Rubery 2016

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Rubery, Matthew. The Untold Story of the Talking Book. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016.

Introduction: what is the history of audiobooks?

"The audiobook's identity has always been defined in relation to print. My accoutn takes us back to the origins of sound-recording technology in order to understand how recorded books have evolved in relation to rpinted ones. It seeks to establish a precise affiliation between teh two media. This stuy's main contention is that the talking book developed both as a way of reproducing the printed book and as a way of overcoming its limitations." (3)

audiobook publishers see audiobooks as BOOK (4)

"Charting the audiobook's reception history turned out to be especially challenging since its readers were even less likely than those of other books to leave behind traces; at least we occasionally find notes scribbled in a page's margins. No such luck with records. The lesson: new media themselves are not always the best guides to their own history." (5)

"The audiobook's remediation of the printed book into an audible format makes it a distinctly modern form of entertainment despite the affinities with traditional storytelling. Today, no one knows what to do with a book that speaks for itself." (7)

loss with transition to audio, but also gain -- Toni Morrison has read all her books aloud because narrators / voice actors weren't getting accent done the way she heard in her heard; song lyrics and foreign languages probably better heard than read for most readers (9)

"Narrators influence a story's reception at a formal level through accent, cadence, emphasis, inflection, pitch, pronunciation, resonacne, tempo, tone, and any eccentricities that stand out. These sonic details matter since, as literary critics never tire of pointing out, reading aloud is itself an act of interpretation." (10)

"Writing a history of recorded books has helped to debunk, for me, at least, the book's privileged standing. It is easy to forget that readers have yearned for alternatives to printed books -- from braile to sound recordings and electronic facsimiles -- practically since they first came off the press." (17)

"Historically, blind people have been among the most vocal champions and skeptics of recorded books' braille readers in particular have expressed doubts about talking books as a viable form of reading." (19)

Canned Literature

Edison, "Mary Had a Little Lamb"

early dreams of recording a novel, but not enough space on tinfoil cylinders

"the very possibility of sound recording led audiences to reevaluate what the book was capable of doing in the first place" (31)

"As the demand for recorded literature attests, the death of the author was the birth of the listener." (31)

Edison, Phonographic Books

"bottled authors," "bottled speech" -- Punch artoon from 1877, cellar full of bottled music

idea of bottled authors shows "potential market for recorded literature," calls "into question the future of bookmaking" and "establishes a link between recorded literature and the professional reader" (34)

new experience: "there was no precedent for the experience of listening to a stranger read aloud in the privacy of one's home" (34)

phonograph could relieve pressure/strain on the eyes

19c, education of blind people "focused on the relationship between signt and touch, not hearing" (36)

"From the outset the audience for recorded speech reached well beyond those with disabilities." (36)

Edison wanted to capitalize on demand for recorded books by opening a publishing house

relationship of Dickens to audiobooks: on the one hand, a very print-oriented author -- but also theatrical (38-9)

scenes of Victorian domesticity with "crucial substitution of the phonograph" (39) -- sensible, labor-saving device, that is "at home" (40)

Evert Nymanover, University of Minnesot Professor, essay in 1883 for Scientific American, envisioning a machine that delivers sound to ears, making phonograph mobile

R. Balmer of Bibliotheque Nationale de France, essay in defence of Nymanover's "whispering machines", March 1885 issue of Nineteenth Century -- "metal automatic book fo the future"

mechanical reading as a way of democratizing the book

Edward Bellamy, "With the Eyes Shut," "a readical rethinking of the book writtne after the author attended a phonograph demonstration"

Cyrano de Bergerac, Histoire comique en voyage dans la lune, 17th-century tale about a rocket trip to the moon

seduction of listening

personalization -- can choose soprano, bass, etc. voice

Uzanne, "The end of books" , with illustrations by Albert Robida -- translates bibliographic vocab into a phonographic one, narrator to "phonist" -- but "no simple translation for the term 'reading'" (52)

"The absence of a single term to describe the act of listening is a problem evident in all accounts of the recorded book, some of which use the terms 'reading' and 'listening interchangeably, others of which use the two terms in opposition in order to register distinct activities." (52)

"The conventional narrative proposes that Edison developed the phonograph as a business device before consumers figured out ways of using it for etnertainment purposes. This chapter has shown that the sequence was th eother way around when it came to talking books. The dream of a talking book -- of a Gutenberg for the phonograph -- existed long before the technology to make it a reality. Speuclation about talking books, whether in the form of bottled authors or whispering machines, arose simultaneously with the advent of phonograph technology and anticipated the completion of an actual talking book by nearly half a century." (54)