Audio storytellers are as old as humanity itself; Homer after all was an audio narrator. In the age of recorded sound the audio format really came of age and has been flourishing for the past century. The earliest audio books as we would recognise them today were created for the blind as vinyl records in the 1930s. The earliest modern audiobooks were issued on audio cassette in the 1960s - if anyone remembers that nearly extinct format - while audio plays and full cast dramas have always been popular in Britain on radio and elsewhere, although less so in the United States in recent decades.
Despite it's long history the form nearly expired for want of content and interest. Almost. It was revived by the digital age, first on CD in the 1980s but afterwards in a downloadable digital file. The real explosion in popularity came with portable digital players, especially the iPod in 2001 which swept all before it creating new industries and content.
Twenty years later it is expected that a book will be available in audio format and this demand is usually met by a simultaneous release of the paper book, an ebook and an audiobook. Clearly a huge title, such as David Carpenter's Henry III biography of 2020 poses challenges for audio at about 800 pages in length. Even a book of half the size reqires multiple discs or huge files to accommodate a reading of the text and a huge committment of time to hear it read - somthing in the order of fifteen hours for a 400-500 page history book.
In recent years Yale commenced the release of audiobooks for some of its history titles and the first to interest readers of this website was the 2019 book by Catherine Hanley, 'Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior'. This book is not part of the English Monarchs series, but it is one of the titles we are observing here as 'Companion Books'.
Three further audiobooks in the Companion Book category have followed: The Imprudent King: A New LIfe of Phillip II; Richard III; and The Making of Oliver Cromwell. So far none of the English Monarchs Series books have been committed to audio and perhaps, given their great length, they may never be so released.
This page will expand over time to list the new audiobook releases which, so far, have been released by Yale in partnership with Trantor Media and made available to audio product vendors as well as online "book" vendors. As an aside for the Science Fiction readers among you, Trantor Media has so far not published any novel by Isaac Asimov despite the name of the company being an important world in his Foundation series.
Details of the four audio versions of the books examined in this website are as follows:
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Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior
By Catherine Hanley
Narrated by Jennifer M. Dixon
Running time 13 hours
By Michael Hicks
Narrated by Matthew Waterson
Running time 14 hours 3 minutes
The Making of Oliver Cromwell
By Ronald Hutton
Narrated by Michael Page
Running time 13 hours 45 minutes
Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II
By Geoffrey Parker
Narrated by Nigel Patterson
Running time 19 hours