Hearing the Written Word
by Jim Stovall
For thousands of years, humans have shared their thoughts, ideas, advice, and deepest secrets with one another by writing them down. Our earliest evidence of this is the many examples of picture writing left on cave walls around the world. Then, humans discovered they could write on papyrus, and eventually wood was processed into paper much like what we know today between the covers of a book.
In the middle of the 15th century, one of the greatest and most impactful inventions the world has ever known came into being when Gutenberg built a printing press. This brought the written word and all of its potential for education, socialization, and inspiration to the masses. Books which had been rare treasures, made individually by hand, were now mass produced and became commonplace for working-class people everywhere.
Gutenberg’s printed books became the standard for the next five centuries until an incredible breakthrough changed the state-of-the-art. Somewhere in the mid-20th century, audiobooks were born. First, they were available on vinyl albums, then tapes, followed by CDs, and now audiobooks can be delivered via a simple digital download which would have seemed like a miracle to Gutenberg.
As the author of well over 30 books and as someone who has written this weekly syndicated column in newspapers, magazines, and online publications around the world for two decades, it’s embarrassing to admit to you, my readers, that when I could read with my eyes as you are reading these words, I don’t know that I ever read a whole book cover to cover. Throughout my school days and as a young adult, reading was not a priority so I did as little of it as possible in order to just get by. Then after losing my sight in my late 20s, I discovered audiobooks, and my whole world changed.
I worked with the manufacturer that developed the first variable-speed tape player, and I began consuming audiobooks at several times their normal speed. This has enabled me to read a book a day for more than 25 years. Becoming a reader enabled me to become a writer and then a columnist. I’ve enjoyed experiencing six of my books being made into major motion pictures with several more of my novels slated for the silver screen.
As someone who writes books I can’t read that are turned into movies I can’t watch, I realize that audiobooks have become my lifeline to the world; and not just our world today, but the world of William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Dante, and countless others.
For obvious reasons, I insist on having all of my books released by my publisher as audiobooks in addition to the print versions. For the last several years, my audiobooks have been produced by a talented voiceover artist and recording engineer named Rich Germaine. You can check out Rich’s work on my titles and others at:
There is simply no excuse for not becoming a reader. Whether you use your eyes or your ears, the world awaits.
As you go through your day today, commit to being a reader whether you choose to see it or hear it.
Today’s the day!