Is The DAISY Player Market Becoming Overgrown?

In the last 10 years or so, we have seen the emergence of one DAISY audio player after another varying in features and price. But with the increasing popularity of iOS and Android devices, is the DAISY audio player market in danger of becoming overgrown?

A BRIEF HISTORY

HumanWare’s desktop Victor Reader Classic was the machine RNIB issued with Talking Book subscriptions when the old cartridges were replaced by titles on CD in the late 1990s. Easier to navigate, and with better sound, the Victor range has gone from strength to strength.

In 2007, HumanWare released Victor’s first portable DAISY audible player in the shape of the Victor Reader Stream, a unit that became an instant hit worldwide. Offering greater DAISY navigation, the Stream was also an MP3 player and voice recorder, all condensed into a hand-held device you could carry around in your pocket. That model has now been superseded by the Stream second generation which offers Internet radio and the ability to download podcasts to the device.

But while Victor Reader Stream emerged as the front-runner, Bones offered the Milestone family of players. Smaller still than the Stream, Milestone aimed for units with fewer buttons and added functionality such as RFID reader and colour recognition.

Plextalk joined the arena with its range of desktop and portable players, and RNIB began to issue a Plextalk desktop player with added functionality as part of its Talking Book subscription package.

And if that wasn’t enough, Hims raised the bar with their portable DAISY players with even more functionality such as Bluetooth and OCR.

But with more and more blind and visually impaired people choosing iOS or Android devices, it means that they have access not only to DAISY titles on their devices, but books from Audible and Kindle as well. And with RNIB offering a digital download book service in the form of OverDrive, there are now lots of different ways of accessing material to read.

THE CURRENT CROP

The Victor Reader Stream second generation continues to be a winning combination of stability, usability and affordability. Of all the devices out there on which I can listen to books, this little beauty still packs a mighty punch.

Plextalk’s current portable devices are the Pocket and Linio. They are renowned for their excellent audio quality, particularly when making DAISY recordings.

Hims offers the Blaze EZ and Blaze ET, both with DAISY, OCR and other advanced features, that have become the most expensive of the current bunch of multi-players.

The Milestone family has the honour of being the smallest DAISY players in size, but by no means lacking in quality and features.

Away from the specialist market, Olympus offers some DAISY navigation on its DM5 voice recorder, but has really stepped up to the plate with improved accessible features on the DM7.

So is there now too much choice? Have we reached a situation where there are so many players on the market that choosing the right one has become more complex than it ought to be?

Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide what to buy:

1. What is my budget?

2. What do I want the player for?

3. Is it to be just for reading DAISY and MP3 books?

4. How much more added functionality am I prepared to pay for?

If you know the answers to these questions, you are probably able to make a pretty informed choice. But if you are new to the world of DAISY audio players, your decision could bea a little less clear-cut.

Apple Music To Your Ears – Try Before You Buy For Three Months

Apple launched its much-anticipated music streaming service and radio station on 30th June. Set to rival other services like Spotify, Apple Music offers users a free three-month trial with 30 million songs to choose from, and that’s just for starters!

I decided to take advantage of the free trial to find out how it works with VoiceOver, and whether I can be lured once my three months is up.

GETTING STARTED

One point to make beforehand, however. You need to be running either iTunes 12.2 for Mac and Windows, or iOS 8.4 on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. If you haven’t updated your mobile device yet, go to Settings, General and Software Update.

Once you have 8.4 up and running, choose Music on your device. Immediately you launch the app, you will see that Apple Music is ready to entertain you. First, double-tap on Apple Music, and choose a subscription. You have to do this in order to reach the next step, even though your first three months are free. You can either go for a single subscription at £9.99 a month, or a family subscription of up to six accounts for £14.99 a month. I chose the single subscription as I felt this would more than meet my needs.

Next, you enter your Apple ID credentials when prompted to pay for your chosen subscription. Assuming you already have an Apple ID and password, enter these and you are good to go. With the setup process out of the way, you are now free to explore a huge catalogue of music, or listen to Apple’s Beats 1 radio station.

THE APPLE MUSIC EXPERIENCE

Across the bottom of the screen on your mobile device are six tabs to choose from: For You, New, Radio, Connect, Playlists, and My Music. The For You tab are the suggestions Apple makes based on what you listen to. New offers the most recent releases. The Radio tab is where you will find Apple’s Beats 1 24-hour station, plus lots of music genres to choose from. Connect is the Social Media tab where you can team up with people in the usual ways to exchange your music views. Playlists provides lists of songs you have created from Apple Music. And My Music is where you will find any of your own music purchased from iTunes or copied to your device.

You can use the Search facility to look for specific albums or tracks, and you can choose to listen to anything in Apple Music offline if you are away from your WiFi connection and don’t want to exceed your data plan.

You can also use Siri with the Apple Music app to carry out a range of instructions. You can ask Siri what song is playing if you don’t know the name or artist. You can ask Siri to add music to your library, or you can ask Siri to play chart-topping music from a given year.

WHEN APPLE MUSIC GIVES YOU THE PIP

If you decide before the end of the trial that you don’t want to pay for an Apple Music subscription, here is what you do to opt out.

1. Under any of the tabs described above, choose Account.
2. Now choose View Apple ID and sign in with your credentials.
3. You must next choose Manage under the Subscriptions menu.
4. Find the checkbox Apple Music Membership and untick it to deactivate.
5. Click the Done button when you have turned off your renewal. Note that you can reactivate this at any time by choosing one of the subscription payments described above. This will apply to Apple Music across all your devices including Mac and Windows PC.

CONCLUSION

I am unable to compare Apple Music to Spotify as I have never used the latter. What I can say, however, is that Apple Music is accessible and a fantastic way of listening to your favourite artists without ripping CDs and copying them. If you listen to a lot of music and have been in the habit of buying it, then perhaps an Apple Music subscription will work out cheaper.

It is still early days, and perhaps Apple has other plans at its core in a bid to be the dominant force in the music industry. For now though, I recommend that all iOS music lovers out there give Apple’s new streaming service a try before you buy.