Listening to Daisy books with Winamp

By Veli-Pekka Tätilä

Alasdair - broken links and unavailable files have been removed from this page and are lost forever.

Daisy is a standard about digital audio books that are usuaaly delivered on ordinary CDs. Although there's a Daisy player for Windows, it's quite a download and does not offer you the benefit of time stretching. Here's how you can listen to Daisy books using the popular Winamp player and also do time stretching, all for free.

About the Format

Mp3 is perhaps the most popular audio compression format for music but you can also use it in speech files saving enormous amounts of disk space. Most Daisy books are compressed in mp3 format meaning that pretty much any mp3 player should be capable of playing the audio data. Daisy books also include other data files related to navigation but unfortunately only the Daisy player is able to read them so you neeed to do the navigation manually. Generally speaking, you should be able to deduce the listening order by looking at the file names and simply create an m3u play list in Winamp.

Downloading Winamp and the Plug-in

I recommend Winamp for listening to Daisy books because many people already have got Winamp and Winamp also has excellent keyboard and plug-in suppoort. You can get the latest version of Winamp 2.x at Old Version's.

In addition, you should also download a free time stretching plug-in. Time stretching is synonymous with changing speed without affecting pitch. This should really come in handy when listening to audio books. Often you can almost cut the duration of an audio book to half, just by using a time stretcher plug-in. Especially if you have read through the material at least once or are used to listening to a speech synth.

Although, not the best time stretcher, Slow me down is a free plug-in capable of doing the job. Plus it has got a fairly standard Windows interface and is simple to use. Here's the direct download link at my site, because the original is down:
Get the Slow me down plug-in
Install Winamp first and then extract the files in the slow me down zip to your Winamp plug-in folder. It is the one called Plugins in your Winamp installation folder.

Configuration and Usage Tips

To activate the plug-in: go to Winamp preferences (ctrl+p), cursor down to DSP plug-ins, use tab to get to the right side and select the Slow me down plug-in after which you should hit close. The plug-in should be active and visible. The interface has got two sliders one for controlling the amount of stretching (negative values are faster than normal) and the other for fine tuning the pitch range. There's also a check box for bypassing the effect completetely and another one for converting all input to mono before processing (should ease the CPU load a little).

IF you are totally blind and thus cannot use the mouse, it may be a little difficult to adjust the settings of the Winamp plug-in. Sure enough, it's a standard Windows dialog and OK to use after it has got the focus, the problem is switching to the plug-in. It runs under Winamp and so alt+tab or ctrl+tab won't work at all. Your best bet is to use a virtual cursor and try to find some of the sliders I talked about earlier (Winamp has got no standard sliders unlike the plug-in), or an inactive title bar. After you find any of those, simply perform a virtual left click to activate the plug-in.

I've noticed that if your audio is of really low quality (e.g. having a sampling rate of only 22050 Hz or a low bit depth), the plug-in may produce nasty, high whistling noise. Not very loud but noticible. I suggest cutting some of the highs out with the graphical equalizer built into Winamp in this is a problem.

Using Winamp from the keyboard is fairly straightforward. X is play or pause, c stops, b takes the next track and z the previous one and the left and right arrows do fast forwarding and rewinding. You can also easily create a playlist by selecting multiple files for Winamp to open. Just use b and z to choose the file to be played in a play list.

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