[Missouri-l] RNIB celebrates 75 years of Talking Books
dhuff at moblind.org
Thu Nov 11 11:35:47 CST 2010
RNIB celebrates 75 years of Talking Books
Some 75m books on vinyl, cassette and now special compressed CD, have been
free to more than 2 million people with sight problems
, Wednesday 10 November 2010
Listening to Talking Books in the 1940s
A listener in the 1940s prepares to enjoy a RNIB Talking Book.
It was soldiers who lost their sight during the first world war and
learning to read using Braille was difficult that spurred the RNIB to come
its Talking Book service. This week, the service celebrates its 75th
The first titles, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie, and
Joseph Conrad, recorded on 12-inch shellac gramophone records were sent out
charity supporting blind and partially sighted people on 7 November1935.
The records played at 24 revolutions per minute, rather than the then
rpm, so that 25 minutes of speech could be crammed on each side. Even so, a
novel required 10 double-sided discs.
The Society of Authors and the Society of Publishers lent the service their
to avoid copyright problems and the Post Office granted cheap postage rates.
1937, 966 specialist 24 rpm players had been sent out to readers with 42 new
Since then, around 75m books on vinyl, cassette and now special compressed
been issued free to more than 2 million people. The most popular authors
JK Rowling, James Patterson, Agatha Christie, Danielle Steel, John Grisham
Picoult. Over the last 12 months Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, Dear Fatty, by
French, and How to Cheat at Cooking, by Delia Smith, were among the most
A new talking book costs up to £2,500 to produce and there are around 18,000
available. The charity charges an annual £79 subscription fee, which
special player required to listen to the extra-long CDs, for the £4m a year
In many cases the fee is paid by local authorities via library services.
The RNIB works with publishers to widen the range of titles on offer but
of books are available with added audio instructions and information for
The RNIB says relations with publishers are getting better but few give the
audio files in advance so it can convert them to talking book format. A
is the Harry Potter series which it can release as talking books
Lee Garrett, a keyboard player who has the degenerative eye condition
was introduced to talking books aged seven. "It was very important I kept up
all my friends and that I knew about the books they were talking about," he
Now 43, Garrett says the service caters for every taste, unlike the days
was a lack of "racy" content. "The RNIB seemed to think we shouldn't be
with adult content why shouldn't we read Lady Chatterley's Lover? The
isn't censored like that."
He listens to fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers and educational titles as he is
law. Garrett says publishers should do more but praises those that work with
RNIB. "We used to wait ages for audios now we get [some] new releases on the
day as sighted readers."
To support the Talking Book service visit
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