Audiobooks Were Set to Destroy Books — but Instead, They Opened a New World
The turn of the century was approaching, and so was the death of the book.
That’s what some were saying in the 1990s, as the Internet became ubiquitous. But in predicting print’s downfall, the prognosticators were 100 years behind the times.
“Phonography will probably be the destruction of printing,” said the narrator of “The End of Books,” a story published in Scribner’s Magazine in 1894. Others agreed that Thomas Edison’s new sound-recording machine would transform publishing. As Matthew Rubery notes in “The Untold Story of the Talking Book,” a number of writers of the late 1800s contended that “the recorded book was not merely an alternative to the printed book. It was the realization of what the book was always meant to do.”