• The Untold Story of the Talking Book

  • By: Matthew Rubery
  • Narrated by: Jim Denison
  • Length: 11 hrs and 31 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (44 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

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.

©2016 Matthew Rubery (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Untold Story of the Talking Book

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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A Historical Review of Audiobooks

I have been listening to audiobooks since the 1940s. But since about 2007 I have listened to audiobooks as my primary reading method due to vision problems. I know that audiobooks are becoming very popular so I was excited to read this book about “The Untold Story of the Talking Books”.

The book is well written and researched but is a little dry here and there as it bogged down in esoteric detail and repetition, but overall it was an interesting book. The author spends sometime on a discussion whether listening to an audiobook is really reading. He also went into what part of the brain is used if it is tactile (Braille) audio or visual reading. Rubery discusses books in various formats but spends some time on the relationship of the suburban sprawl and the rise of audiobooks with commuters. Rubery briefly reviews the history of talking books all the way back to Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. The author also covered the books for the blind both audio and Braille. Rubery spends sometime on how critical the narrator choice for the book is. He also states as the books become more popular well-known actors as well as voice- over artists have been recruited to narrate the books. At the end of the book, Rubery attempted to look into what the future of audiobooks and reading habits will be. Generally, I found the book quite interesting.

The book was eleven and a half hours long. Jim Denison does a good job narrating the book. Denison is a voice- over artist and audiobook narrator.

8 people found this helpful

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This book could have used some editing.

I found the content of this book to be quite repetitive. For example, the sections which discuss how the US and the UK tackled audio books could have easily been merged into a single chapter as they both experienced similar issue.

6 people found this helpful

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Makes you Think about Audio Books

This is one of those books that makes you think. If you like audio books, as I do, it's stunning to learn the history of this art form.

As a member of the blind community, I am a user of the Library of Congress talking book program. But I also enjoy finding books on Audible that the Library of Congress program does not record.

I have also read books that have been recorded through both Audible and the Library of Congress. I often find that each version has its strengths and weaknesses.

The portion of this book that really stunned me was the chapters devoted to the origin of the audio books. The dreamers who predicted such technologies as the whispering machine could not have guessed that a portable media player along with a headset is fairly close to what was imagined.

The idea of professional actors narrating audio books seems to have been a common thread from the beginning of audio books until now. Many well known actors can be found narrating audio books, and others are narrated by voice talents that may not be as well known, but are very competent and capable.

The book often refers to Dickens in that section, and this prompted me to do a search for Great Expectations. That book couldn't be recorded in the early days of audio books, but today, it's possible to enjoy this book in full. I noticed several narrations of this book on Audible. Any of them would fit on a smart phone or media player with enough memory.

The rest of the book is indeed insightful. It sheds light on the issue of listening versus reading, and it does so in a way that encourages you to think about it.

If you like audio books, it's wonderful to learn about their history and think about where audio books have gone and what they can become.

5 people found this helpful

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An In-Depth History of Audiobooks

Would you consider the audio edition of The Untold Story of the Talking Book to be better than the print version?

I can't read the print version.

What other book might you compare The Untold Story of the Talking Book to and why?

No other book is comparable in my opinion.

What does Jim Denison bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Jim's narration enables me to focus on content more than would be possible by a non-audio format.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Appealing to the ear.

Any additional comments?

I agree with the author that it is important for audiobook publishers and listeners to learn about audiobook history. That goal can be accomplished by reading this book. Reading includes listening.

2 people found this helpful

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Saw this at my library then seen it on audible

Definitely worth listening to....

Once.... twice... even thrice....

