Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Over 70 Years of the Audiobook and How it Rose to Fame

By Peter Markovic

Seventy years ago, a person would not have found an audiobook section in their local bookstore. This is because it was 1931 when the concept of talking books was developed in order to help the blind enjoy the same literature that those who could see enjoy. From there, it grew into something greater as the years went by.

It took a while for the audiobook to grow in popularity because of the types of media it was placed upon. Records were the first method of recording and playback used. They were not very portable. Individuals would play them on their phonographs at home and that was the only time in which they were able to enjoy their audio book.

Later, the audiocassette was developed, which allowed individuals to enjoy them on their audiocassette players. In the late 1970s, cars that came standard with eight track players were being fitted with audiocassette players, which allowed individuals to play their recorded books while on the road. By the mid 1980s, this simple change in the automobile and in the way audiobooks were delivered led to a billion dollar industry.

By this point, not only were the blind and those who were visually impaired enjoying audiobooks, but soccer moms and businessmen who had to embark on long flights and drives were enjoying them in their cassette players. This went on until the 1990s when audiobooks were being recorded on CDs. But it was the start of the 21st century and the advancement of the internet that made them even more accessible. This degree of availability has led to the incredible popularity of the recorded book.

Methods of delivery

Nowadays, people can access audiobooks in these ways:

  • They can purchase books at their local bookstore on CD.
  • They can order virtually any book in audio form on the internet.
  • There are websites that offer free audio books for download.
  • Apple iTunes offers downloadable books for sale on their site to be downloaded onto the iPod.
  • Individuals can download digital books onto their Mp3 players.
  • They can simply download them onto their computers and listen to them from there.
  • Individuals can still find old copies of recorded books on the internet and other venues on both vinyl and audiocassette. In some cases original copies from 50 or more years can be found.

It is due to the availability and the different media forms that audio books are so popular. They are easy to obtain. As a matter of fact, they are easier to obtain than what they ever were before. Once it was figured out that these files could be compressed and transmitted over the internet, the industry skyrocketed.

The time and money factor

There’s also the fact that people are more pressed for time. It is not because there is less time in the course of the day, but because people are busier. Moms enjoy listening to audio books while driving the kids to school, to practice, or to other activities. They’re great to enjoy on road trips. If you are a part of a book club with no time to read, you can use digital books to catch you up while doing other things. It is one of the new ways to multitask in a world that is bustling all of the time.

There is also the money factor that is at play. Audio books tend to cost a little more than paperback copies, but less than hardback copies, which is something that makes them appealing. There does, however, need to be some kind of regulation in the cost so that the low price of audio books would not take away from traditional publishing means. For those who are able, reading is still a very important part of keeping the mind stimulated, but it is true that some just don’t have the time to sit down with a book or they prefer to hear it instead of read it. There are sometimes celebrities who will read these books and some individuals love it when a favorite celebrities voice is telling them a fantastic story. This is another aspect that makes audio books so popular.

A rise to fame

The increased popularity of audio books can literally be considered a rise to fame. Between being able to listen to them anytime and anywhere to being able to obtain them so easily, it is no wonder that most everyone is turning to audiobooks at some point in their life for one reason or another. Right now, almost half of the books being listened to are in libraries, but the other 60% is spread out amongst other venues such as the internet and bookstores. This isn’t in an effort to keep people from reading. Audio books are simply meant to help those who cannot see or do not have the time to enjoy something such as this. It is not meant to replace the paperback, but to help those who cannot use a paperback for one reason or another.

Click this link to learn more about audio books at

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