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Some 75m books on vinyl, cassette and now special compressed CD, have been issued free to more than 2 million people with sight problems

Mark Gould

The Guardian, Wednesday 10 November 2010

It was soldiers who lost their sight during the first world war and complained that learning to read using Braille was difficult that spurred the RNIB to come up with its Talking Book service. This week, the service celebrates its 75th anniversary. The first titles, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie, and Typhoon, by Joseph Conrad, recorded on 12-inch shellac gramophone records were sent out by the charity supporting blind and partially sighted people on 7 November1935.

The records played at 24 revolutions per minute, rather than the then standard 75 rpm, so that 25 minutes of speech could be crammed on each side. Even so, a typical novel required 10 double-sided discs.

The Society of Authors and the Society of Publishers lent the service their support to avoid copyright problems and the Post Office granted cheap postage rates. By September 1937, 966 specialist 24 rpm players had been sent out to readers with 42 new titles recorded.

Since then, around 75m books on vinyl, cassette and now special compressed CD, have been issued free to more than 2 million people. The most popular authors include JK Rowling, James Patterson, Agatha Christie, Danielle Steel, John Grisham and Jodi Picoult. Over the last 12 months Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, Dear Fatty, by Dawn French, and How to Cheat at Cooking, by Delia Smith, were among the most popular listens.

Read in Full:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/nov/10/rnib-talking-books-anniversary

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