In 1932, a recording studio was created by the American Foundation for the Blind which recorded books onto vinyl records. The choice of recorded tales was limited; The Constitution, the plays of William Shakespeare, and the novel “As the Earth Turns” by Gladys Hasty Carroll. Each side of the records held just 15 minutes of speech.
By 1955, the number of recording studios had increased across the country. The Listening Library would first pioneer children’s audiobooks to schools, public libraries, and VA hospitals. They would then forge the future of audiobooks by making Books on Tape a household name in the 1970s.
Though portable, the physical medium still limited the running time. Librarians recall checking out a suitcase of cassettes when patrons requested titles like The Bible. Or more recently, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- Unabridged” which clocks in at 27 hours, or 17 cassette tapes.
Twenty years ago, Amazon’s Audible released the first portable audio player designed specifically for listening to audiobooks. It cost $200 and could only hold about two hours of content. As technology developed, file compression changes finally made it possible to hold entire books on a single device. Some libraries still offer these preloaded mp3 players as an alternative to internet downloads which you can request through Interlibrary Loans.
Today, people can listen to hundreds of hours on their smartphones and choose from thousands of titles. 35,000 books are published each year on dozens of audio apps and devices. More than 55 million Americans now listen to audiobooks annually, according to the Audio Publisher’s Association.
Did you know your Van Meter Public Library card already grants you access to more than 15,000 audiobooks using Libby and the statewide catalog?
There are many ways to access audiobooks. Some patrons like to search for the latest titles by genre or well-known author, just like looking for other materials at the library. With audiobooks, many listeners find that they prefer certain readers; readers vary from a single, monotone actor offering a straight presentation of the book, a single voice actor creating different voices for each character, or even an ensemble of actors creating a play-like portrayal of the story. Some books are read by the author, which can create a more personal, intimate vibe, especially when listening to autobiographies.
Evaluating your reading behaviors can help you navigate the Libby app. Patrons that access Libby for audiobooks note that it is helpful to curate your own collection of titles; you may need to wait for a popular book to become available. Having several books in the cue can keep you reading while you wait for another title. Or you may prefer to find titles that are available immediately and expand your interests in doing so.
The Van Meter Public Library also buys audiobooks which means our patrons have first dibs. A listing may say there are several people in line, and then at once download the book because we have our own copy. Understanding what audiobooks are popular with our patrons will help grow this collection, and we encourage listeners to tell us what you’d like to hear.
Audiobooks have become the leader in modern publishing, with innovation leading the way to greater accessibility. Long gone are the days when listening didn’t count as reading. Studies show that audiobooks work as a great companion for readers struggling with dyslexia, improves listening skills, and concept comprehension. Avid users now listen to fill their time during chores, commuting, or to multitask with other work. To paraphrase Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “[audiobooks] make it possible for you to read when your eyes are busy.”
If you need help accessing your online account, finding a book, learning how to search for specific readers, or downloading the Libby app, please stop by the library and we’d be happy to assist you!