First audiobook
Royal National Institute for the Blind, Typhoon
first first
Not Applicable ()

Audiobooks have existed as an idea since the dawn of recording technology – when promoting his phonograph, Thomas Edison talked about “phonographic books” that could read to the blind – but the limitations of early recording technology (the first gramophones only had about 10 minutes of playback on each side) meant that recording an entire novel wasn’t feasible. With the invention of close-grooved records in the early 1930s – which could hold up to 20 minutes on each side – the age of the audiobook began. The American Foundation for the Blind recorded some short stories, extracts and poems (including Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”) in 1932, but the first novel (technically a novella) to be recorded was Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon, which was packaged as a set of four LP records by the British Royal National Institute of Blind People in 1935.

A copy of this pioneering set of records was uncovered by a vintage record collector in Canada in November 2016. It is thought that the set had travelled to Canada with a blind veteran of the First World War. The RNIB released another audiobook at the same time – Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – but no copies survive.