Tuesday, November 22, 2016

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE TALKING BOOK


THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE TALKING BOOK might have been titled “The Secret History of” since even spellcheck still wants to correct the word "audiobook," and even today there still lingers the idea that audiobooks are not books, although the industry is now a billion dollars in sales and growing since many busy people have less time to drop everything and read. Author Matthew Rubery probes not only the history of audiobooks, but sound recording back to Edison. He discusses in a more or less linear way how we got to now from the very beginning, with interesting side stories along the information highway. Audiobooks are still thought of as “cheating,” he says. Not real reading. "They are for blind people." At least that is the public perception among sighted people who haven’t tried them. And that’s a hefty percentage of the population still. If you go on Instagram you will find hundreds of book related accounts, but almost all of them are about print books, mine being a rare exception. But here’s the thing: we're all stuck in traffic, (which is how the commercial audiobook came to be back in the 1970s.) Some people, including a man who spearheaded the industry, were drivers tired of listening to talk radio and Top 40. They wanted to learn something new, to be entertained, and to exercise their imaginations. You can’t drive or walk or cook or bike (or fill-in-the-blank) while reading a print book accident free. You can’t people-watch or scenery watch. But you can get eyestrain, reading in sunlight on the beach. You can cause more trees to be cut down. You can limit your “reading” time to only a few books a year instead of dozens (or over a hundred in my case.) No longer are audiobooks dry reads, but they are read by professional voice actors (like the narrator of this one, Jim Denison.) Some celebrities narrate too, like Brad Pitt or Carrie Fisher or Bryan Cranston or Natalie Portman. In the science book “What Should We Be Worried About,” written by multiple scientists in various fields, one of the major themes is the glorification of ignorance. Americans are reading less, and relying more on what I call “McNews” sites or Youtube and Twitter. Fake experts offering up fake Flat Earth-like “news” (always with popup ads attached) are becoming more prevalent as time goes on, and this is causing people to become lost and to begin to believe anything that makes them feel good, whether it be myopic, jingoistic, or just egotistical. The solution to this mindset is audiobooks, not just print books. They free up time that is otherwise lost to the purpose of education and progress. Rubery’s audiobook version is a good way to become convinced of this, and to give audiobooks a try. Highly recommended, and a win/win. (Available as download or in CD or Mp3-CD formats. Click on title link above.)


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