Two related news stories today. The first comes from today's Guardian:
It was a little-noticed anniversary but talking books were started 70 years ago yesterday with the publication of Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Joseph Conrad's Typhoon. Since then, more than 75m audio books have been published. Although their main benefit, then and now, is to enable blind and partially sighted people to enjoy the pleasure of books they are rapidly attracting a universal audience. This is thanks to the digital revolution and the spread of iPods and similar devices making it easy to download whole books from the internet and then play them back as you walk.
Seventy years ago the first books were recorded on to 12in discs with a speed of 24 revs a minute. The Royal National Institute for the Blind, which started the service, also pioneered long-playing records in the 1920s before the music industry cottoned on. Talking books have survived revolutions though none has offered the potential of digitisation.
And the BBC reports that the RNIB, which developed the Talking Book Service for the thousands of servicemen who were blinded in the trenches of the First World War, is seeking, with the support of leading writers such as Jacqueline Wilson, funds from the British government to make a greater proportion of books available as Talking Books. RNIB spokeswoman Ciara Smyth says they want support from the government so that they can work in partnership with publishers and other organisations to produce more books, because 96% of books are not produced in accessible formats.
Personally I've never taken to audiobooks - I'm so used to reading or doing other things whilst listening to the radio, that I cannot break the habit of tuning out whatever I'm listening to so that it becomes aural wallpaper whilst I read or work... But I wholeheartedly support the work of the RNIB, because it may be me, one day, who needs talking books...
So please, if you have some spare funds, make a donation to the RNIB, or your local equivalent, and enrich the life of less well-sighted booklovers. Thank you.