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Aural Speed Reading

Mara Mills and Jonathan Sterne


Publishing Date:
March 2020


Mara Mills and Jonathan Sterne, “Aural Speed Reading: Some Historical Bookmarks,” PMLA 135, no. 2 (March 2020).

This essay is a contribution to the growing taxonomy of techniques of listening. It discusses the cultural imperative for aural speed reading among blind Talking Book readers, dating to the 1930s, that drove time-stretching innovations in the magnetic tape era, allowing playback rate to be changed without affecting pitch. Published as part of the PMLA Theories and Methodologies cluster on Aurality and Literature, the essay is excerpted from a book-in-progress co-authored by Mills and Sterne. Tentatively titled Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed, the book traces the practice of accelerated and decelerated sound reproduction from blind phonograph users in the 1930s to Auto-Tune, Ableton Live, Audible books, and YouTube videos today.

Mills, Mara and Sterne, Jonathan. "Aural Speed Reading: Some Historical Bookmarks." PMLA, vol. 135, Cambridge University Press, 03, pp. 401-411,

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