Ode to the Audiobook
For years, people have found different ways to consume literature. From oral tradition to printed books and plays, to graphic novels, there are many media through which stories can be consumed. Audiobooks are a relatively old medium, and while they seem to have always been around, they have a pretty unique history.
Audiobooks were invented in the UK when the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) started testing ways to make “talking books.” In 1934, a project called “Books for the Adult Blind” produced the first audiobook, which had excerpts from the Bible, Hellen Keller and O. Henry. Back then, sighted people weren’t allowed access to these LPs because of publisher and licensing agreements.
The first books recorded were Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon. The LP records were 25 minutes long on each side, and each book had around 10 discs in total. In 1969, the National Library Service for the Blind in the United States started creating books on audiocassette tape, which was much easier as it was lightweight. Cassette tapes became the chosen medium for audiobooks up until the invention of compact discs (CDs) in the 80s. CD audiobooks became more popular in the 90s, and by then, most bestsellers were recorded.
The Internet boom changed audiobooks forever. Audiobooks started coming in more complete and higher-quality versions. More and more books were recorded and made available for download in MP3 format.
The year 2015 saw a rise in audiobook sales by 34% as well as an increase in audiobook titles. According to research, the audiobook market comprises mostly of adult fiction, which accounts for 76.3% of total sales. The rise in audiobook sales is said to be caused by a decline in e-book sales.
Another probable reason for the increase of sales in audiobooks is the fact that they have been around for a long time, which gives them the ability to bridge generation gaps. Older readers once relied on LPs and tapes, while younger readers consumed audiobooks through CDs and digital downloads. Yet the voice talents for these audiobooks are all the same.
Given the wide adaptability of audiobooks in terms of format compared with e-books, audiobooks are more likely to stay around even longer.
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