More often than not, we take the things we have for granted. Things that we’ve had and used for so long, we could never really give them that much importance. This holds true for audiobooks or talking books. We’ve always had them, but have we taken time to look back and know where they came from?
It all started with a brilliant mind trying to make the world a better place. With Thomas Edison’s desire to speak to blind people without effort on his part, he created the phonograph in 1877. This led to Edison’s recital of the song Mary Had a Little Lamb.
These spoken word recordings were then translated into round cylinders that could record audio for about four minutes. As it was rather impractical, people started using flat platters and increased the recording time to about 12 minutes. People would need to resort to wheelbarrows if they were to listen to lengthy passages and so, close-grooved records increased the time to 20 minutes, making longer narratives possible.
During the 1930s, a project called ‘Books for the Adult Blind Project’ gave birth to the first talking book. This project included excerpts from O. Henry, Hellen Keller’s ‘Midstream’, Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ and even the Bible.
Caedmon Records, Spoken Arts, and Listening Library were pioneers in the audiobook business. Their work increased government funding for schools and libraries beginning in the 1950s and 60s.
From Cassette Tapes to CDs
During the 1970s, the audio cassette tape changed the game for the audiobook industry. As they were easy to produce, they became the media of choice. They were also lightweight and handy, so people listened to them more often. Cheap and portable players, such as the Walkman, were widespread and there were even cassette decks in cars, especially with models that were imported from Japan.
The cassette tape era ended when the Compact Disc or CD was discovered during the 80s. Public libraries then started stacking up talking books alongside their hardback counterparts.
Downloading and Modern Day Listening
The CDs continued to be popular until the 90s, but the onset of the Internet changed so many things. Now, people download everything from the Web. Listeners are finally unburdened with physical media. There is an increasing demand for high-quality materials and with just a few clicks, people from anywhere are able to download audiobooks and even stream podcasts online.
This is the new age of audiobooks. Production services for audiobooks are readily available on the Internet and people from all over the world can enjoy it with just a few clicks.
Audiobooks are made available in any audio format. Primarily, these include records, cassette tapes, CDs, CDs, downloadable digital formats such as .mp3, Windows Media Audio, Advance Audio Coding, and solid state preloaded digital devices.
There are even audiobooks with no published text released. This is the case for the Vinyl First audiobook called Dark Carousel. This was released in 2018 by Joe Hill, son of the famous novelist Stephen King.
There is a steady demand for audiobooks because they are used as teaching tools. Many students are auditory learners and they tend to have better comprehension when audiobooks are used. In addition, the blind uses audiobooks regularly. Not only that, audiobooks are valuable because of their flexible format. Unlike hardbound books other types of readable content, you are able to listen to an audiobook while doing other things.
We have come a long way from the old gramophone. Audiobooks have evolved from bulky cylinders to just a few clicks on the Internet. Who knows where this might go from here? The world is teeming with possibilities and it can only get better for listeners everywhere.