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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Extra Large: Large print on demand

MARIJ SCHOLS, Nederlandse Luister en Braille Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands


Reading material for the visually impaired

Reading material for the visually impaired is provided by the Dutch libraries for the blind, whose activities include the production, reproduction and distribution of books and literature in forms su ited for reading by the blind and partially sighted. Next to braille and audio media, information has also long been available on disk and in large print. In the Netherlands, the lending of books in large print has traditionally been the task of the pubic libraries. The aging population has led to a rise in the number of elderly people and concomitantly in the frailties associated with old age, such as poor vision. The information supply is also expanding. Collaboration between libraries for the blind and public libraries and utilization of the new technology has made it possible to continu e to supply information to the visually impaired in every reading form suitable for their use. To those with partial sight and who prefer reading their information in large print - and their number i s considerable

The NLBB can now offer two new services. The aim for the future is to be able to supply every source of information, whether this concerns an article, a brochure, a manual or book, in large print.

1. Consumer service

Since 1991, the NLBB has offered a service to visually impaired persons, making it possible for all kinds of information in black print to be transcribed into a reading form suited to their needs.

The service operates on the principle that the customer is the one to determine the time span and reading form in which the information in black print should be delivered. Topical information, such a s the instructions enclosed with pharmaceutical products, tax forms, reports and papers of meetings, letters, in short any information which is needed in the short term is transcribed via the so-call ed Lees-expresse (=Reading Express).

Customers are issued preprinted stickers and order forms by which to make use of the Reading Express. On the order form, they specify the reading form into which the information enclosed is to be tra nscribed as well as how fast they need to have the information. The library guarantees transcription of 15 black print pages per day. Customers who have difficulty filling in the required production information can also phone in their orders. The Reading Express makes it possible to deliver topical information to the customer within 24 hours.

Less urgent transcription applications, such as for specialized manuals, books and extensive reports are handled via the so-called consumer service. This service operates on the same principle as the Reading Express only in this case, 15 black print pages are produced, not per day, but per week for the customer.

Printed information submitted to the service can be transcribed into braille, onto tape, floppy disk or into large print. When reprinting in large print, special allowances are made for the visual ca pacity of the applicant. Both the letter type and size to be used in the large print version are chosen in consultation with the customer.

Once determined, a record of this standard will be entered and filed, to be used for all further orders.

There are currently some 1000 customers registered with the NLBB who make use of the Reading Express/consumer service, which handled 5000 orders were handled in 1994.


In the present situation, printed information to be transcribed is supplied by the customer, yet future developments will make it possible for this to be supplied by public or university libraries.

The NLBB is currently involved in the preparations for a demonstration project called TOUCAT. The aim of this project is to make the catalogue and information files of public and academic libraries a ccessible to those with a visual handicap. The installation of a workstation equipped with reading aids such as a Braille reading line, a speech synthesizer and a letter magnifier will enable the vis ually impaired to consult the various information files without help.

The information, once found, must then be available in the short term, just as for seeing users. The workstation will therefore be required to be equipped with a feature enabling an online applicatio n for transcription into a suitable reading form to be made to the NLBB or any other library for the blind in the Netherlands.

The libraries are responsible for obtaining possession of the black print version on the basis of which the braille (print-out or floppy disk), audio or large print version is to be produced.

If a digitalized version of the materials is already present, the transcription may be largely carried out automatically.

In 1995, workstations will be installed at two university libraries and in one public library. Based on the results of an evaluation to be carried out in 1996, the further strategy to be pursued will be determined. Good collaboration between the public libraries, the university libraries and the libraries for the blind is requisite for this project, which seeks to improve the accessibility of in formation to the visually impaired, to be a success.

2. Publishing XL

1993 saw the launching of the publishing company known as XL, an initiative of the NLBB. Unlike the customized approach of the consumer service, where material is transcribed on the level of the indi vidual customer, books are produced in large print at XL for the visually impaired as a group.

The motive behind the founding of this commercial publishing company was the demand of public libraries for a wider, more varied assortment of literary titles in large print.

As the Dutch population ages and the level of education of this population group rises, the demand for large print books will continue to grow.

The existing commercial publishing companies in the Netherlands are unwilling, when putting together their lists, to gamble on titles and genres other than those guaranteed to sell more than 600 copi es. These tend to be genres such as regional novels, family and doctor novels. Literary works are published only in exceptional cases.


As the goal of the NLBB is to provide the visually impaired with reading material in a form adapted to their needs and because the NLBB sees books in large-type print as a link between ordinary and s poken books, the decision was taken in 1993 to set up a specialized large print publishing company of its own. This publishing company was to be capable of publishing titles of which less than 300 co pies were to be printed on a commercial basis.

The strategic choices for XL for 1995 have been formulated as follows:


The books and genres in demand were established by means of a survey carried out among officials employed at public libraries and among the registered customers of NLBB. This demand was subsequently set against the supply available from existing commercial publishers and in this way, it became possible to draw up the criteria for the XL list.

In the XL list, attention is mainly focused on literary and current publications. By maintaining good contact with the regular black print publishers the company strives for priority in acquiring new titles by known authors for production in large print.


The large print books are sold to public libraries in the Netherlands. For giving notice of the publication of new titles, for collecting orders and distributing the large-print books to the public l ibraries, use is made of the umbrella organizations responsible for the supply of library materials to the public library facilities in the Netherlands. 1995 will also see the delivery of books publi shed by XL to public libraries in Belgium for the first time. Sales to individuals via the regular book shops promise to become possible in the near future.


In order to meet the requirements of the public libraries, all the books are published bound in hardcover. Research findings motivated the choice in favour of an 18 point Mingon type face. The price of a book in large print varies, depending on the number of pages, between f. 35 and f. 50.

All production activities except for the actual book binding, such as scanning the text, correction work, printing and gathering are carried out by XL. The bi-coloured cover especially designed for X L and which projects a literary effect is also printed by the firm itself.

The production equipment consists at present of:

The company is staffed by:


Between August 1994 and February 1995, some 38 titles were published by XL and 7,610 copies were sold. The responses from the public libraries with respect to the selection of titles and product pres entation have hitherto been positive. In 1995, XL will publish a total of one hundred titles designated for public libraries and sales are looked forward to of around 25,000 copies.


The aim of the NLBB is to add Braille and black print books which have already been produced digitally to XL's publication list.

A file type independent of lay-out will have to be sought in cooperation with the XL and other black print publishers in which texts can be saved digitally and subsequently printed out, depending on the output desired (braille, disk, black print, large print).

The NLBB already makes use of the files scanned by XL for producing books in braille.

A digital archive, once accumulated can be used in the future, with the help of digital laser printers, to print large print books on request. 'Printing on demand', in which customers can place order s for large-print books will then become reality.

In the coming years, therefore, the focus will be mainly directed at acquiring the digital information storage media used by the regular publishers in the production of their books.