The first book printed by press was “The Guttenberg Bible in 1455”.
It is natural that we would regard audiobooks as a fresh and innovative alternative to the printed word for those who prefer or need to listen rather than read.
However, are talking books really so novel? In reality, recorded books have behind them a long and wonderful history of storytelling, which can be traced back through many cultures and many centuries before the first book was printed.
Getting to Know Audiobooks:
What is an audio book? Simply put, it is a recording of the spoken word. The recording may be an abridged or unabridged version or snippet of a written book or play, a collection of poems or essays, or a series of lessons or instructional work. An talking book may be recorded by the author of the work, by a volunteer, or by a professional performer.
The Birth of the Audio book:
The audio book came to be when the centuries-old tradition of storytelling came together with the ability to record words – which we can attribute originally to Thomas Edison and his rotating-cylinder phonograph invention. In the decades that followed, the recorded word was for helping those in need, for education, and for entertainment.
“Books for the Adult Blind Project”
The US Congress, in the early 1930s, saw the potential in recorded books for helping the visually challenged and established the “Books for the Adult Blind Project”; the following year, the American Foundation for the Blind released the first talking recorded books.
At the same time, society was also being introduced to the entertaining value of the recorded word through radio plays and shows. By the 1950s, audio books had moved into the realm of popular literature and poetry. In 1952, Caedmon Records recorded (on vinyl record) Dylan Thomas reading poems and the story A Child’s Christmas in Wales. The world of talking books had firmly and dramatically arrived.
From Vinyl to Virtual:
Technology has played a pivotal role in the birth and growth of the audiobook. From the first books on vinyl records,
to audiocassette tapes in the 1970s and then the introduction of CDs in the 1980s, technology has helped the world come to know and love digital books.
Books on CD, as well as collectible recorded works in cassette and even vinyl format, are well loved; however, the downloadable electronic digitized book that can be stored on a computer, uploaded to a MP3 player, or burned to a CD is the format of choice for many due to convenience, immediacy, and practicality. Modern technologies have forever changed the audiobook and continue to bring it to ever-increasing levels of accessibility and popularity.
• Cassettes and CDs, along with their portable players and players in automobiles, blasted audio books into a new era of recognition and success. The convenience, quality, and popularity of CDs attached to the digital book technology were especially instrumental in introducing recorded fiction and non-fiction to a new listening audience, and increasing number of retailers grew interested in marketing digital books.
• With the Internet, talking books are available as never before with an unimaginable selection for all ages, from current fiction and non-fiction to treasured classics. The Internet also provides the ability to stream audio books online, rent it on CD and wait for its delivery, or download the recorded work and listen to it virtually instantaneously.
• The Internet provides a wide range of cost options, as well, from free downloadable works, to gently used audio books purchased on eBay, to brand-new private-domain recorded audio books.
• Portable MP3 players, such as iPods, mean that an audiobook can truly be taken anywhere with ease and enjoyed alongside almost any task or activity.
• High-speed wireless has made the audio book experience even more convenient and immediate, by allowing us to download our books very quickly.
• Compressed Audio Formats mean that files are smaller, travel faster, and take up less storage space – but are still of excellent quality.
The Audio book Grows Up:
The history of audio books is not only marked by ongoing technological progress, but also by the continued expansion of the audio book itself into new audiences and markets. Audio books are increasingly used as tools for those in need: the visually impaired, the financially lacking, the illiterate, reluctant readers, etc.
Programming through various organizations, as well as the staunch, unending support of public Libraries, continues to make audio books available to every person.
Digital books have continued to grow as a form of entertainment, as well, expanding into ever-new areas and offering a vast array of self-help and other non-fiction topics, as well as literature and fiction. Steady growth in popularity and demand has resulted in talking books being widely available in schools and libraries, through numerous supportive programs, and from online and offline retailers.
Digital books have continued to grow as a form of entertainment
What’s In Store for Audio books?
As the narrated book market and culture continues to grow, so will selection, availability, and accessibility. In addition, as our society becomes increasingly focused on multitasking, speed, and convenience, narrated books will become a viable reading method, perhaps even the reading method of choice, for all but the most passionate bibliophile.
The world of the spoken book recording has become so prolific that it has produced a culture of its own. The talking book lover can celebrate the recorded word in many ways: Websites, such as amazon.com and audible.com continue to expand audio book selection to meet the escalating demand.