Is There an Audiobook or E-Book of The Catcher in the Rye?

Has Holden Caulfield Gone Digital?

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
Little Brown & Co.

The pervasiveness of smartphones and tablets has helped to make audiobooks and e-books popular choices for readers. However, this doesn’t mean that all books are available in digital formats. Older books—even highly popular ones—are much less likely to be made into e-book or audiobooks. Case in point: "The Catcher in the Rye" has been in print since the early 1950s, but where are the digital versions?

History of "The Catcher in the Rye"

J. D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," was published in 1951 by Little, Brown, and Company. While a perennial favorite in many a high-school English class, it's also one of the most challenged books of all time. The book's language and content have caused controversies since it first hit the shelves. Even so, this poignant coming-of-age tale has been considered a must-read among teens for decades.

Copyright and the Estate of J.D. Salinger

Because "The Catcher in the Rye" is still under copyright, the estate of J.D. Salinger maintains tightly controlled protection of his controversial novel. Currently, there's still no commercially available audiobook or e-book versions of "The Catcher in the Rye." It's unlikely that any of Salinger's books will be turned into e-books or audiobooks any time soon.

The author was well known for fiercely protecting his copyright and following his death, Salinger's wife, Colleen O'Neill Zakrzeski Salinger, and son, Matt, became the executors of his estate. Requests for adaptations and derivatives have been routinely rejected. As e-books are often subject to digital piracy, it's theorized that the family wants to avoid such thefts.

An Audio Library Version Is Available

Fortunately, an audio library version is available (first recorded in 1970 and then re-recorded in 1999), according to the Washington Examiner. This version can be accessed via library devices, which play at a different speed than standard devices. It’s an intriguing discovery that offers a unique perspective on Salinger's most famous work. You can listen to Holden Caulfield's voice in the version offered up by longtime National Library Service narrator Ray Hagen, which may be the only one associated with Holden Caulfield in audiobook format.

Salinger's Works Reach Public Domain in 2080

Books that were written prior to the early 2000s simply did not have contract language that allowed for the creation of things like e-books because they didn’t exist at the time. This, unfortunately, means that many books cannot legally be made into e-books or audiobooks until they become public domain. Copyright law states that authors maintain their copyright for their life plus 70 years. J.D. Salinger passed away on January 27, 2010, which means that "The Catcher in the Rye" and the author's other works won't enter the public domain until 2080.