by Dave Giorgio
You might think that audio books have only been around for a very short time. This is understandable, as the popularity of audio books as a consumer format has only blossomed (and mightily) since the advent of digital downloads and media players such as the iPod.
However, audio books have been in existence since as early as 1931, when the U.S. Congress established the Talking-Book program. It was intended to help the blind who were unable read and was called the Books for the Adult Blind project.
In 1933, anthropologist JP Harrington sought to capture the oral storytelling of Native American tribes using aluminum disks and a car battery-powered turntable. In 1935, Congress approved the free mailings of audio books to blind citizens.
More recently, in 1992, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically challenged distributed hundreds of thousands of recorded books to physically challenged listeners.
The greatest boon for audio books as a consumer format really came in 2001 with the launch of the iPod. Millions were sold and the demand for digital content became very high. Audio books were the perfect fit for the ipod, as many books are quite a few hours in length, and the ipod is able to store hundreds of hours of audio.
The iTunes Store and Audible.com both sell downloadable versions of audio books. These digital audio books have been encrypted with technology to prevent the downloadable content from being distributed to or listened to by anyone who is not the original purchaser of the book.
So its been over the past ten years that many people have gotten turned on to audio books, and for good reason. An audio book is like a companion that is with you on long drives, when working out, on the bus, train or plane, or even in bed.
I am an audio book producer, narrator, and listener. There's even more fascinating history behind the story. But perhaps most fascinating will be the next book I listen to.
Photo courtesy of Shawn Himmelberger.