My History On Audio Books

Books - How Do You Read Yours?

My History On Audio Books

Audio Books and the power of them
Updated 31st August 2021

Although it appears that there has always been Audio books, have you ever thought about who it was that invented them, plus why and how it happened. There was a time though when there were no audio books, so let me introduce you to my history on audio books.

History of the Audio Book

The audio book or talking book first became an idea in the 1920’s which originated in the UK when the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) decided to test different ways to produce talking books. They investigated the use of using long-playing records being a viable means of making a spoken-word novel. However, in the 1930’s in America that a project arose called “Books for the Adult Blind” and through this the introduction of the first talking book appeared in 1934. This included excerpts from The Bible as well as Helen Keller and O. Henry.

60s_record_player2The RNIB first delivered their first talking books to the blind and partially sighted people in the UK on November 7th, 1935 and the first recordings were by Joseph Conrad and Agatha Christie. The Agatha Christie book was “The murder of Roger Ackroyd” and “Typhoon” was the book from Joseph Conrad. These were both recorded onto LP records which both lasted 25 minutes on each side. Most of the books took up to at least 10 or more books and had to be played on a gramophone.

From Gramophone Discs to Tape

The magnetic tape was seen to be a good replacement for the gramophone discs in 1949 and then in 1960 there was the introduction of a new “talking book player”. In the UK, the RNIB distributed on tape its spoken word books. It was somewhat tricky for people who were blind as the open reels needed to be loaded as well as being threaded manually. They were bulky and heavy which meant that they had to be delivered separately from all the other post and also they had to be returned to the post office in person.

Magnetic tapes for audio booksIn 1969, the United States saw a real breakthrough, as the National Library Service for the Blind and physically handicapped started making talking books using audio cassette tapes which were more compact, lightweight and easier to produce and use. The audio cassette very quickly became the media choice for using talking books and stayed like that until the start of the 1980’s when the compact disc was introduced.

The public libraries in the UK and USA started filling their shelves with the talking books as publishers were releasing both hardback and spoken word versions of books at the same time.

CD to Download

The 90’s saw the compact disc version of the audio book became very popular. Near enough all the best sellers written have also become an audio book and are abridged versions otherwise they would use up too CD’s if they were unabridged.

The arrival of the internet changed the way that people used to listen to both music and audio books. As both music and audio books could now be downloaded, listening to them was made so much easier. This resulted in the growing demand for high-quality material and as audio books read word-for-word in their original unabridged format, it was now possible with a handful of mouse clicks, you could be listening to your favourite classic literature being read to you by your favourite actor.

As it is popular to download audio books, people of all ages can now do it.  Low price Mp3 players have been good as you can download a lot of books on to them. This is certainly a far cry from when it was the days of using clunky and heavy tape machines or gramophones.

Places You Can Get Audio Books

There are lots of different places you can go to get audio books. You can go to bookstores such as Waterstones who have a good supply of them or you can go online here and have a look at what they have to offer.

There was a VoiceView Audio Adapter created by Amazon, so that people who have a Kindle Paperwhite  are now able to listen to audio books.  There is also access to a large catalogue of both audio books and eBooks that you can download onto the kindle. If you are interested to see what audio books are available, then simply just click on the button below.

Call to action button for catalogue

There are plenty of online sites you can use to get audio books. There is always the option to buy or download free versions. There are sites who will give you a free trial for 30 days, but you will then have to join their site. Loyal Books is an excellent site to use for your free books and you do not have to join anything. There is access to over 7000 books for both adults and children, as well as having access to books that are in different languages.

The Future For Audio Books

It looks like the future of audio books will still be at the forefront of the next generation of readers. Audio books will still be available for downloading and book lovers will continue to enjoy great performances from actors and actresses who are award winners.


Unfortunately, I am not a lover of audio books, however I do I think they are a great invention for people who are blind or partially sighted. For children learning to read and anyone who have difficulty with reading. Audio books are also a good idea for elderly people who enjoy reading but are maybe not able to hold a book anymore. In fact, they are a great way of enjoying books whatever age you are.

If you have any comments or feedback, please leave them in the comment section at the bottom or contact me at




8 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Great insight Cheryl on the history of audio books. I surprisingly found this pretty interesting. I have never been that big on audio books myself. I personally prefer something tangible, but I could see myself listening to an audio book when I’m on the treadmill or doing some other type of exercise. Thanks for this.

    • Cheryl says:

      You are very welcome and I was the same, I like to read but think they would be a good idea to listen to if you were on a long journey and feeling too tired to read. Thanks again.

  2. Linda says:

    I enjoyed your history of audiobooks and I certainly agree they are wonderful for the visually impaired. But have you considered that they may have a far broader market? I am an avid reader and typically enjoy the visual experience of reading rather than listening to a book. But in retirement, as I’ve begun taking long trips, I’ve found new value for audiobooks. I find listening to books when I’m driving long distances to be far more rewarding than listening to the radio or a music CD. Whether I’m learning something new, or just enjoying a novel, I find it makes the driving time pass quickly and enjoyably.

    • Cheryl says:

      Thank you for your comments Linda, I do know that people use audio books in lots of different ways and I would never think about listening to one in the car. That is a great idea and appreciate the remark about there being a broader market for audio book users.

  3. Cathy says:

    Hi there Cheryl,

    Thanks for sharing the history of audio books with us. Never would have thought that they were once called ‘the talking books’. I always find them convenient to listen to while commuting to work, but I learned from your article that they are also beneficial to special needs people and the elderly.

    Can’t imagine listening to cassettes or CD players anymore these days. Digital downloads is the way to go moving forward.

    • Cheryl says:

      Thank you Cathy for your comment and glad you enjoyed the article. Technology moves on so quickly and I agree with you it would be strange listening to cassettes or cds now. Not sure if you can even get cassettes now either.

  4. Roy says:

    My brother is a great fan of the audio book. Has been at me for some time to buy them. He puts his headphones on and listens whilst he is washing the dishes and when in bed just before lights out.

    I agree with you when you say that they are great for blind folk, young folk and people who struggle to read. Also good for someone who is learning a foreign language I guess.

    I haven’t bought an audio book as I just don’t like headphones. Too much in your own little bubble. Not like the usual book where if someone spoke to you you can hear them.

    Might be a good buy for a rush hour train ride though 🙂

    • Chez says:

      Hi Roy, thanks for your comment and I have to say that I have never used an Audiobook myself but not because of the headphones but because I like to get lost in a book and I am not sure I would fancy someone else reading to me. I am not saying that I will never try it though as it may be a good idea as you say for a rush hour train ride or a long flight if you are travelling alone as it would certainly pass the time. They really are a great idea for lots of different reasons and I was going to suggest for your brother if he doesn’t already have it, that Amazon has a thing called Audible which you can subscribe to monthly and get audiobooks to read which saves you buying them and you just change them for another once you are finished. It may be something for him to look into and it may get you into giving them a try.

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