Now Out: The Untold Story of the Talking Book

book-cover

Fans of this blog might be interested to know that my history of recorded literature is now available. Thanks for your patience, everyone!

Here’s a link to The Untold Story of the Talking Book.

And before you ask, Yes! There’s an audiobook version too (read by the talented Jim Denison).

audiobook-cover

A brief description of what the book’s about:

Histories of the book often move straight from the codex to the digital screen. Left out of that familiar account are nearly 150 years of audio recordings. Recounting the fascinating history of audio-recorded literature, Matthew Rubery traces the path of innovation from Edison’s recitation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for his tinfoil phonograph in 1877, to the first novel-length talking books made for blinded World War I veterans, to today’s billion-dollar audiobook industry.

The Untold Story of the Talking Book focuses on the social impact of audiobooks, not just the technological history, in telling a story of surprising and impassioned conflicts: from controversies over which books the Library of Congress selected to become talking books—yes to Kipling, no to Flaubert—to debates about what defines a reader. Delving into the vexed relationship between spoken and printed texts, Rubery argues that storytelling can be just as engaging with the ears as with the eyes, and that audiobooks deserve to be taken seriously. They are not mere derivatives of printed books but their own form of entertainment.

We have come a long way from the era of sound recorded on wax cylinders, when people imagined one day hearing entire novels on mini-phonographs tucked inside their hats. Rubery tells the untold story of this incredible evolution and, in doing so, breaks from convention by treating audiobooks as a distinctively modern art form that has profoundly influenced the way we read.

This blog will continue to be updated with audiobook news in the days to come.

 

 

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The Untold Story of the Talking Book

Catalog Cover Photo

Anyone interested in the history of audiobooks can get a sneak preview of my forthcoming book here: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674545441.

Here’s a brief excerpt from HUP’s website:

“Histories of the book often move straight from the codex to the digital screen. Left out of that familiar account is nearly 150 years of audio recordings. Recounting the fascinating history of audio-recorded literature, Matthew Rubery traces the path of innovation from Edison’s recitation of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ for his tinfoil phonograph in 1877, to the first novel-length talking books made for blinded World War I veterans, to today’s billion-dollar audiobook industry.”

Visit the website for a longer description, blurbs, etc. The book should be available sometime in November.

Word of Mouth

Michael Rosen

It’s heartening to see audiobooks getting mainstream media attention—two radio shows in the past week, in fact. The BBC Radio 4 series “Word of Mouth” did an episode on audiobooks that you can listen to online or download as a podcast. On the program, acclaimed children’s author Michael Rosen speaks to the publisher AudioGO, listens to Germaine Greer record an audio version of her feminist classic The Female Eunuch (nearly half a century after it was published), and interviews me about the format’s long history.

Disclaimer: for those of you who don’t know how these things work, the BBC journalists interviewed me for about 45 minutes, then whittled my comments down to the 5 or so minutes appearing on the show. All the brilliant bits were left out, of course.

You can listen to the episode here: “Audiobooks.”