Audiobooks were first envisioned by Thomas Edison in 1877 when he invented the phonograph. One of his ideas was to provide sound recordings of books to the visually-impaired, and his first recording was of the poem, Mary Had a Little Lamb. Early efforts to produce “talking books” were restricted due to maximum recording length, and very little was produced until the mid-1930’s when the Books for the Adult Blind Project and the American Foundation for the Blind produced excerpts of Helen Keller and O’Henry on long-playing records.
Over the years, improved technology has taken the audiobook industry from vinyl records to cassette tapes, compact discs, MP3 players, and now, to digital downloads. We have gone from requiring a dozen or more vinyl records for a single book to a digital file that may be downloaded to a smartphone in less than a minute. Audiobooks became mainstream in the 1980’s and 1990’s when cassette and CD players became commonplace in vehicles – according to one survey, 52% of audiobook consumers listen to books while traveling to and from work or school.
Although audiobooks were initially developed for the visually-impaired, today’s audiobooks are attractive to consumers of all ages and abilities. Libraries have read-along books with accompanying cassettes or CDs geared to early readers, as well as audiobooks for children, teens, and adults audiences. Our library system also offers an audiobook outreach program for visually-impaired library patrons.
The North Country Library System (NCLS) has over 12,000 audiobooks in our catalog, with the vast majority (over 10,500) of titles available on CD. Titles include all genres including romance, western, mystery, biography, and self-help. In addition, NCLS has over 700 digital titles that may be downloaded via our Overdrive system to a computer, tablet, or smartphone. So far in 2017, NCLS libraries have circulated over 17,000 audiobooks to our patrons, including 5,000 audio downloads through Overdrive.
A complete list of audiobook titles is available at http://www.ncls.org, or stop by your local library and check out what’s on the shelf. All you need is a library card – the same card may be used at all libraries in St. Lawrence County. If you don’t have a card, you may obtain one by bringing photo identification to any public library and signing up!