The accidental avant-garde: Audiobook technologies and publishing strategies from cassette tapes to online streaming services | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 13, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1601-829X
  • E-ISSN: 2040-0586



While the transformation of the traditionally print-based book industries to digital and multi-format publishing industries is the subject of much debate, the audiobook industry has largely escaped attention. In a sense, this is curious, given the fact that audiobook publishers have been at the forefront of the technological transformation of the book industry from reel-to-reel tapes and long-playing records all the way into the digital era. All the while, audiobook publishing has never been entirely integrated into the publishing world at large and has somewhat remained an outsider industry, often seen to cater for niche markets. In this article I argue that traditional book publishers venturing into digital publishing can learn from successes and failures in the history of audiobook innovations. Basing the discussion in theories of cultural production and innovation, the article explores the interplay between technology and publishing strategy by way of analysing audiobook technologies from 1980 to 2012 in light of industry and technology developments in the book industry in general, with specific attention to the Norwegian audiobook market, where four case studies of publishers and service providers are analysed. The central issue in the article is how and to what extent the development of audiobook publishing technologies is indicative of technology development in the book industries in general.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): audiobook; digitalization; innovation; Norway; publishing; technology
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