What is an Audio Book?

William Stephenson asked:

An audio book is a book which one can listen to instead of reading. It is a recording of words spoken by a person instead music or songs sung by someone. It may be a recorded version of a book or a recorded spoken program.

Earlier, we could find recorded spoken materials like nursery rhymes, etc mainly in libraries or schools but not audio books. During the 1980s, book publishers started showing interest in spoken word publishing. Audio books became a common term from that time onwards and now audio books are available widely in book stores along with printed ones.

One will get an audio book in the form of a CD, cassette tape or downloadable digital formats like MP3, Windows Media Audio, etc. Presently, some preloaded digital formats are also available.

The main purpose behind creating audio books was to help the visually impaired. These were published in formats typical for them and accompanied by special type of players. The players were made in such a way that the visually handicapped people were able to handle them independently without any help. They are also helpful while on the move and those who are very busy in their daily life.

According to a survey conducted by the Audio Publishers’ Association in the year 2006 for the year 2005, audio book sales were around $871 million. Present estimates are around $2 billion at retail value.

Publishers now produce audio books along with hard cover editions. The first example of a simultaneous publication of an audio book and hard cover edition was the publication of the spoken recording of Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings by Jedediah. P. God

CD technology has brought revolutions in this industry. Lots of information can be stored in a single CD and more than one book can be stored in a DVD. They can be played using ordinary CD or DVD players as well, now a day. Portable music players like the IPod, Zen player; Zune, etc have helped downloadable audio books to reach the common mass.

There are mainly two categories of audio books, unabridged and abridged.

A word for word reading of a book is called an unabridged audio book and if the original content is edited, then it is called abridged. The abridger is the person who edits the contents. Abridgements are necessary to maintain time and bring down the cost.

Audio books can be created by recordings by trained vocal artists. Text to speech software can also be used if needed but in such cases sound quality may not be up to the mark.

Audio books are more expensive compared to the hard cover editions as a recording on a CD is expensive. Preloaded digital formats are also available, where audio content is loaded in simple players, similar in price as CDs. Downloadable audio books on the other hand cost less as they don’t have any storage, packaging or transportation costs.

Due to high production costs, Audiobooks have not yet become as popular as their hardcover or paperback counterparts, although music CDs and cassettes are very popular.

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