December 24 and 25, 2009 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
  • January 1, 2010 New Year’s Day
  • January 18, 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed on the third Monday of January to celebrate his January 15 birthday. This holiday is one of only three, along with George Washington and Christopher Columbus, that recognizes an individual’s contribution to the nation. The holiday honors King’s legacy as “the chief spokesman of the nonviolent civil rights movement which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.” President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law in 1983, and it was first observed in 1986. The holiday “was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.”
( Retrieved June 8, 2009.)

Featured Author: Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) moved to China as an infant and grew up there as a child of American missionaries. She published dozens of novels, essays, stories, and non-fiction. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces.”
( Retrieved May 19, 2009.) In addition to her many books, she was a strong advocate in many social concerns, especially the adoption of Asian-American children and the needs of children with developmental challenges. TBP has 33 of Pearl Buck’s books. To read about the people and times Ms Buck wrote about, you may want to read Mother. In this novel, a Chinese peasant deserts his family. His wife, a young mother, works very hard to support everyone with a devotion that achieves its reward at last in a grandchild. To order Mother, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for BR 09579 or RC 38117.

Here are a couple of our readers’ favorite books

To order one of these books, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for its number.

Christmas Thief: A Regan Reilly Mystery by Mary Higgins Clark
BR 15551, DB 58834, or RC 58834
Meehan and her private investigator Regan Reilly become involved in the case of a stolen Christmas tree. The tree, designated for Rockefeller Center, connects a scam artist, a swindled waitress, and a sparkling treasure.

1776 by David G. McCullough
DB 60330, LB 05010, or RC 60330
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian chronicles the struggles of the Continental Army during the disastrous year 1776. Highlights George Washington’s failed New York campaign and the retreat across New Jersey. Assesses the political, economic, and social problems the young nation encountered during the turbulent months from August to December.

Elmer Kelton, 1926-2009

Elmer Kelton passed away on August 22, 2009. He wrote more than 60 books and touched the lives of many TBP readers. He is one of the most popular writers in the TBP collection. His “novels were set in many eras of the past and occasionally the present, all of them underscoring the workingman’s dignity of the cowboy.” In 1995, the Western Writers of America “voted Mr. Kelton the greatest western writer of all time.” (Weber, Bruce. “Elmer Kelton, Novelist of the Changing West, Dies at 83,” New York Times, Sept. 2, 2009, Retrieved Sept. 3, 2009).

Here are two new ways to use Braille and Audio Recording Download (BARD).

Choice Magazine is still available in cassette format. For more information, please call toll-free 1-888-724-6423 or click onto For information on downloads, click onto

Independent Living Aids offers blank cartridges, “meant to be used and re-used for downloading books directly to any computer” using BARD. For more information, please call toll-free 1-800-537-2118; send e-mail to ; or click onto

14,000,000 Books and Still Counting! TBP has now sent more than 14 million books to its readers. TBP sent the 14,000,000th book, Robinson Crusoe (RC 27138), to a patron in Austin on August 18, 2009.

Mention of a product or service in this news bulletin does not constitute endorsement by this library. Our intention is to increase an awareness of programs and items that may be helpful to our patrons.

Books Worth Revisiting: Three by Anya Seton

There is nothing like a really well written historical novel to sink one’s teeth into. One of the best historical novelists ever to take up pen was Anya Seton (c.1904-1990).  Born in New England, she wrote a total of ten historical novels for adults, as well as three juvenile novels.  After serving as a nurse in World War I, she finished her education in England, before returning to reside in her native New England.  Over the years, she spent much time in Great Britain, researching the novels that she produced.  In some cases, she spent as long as five years researching one novel.  Two of her novels, Dragonwyck (1944) RC 68205, LB 01645, BARD download and Foxfire (1950) RC 67140 have been made into movies.  Here are three more novels worth revisiting.

RC 67486; BARD download. Published in 1954, Katherine is one of the finest historical novels ever written.  In 2003, it was voted as one of Great Britain’s 100 best-loved novels in the British Broadcasting Company’s “The Big Read” survey.  The novel is the true story of beautiful Katherine de Roet, younger daughter of a Breton herald.  Raised in an English convent, Katherine comes to the court of King Edward III as a naïve and coltish teenager and meets her future brother-in-law, Geoffrey Chaucer.  She also catches the attention of two men whose desire for her will seal her fate.  Married off to the brutish Sir Hugh Swynford, Katherine bears her life as lady of a rundown manor by worshipping from afar her husband’s overlord, John of Gaunt, the powerful Duke of Lancaster and a younger son of the king.  At first, Lancaster does not give her much attention as he is married to the much-admired Blanche, but after Blanche dies in an outbreak of the Black Death, the duke finds himself helplessly drawn to Katherine.  The two are star-crossed lovers, whose passion never wanes.  Among their descendants are the Tudor kings and queens of England.  This book is suitable for young adult and adult readers.  To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for RC 67486 or download it from the BARD site.

The Winthrop Woman
RC 64846; LB 03115; BARD download. Seton took another real woman and spun a fascinating story based on her life in this 1958 novel.  Elizabeth Fones is the elder daughter of a London apothecary and the niece of John Winthrop, future governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Elizabeth, always rebellious and free-spirited, has a difficult relationship with her stern uncle, who as head of the family dominates everyone in the Winthrop clan. In love with her cousin Jack Winthrop, she finally winds up married to his brother Harry, much to the chagrin of her uncle.  After Harry’s untimely death on the voyage to Massachusetts, Elizabeth next finds herself married off to a goldsmith named Robert Feake, who has a murky past and suffers from fits of disturbed behavior. Elizabeth tries to settle down and be a model wife and citizen, but her nature is too questioning, and she scandalizes the community with her sympathies for the local Indians and her interest in the teachings of the controversial Anne Hutchinson.  Accusations of witchcraft, the beauty and danger of the colonial countryside, family travails, and the hardships that all women faced, assail Elizabeth’s spirit.  After many trials and tribulations, she finally realizes some happiness with her third husband, Will Hallett.  Some readers may find the stark portrayal of colonial life difficult to read, but the book is suitable for young adult and adult readers.  To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for RC 64846 / LB 03115 or download it from the BARD site.

Green Darkness
RC 64611; BR 02480; BARD download. Unlike Katherine and The Winthrop Woman, Green Darkness (1972) is not based on a real person’s life. The story opens in modern times and focuses on reincarnation as its theme.  The Marsdons--Englishman Richard and American Celia--seem to be the perfect couple: young, rich, and very much in love.  Dark forces begin to tear them apart, however, after Richard brings his bride to his ancestral home, and Celia begins hearing voices and having fainting fits.  Dr. Akananda, a charismatic Indian doctor and friend of Celia’s mother, surmises that Richard and Celia, as well as other guests at a country weekend party, are re-enacting a tragic personal history from the distant past; this is confirmed by the Marsdon family chronicles that Dr. Akananda discovers in the house library.  As he struggles to save a comatose Celia and a suicidal Richard, he must pull all of them back through the tragedy that overtook Brother Stephen Marsdon and penniless Celia de Bohun in Tudor England.  Some descriptions of sexual situations. Suitable for adult and mature young adult readers. To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for RC 64611 / BR 02480 or download it from the BARD site.


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