One of the great benefits of being able to record sound is to make books available for listening. With the advent of audio recordings, many people were able to hear literary classics read aloud, and to experience them for the first time.
Audio books are, of course, books read aloud and recorded to be listened to on some kind of player. As sound technology has changed, audio books have changed, as well. No longer are they available only on volumes consisting of 14 or 15 vinyl LPs. Now, books are available on audio cassette or CD.
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Talking books are books created for the use of the visually impaired. They are produced in a variety of formats, and some need a special player to be used. Many visually impaired people are able to receive players free, and these machines enable them to play their talking books independently, without the help of a sighted person. CD technology has revolutionized the talking book industry, since data can be compressed to fit much more information on a single disc. Many talking book players will also play music CDs, so the visually impaired person has a multi-use machine.
Audio books, of course, can also be used by visually impaired people, but are most popular with travelers and busy individuals. Thousands of titles are available in hundreds of categories. The traveler just pops in the cassette or CD and listens as the book is read. Audio books are popular on long commutes and on trains or airplanes - anywhere people can listen to a personal music player.
Many audio books also feature famous actors reading the books. Some are even read in the format of a play, in which different actors take the parts of the characters in the book. They may also feature sound effects or music to help enhance the listening experience. Some book clubs have started offering audio books as part of their subscription service. Libraries also have audio books available and they may also be purchased online or at any book store.
Those who feel they do not have time to indulge in the pleasure of a good book may find audio books to be the next best thing.