King Leopold's Ghost - Adam Hochschild

Slavery by Another Name - Douglas A Blackmon

News for All the People - Juan Gonzalez & Joseph Torres

They call themselves the KKK - Susan C. Bartoletti

Black Ops Advertising - Mara Einstein

Death of a King - Tavis Smiley & David Ritz

High Price - Dr Carl Hart

Propaganda and the Public Mind - Damian Barsamian & Noam Chomsky

Behold A Pale Horse - Milton William Cooper

Where Do We Go From Here - MLK Jr

White Trash - Nancy Isenberg

The Man-Not - Tommy J. Curry

They Were Her Property - Stephanie Jones-Rogers

White Fragility - Robin DiAngelo

White Rage - Carol Anderson Ph.D

Stamped From The Beginning - Ibram X Kendi

The Half Has Never Been Told - Edward E Baptist

The Great Stain - Noel Rae

The Reckoning - Randall Robinson

The Accident of Color - Daniel Brook

Henry Ford And The Jews - Albert Lee

Beyond These Walls - Anthony M Platt

Sugar - James Walvin

Toussaint L'Ouverture - Phillip Girard

The Destruction of Black Civilization - Chancellor Williams

The Stolen Legacy - George G M James

Media Control - Noam Chomsky

To Be A Slave In Brazil - Katia M de Queiros Mattoso

Superior - Angela Saini

The Color of Law - Richard Rothstein

Red Summer - Cameron McWhirter

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa - Walter Rodney

The Crowd - Gustave Le Bon

The Condemnation of Blackness - Khalil Gibran Muhammad

The Empire of Necessity - Greg Grandin

They Came Before Columbus - Ivan Van Sertima

Germany's Black Holocaust - Firpo W Carr Ph.D

The Isis Papers - Dr Frances Cress Welsing

African Origin of Civilization - Cheikh Anta Diop

The Color of Compromise - Jemar Tisby

Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust - John Henrik Clarke

Christianity Before Christ - John G Jackson

Our African Unconscious - Edward Bruce Bynum

Blacked Out Through Whitewash - Dr Suzar Epps

War Against All Puerto Ricans - Nelson A Denis

War Is A Racket - Gen Smedley D Butler

The Delectable Negro - Vincent Woodard

Inhuman Bondage - David Brion Davis

Why Darkness Matters - Edward Bruce Bynum

The Iceman Inheritance - Michael Bradley

Unsettling Truths - Matt Charles & Soong-Chan Rah

Soul On Ice - Eldridge Cleaver

Black Like Me - John Howard Griffin

The Culture of Terrorism - Noam Chomsky

Silencing The Past - Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Faces At The Bottom Of The Well - Derrick Bell

Polaria - W H Muller

A Narco History - Carmen Boullosa & Mike Wallace

Dumbing Us Down - John Taylor Gatto

Across The Tracks - Alverne Bell & Stacey Robinson

The Burning - Tim Madigan

The Age ot Surveillance Capitalism , Shoshana Zuboff

Dirt - Terence P McLaughlin

Wilmington's Lie - David Zucchino

White Malice - Susan Williams

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Interesting, but the NARRATION!!

In the spirit of transparency, I was an audiobook technical editor in the early 2000s for a small audiobook publishing company. It took me quite a while to make the move to audiobooks myself because of that; sometimes the recordings were difficult for me to listen to when there were areas that should have had better editing, for example.

Now, I'm an avid listener. I still read traditional books (my preference) and e-books, however. I thought this was an interesting angle on the audiobook's history, and indeed it was. How ironic, then, that the narration was less than stellar here!

The reading in general was adequate. Not riveting, not bland, but adequate. However, I came very close to having to turn it off multiple times when Mr. Dennison frequently misspoke the name of Charles Dickens to Charles "Dickenson" - all the more irritating to me because the last book I tech edited before moving to a different job was Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities."

If it had been consistent, I might have still had something to say about it, but consistency would have been nice. As it was, there are clear recording breaks and even within the same paragraph at times, the name is spoken as Dickens and then Dickenson. This was particularly troublesome for me when it was placed within a discussion of poetry and Emily Dickenson was mentioned. As that was early on, I thought it just a mental/verbal "hiccup" but this mispronounced name occurred all throughout the book.

For me, a smoother voice and delivery would have been preferable. That's just my opinion though. More importantly, my advice to our own narrators to review their work and put in the homework for proper pronunciation stands. Case in point: Mr. Dennison reads a passage where it is noted that an actor had not done their pronunciation homework to vocalize the Spanish word "jefe" correctly - while proceeding to mispronounce it himself. (It's "HEH-fey" not "hay-fee.")

Overall an interesting work, and one I might go back and read in print. My attention to details due to my background in the field sometimes makes me a bit more picky than the average listener, so consider my review in the context of your own enjoyment and tolerance levels. Your mileage may vary. 😊

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Profile Image for #earlyeditor🤓📚
  • #earlyeditor🤓📚
  • 07-01-22

🎧

I don't see why it needs to be so long and monotone.
There are some interesting points and facts included in there.

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  • Mark Regan
  • 12-24-19

Interested in the rise of the Audiobook, buy this

Clear and constructive examination of the rise of the Audiobook with some interesting observations of its impact on the English language and popular culture.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Blackmalkin
  • 10-05-17

Exceptional piece of research

A wonderful and entertaining study but, to my ears, given a flawed delivery by the narrator.