Insight for the Blind is first and foremost a recording studio!
We are operating as a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation, founded in 1975, as a human services agency serving the visually impaired and print handicapped community throughout Florida and across the USA.
Insight began with a single recording booth, with egg cartons on the walls for enhanced acoustics in a donated office facility using reel-to-reel recording equipment. We now own a 5,000 sq. ft. building featuring 12 reviewing booths and 6 separate sound-proof recording suites. Gone also are the vinyl records and the 4 track cassette tapes. All studios are equipped with audio-optimized desktop computers, suitable for digital recording, editing, and mastering. Both our physical plant and our production methods have become national models for other studios recording this type of material.
Our master recordings of books and magazines are uploaded directly to the Library of Congress, and to the Florida Division of Blind Services. There they are reproduced into the Talking Books and Talking Magazines format for use in new flash-memory based digital playback machines and distributed to public libraries and patrons around the country.
There is a difference between audio books and Talking Books (TB) in general. This is according to the blind folks we do get to meet. There is more white noise in audio books as they do not have the same recording standards as the National Library Service, (NLS). Each time we have met with visually impaired individuals we hear that they especially like Talking Books because we don't use voices and we don't over dramatize, all of which allows them to imagine the characters and settings the way they want.
Many of the Talking Books recording agencies were or still may be nonprofits with contracts generally negotiated for a price per minute of NLS approved and completed recording. In most cases the narrators were volunteers the day before the contract was signed. Insight has perhaps 6-8 current or former SAG/AFTRA members. About 60%-70% of our volunteers have a 1,000 or more hours and one narrator came here as a volunteer 38 years ago and has almost 7000 hours and NLS Awards. If you want to read books you must send a 10 minute fiction and non-fiction audition tape to NLS to be approved. The audition may come back approved in only one of those two categories; a reader does not need NLS approval for magazines.
But what really set Insight and the Talking Books Program apart is that the Library of Congress has Insight as the only agency recording Humpty Dumpty, National Geographic Traveler, Poetry, Southern Living, Prevention Magazine, Current Biography and the most popular magazine in the USA -- Smithsonian. All of these exclusive titles are uploaded to the NLS field office in Cincinnati where they are reviewed then ready for download on the BARD online site, available if you have an NLS approved username and password. During any given year, now that we are digital, the number of magazines returned for corrections is miniscule, and most of these titles have 6-12 editions per year.
Insight has maintained this record of excellence throughout our forty years of service to the blind and print handicapped community. The number of books we read has dropped off and we do not get to pick in general only select from what NLS sends us. What most distinguishes us is that you can only get those magazines from the NLS on their proprietary cassette and recorder. Unless you hold a microphone near the recorder that's the only way to re-record NLS material -- well you could get a membership and make a digital transfer, but then you would be in violation of copyright laws. NLS tells authors with current commercial work in the marketplace and they always say yes the blind may enjoy my work, but since we're not violating any laws that's really just perfunctory.