This is the first scholarly work to examine the cultural significance of the "talking book" since the invention of the phonograph in 1877, the earliest machine to enable the reproduction of the human voice. Recent advances in sound technology make this an opportune moment to reflect on the evolution of our reading practices since this remarkable invention. Some questions addressed by the collection include: How does auditory literature adapt printed texts? What skills in close listening are necessary for its reception?

What are the social consequences of new listening technologies? In sum, the essays gathered together by this collection explore the extent to which the audiobook enables us not just to hear literature but to hear it in new ways. Bringing together a set of reflections on the enrichments and impoverishments of the reading experience brought about by developments in sound technology, this collection spans the earliest adaptations of printed texts into sound by Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and other novelists from the late nineteenth century to recordings by contemporary figures such as Toni Morrison and Barack Obama at the turn of the twenty-first century. As the voices gathered here suggest, it is time to give a hearing to one of the most talked about new media of the past century.

chapter |21 pages

Introduction: Talking Books: Matthew Rubery


part |1 pages

Part I: Sound Experiments

chapter 2|17 pages

A Library on the Air: Literary Dramatization and Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre: James Jesson

ByWelles’s Mercury Theatre JAMES JESSON

chapter 4|16 pages

Poetry by Phone and Phonograph: Tracing the Infl uence of

ByGiorno Poetry Systems MICHAEL S. HENNESSEY

part |1 pages

Part II: Close Listenings

chapter 11|17 pages

Learning from LibriVox: Michael Hancher


chapter 12|16 pages

A Preliminary Phenomenology of the Audiobook: D. E. Wittkower