10 November 2015
Celebrating 80 years of talking books
The gathering of famous literary characters pictured above - I think that's Hercule Poirot at the back there - took place at the British Library on 5 November. It was organized by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to highlight the 80th anniversary of the Talking Books service for people who are blind or partially sighted.
The RNIB's Talking Books service provides 4,000 audio books every single day to people with sight loss.
In celebration of its 80th anniversary, the service will be provided entirely free for all blind and partially sighted people, starting today.
The first talking books were issued on 24-rpm discs with Braille labels, under the series title 'Talking Books for the Blind'.
The British Library holds a collection of around 200 or so of these. They were donated by the RNIB in 2009, long after the format had been discontinued.
The content ranges from Bible stories to classics like The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot and thrillers such as The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain.
However many of the sets are incomplete and many titles are not represented at all, including the very first: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
The Library is keen to expand the collection should the opportunity arise. If you have any of these discs please do get in touch.
And if you would like to know more about the history of talking books I can recommend this 2013 blog post by Matt Rubery: The First Audiobook.