‘Talking Books: sound and canon in the recorded book industry’

Deborah Philips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract The talking book offers a case study in the transition of cultural forms into new media. As the technology for recording books has developed from sound recording into the downloading of books from the internet, the encounter between new technologies and literary texts has implications for cultural and literary theory. This article offers an analysis of the talking book, with a particular emphasis on the novel. Although books on tape did arouse some media interest around the 75th anniversary of the production of the first recorded novel, Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, there has to date been no academic research on the growing phenomenon of books on tape. This article begins by charting a history of the talking book, from the first tape recordings for the Royal National Institute of the Blind to the impact of the MP3 player and the iPod. It makes use of Raymond Williams' work on television and of Stuart Hall and Paul De Gay's case study of the Sony Walkman as offering methodologies for the analysis of new technologies as sites of cultural contest, and develops this work into a study of the recorded book. The article also employs a textual analysis of the catalogues and websites used to promote the talking book as a commodity. The study demonstrates that the talking book, as with other forms of cultural encounters with new technologies, builds on already existing categories of literary and cultural capital. Key Words: audio book • iPod • spoken word
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-306
Number of pages14
VolumeVolume 13
Issue numberAugust 2007
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


  • Literature new technology ereaders talking books


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