Friday, August 6, 2010

Talking Books

On Monday night our local branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors had its regular get together for a cuppa, chockie biscuits and chin wag. We had Julie Macfie from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind come along to speak about their talking books programme.

New Zealand authors have a clause in their contracts which states their books can be turned into talking books for no royalty return, so it was great to hear about the whole process and how hugely people benefit from it. Julie read excerpts from letters of appreciation from listeners about how the service opens up their world, allowing a time to escape and to experience good literature. The service is free to members of the foundation, including the cost of the machines that play the books. Even the delivery service is free.

Some facts for you...

There are 11500 RNZFB members in New Zealand

Approx 19000 books and 11000 magazines are issued from the RNZFB library each month

They narrate around 130 new books and printed materials each year.

It costs around $1500.00 to produce each book.

They also purchase books from overseas, so add around 450 books to the library each year.

The book player machines cost $540.00 each.

The Foundation funds this by finding sponsorship for everything.

This is a free and vital service for the blind!

If you or a business you know could sponsor a book or a machine please contact Julie at

It was a very informative and interesting evening. It made me even more delighted my books have been made into talking books.


Bernadette said...

This is quite fascinating indeed Vanda. Did the presentation address the question of why a special machine is needed? These days there are much cheaper MP3 players available so I am wondering what is different about "talking books" versus normal audio books (which is what my blind friend uses in either CD format or downloadable)

Pen said...

I work part time in a rest home. On of the women there spends hours and hours each day listening to audio books. She listens because she can no longer see the print in books, but isn't totally blind. I believe she gets her books from the Blind Foundation, but these are all CDs or tapes which she plays on her stereo.

So are the special machines for people who are affected by total blindness?

I imagine audio books on CDs or would be much more cost effective.

Anonymous said...

Vanda - Thanks for sharing this. It is so good to hear that there are good programs to create talking books. Although they're intended for those with blindness, they really are helpful for many other different kinds of people, too. I enjoyed learning how the process works, too.

Vanda Symon said...

The machine they use can play normal cds for audio books, and will also take other media cards, but when they record the talking books they are done in a format that only plays on the machine and allows the user to bookmark and use index points and other useful tools for navigating. They can also speed up the text for fast readers, and it doesn't sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.