Making the DAISY Format Book – Part 1

In this series of posts I’ll be posting the step-by-step process of creating the DAISY Digital Talking Book version of Tears of a Machine. Once it’s done I’ll have DAISY compatible versions of the raw text for Text-To-Speech reader software, an ePub book, and a fully narrated audio-book for DAISY and ePub 3.0 rich media playback.

If you want to know more about the basics of DAISY formats and initiatives, visit the homepage of the DAISY Consortium: http://www.daisy.org.

For this first entry I’ll explain getting the book text from Word DOC to DAISY friendly XML.

Step 1 – Text Layout Matching

Because I’m publishing Tears in as a paper book and PDF as well I want to make sure that the page layout aligns with the audiobook version. If a reader wants to refer his friends to something in their PDF or paper copy of the book the page numbers should match up as close as possible.

This was an afternoon of tedium. I went through the .DOC file draft of the book alongside approved PDF draft and compared the page breaks between them. I inserted breaks as needed and also found that I had to resize the text to make some pages fit. That’s okay because the end product will be in a format with easy controls to alter the font and size of the text.

Step 2 – Other Navigation Points

Page numbers are not only way to get around in a book. The table of contents and index might let you know where an important subject can be found but you need to flip back and forth, find the number and then navigate by pages. It’s much better to be able to quickly move through the book by chapters or sections. The good news is that all we need for that is headings.

As I was editing Tears I had an eye toward this and made sure to use a series of headings and to nest them properly. I didn’t even need to set up any special headings, just the ones listed in the Word Styles menu. I limited the range of styles in use, using only three levels of headings, two paragraph styles for examples and rules summaries, and the basic body text.

Step 3 – DAISY Conversion

Now it’s time to move from .DOC files to DAISY compatible formats. DAISY uses XML to manage rich media and synchronize audio files with text. With some free tools from DAISY Consortium developers it only takes a few mouse clicks to make the conversion. An MS Word plugin called Save to DAISY will do all the heavy lifting. It’s available for Macintosh and Linux too but you’ll find the Windows version here: http://www.daisy.org/project/save-as-daisy-ms-word-add-in

After I’ve installed it, it adds a new control tab to the ribbon called Accessibility.

DAISY Accessibility for Word

Now it’s time to see if my document is DAISY compliant. A click of the Validate button will scan it and look for any formatting errors that would prevent a clean conversion. When I did this I got a notice that because I used the automatic table of contents features in Word, I had to make a quick change to the style of the next paragraph. Once that’s done and saved, I can convert the book to DAISY XML with the SaveAsDAISY button.

I have a few options under this button. I can just save the XML file so that I can take it to some other DAISY software or I could use the Text-To-Speech software on my computer to generate an audio narration and a complete DAISY Digital Talking Book! If I had some really high-end TTS software with lifelike voices and the ability to teach it to pronounce my strange words right (SAInt for example) then I could do this and call it done. But, I don’t have that expensive software and I’m aware that synthetic voices are still disliked by most audio learners. Instead, I’ll just save that XML file to use as the basis of my human voice recording.

Next time, I’ll be working with more free DAISY Consortium software to record the audio for the book.

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