Duvall Hecht, audiobook pioneer and founder of Books on Tape, died on February 10 at his home in Costa Mesa, Calif. He was 91.

In the early 1970s, Hecht was working at a brokerage firm in Los Angeles and commuting to his office each day from Newport Beach. Bored with music and news on the car radio, he rigged up a reel-to-reel tape player on the passenger seat and listened to recordings of books that had been created for the blind. He enjoyed this aural pastime so much that he came up with the idea to create unabridged recordings of books on cassette—the emerging portable technology of the day.

Hecht used money from the sale of his 1965 Porsche to launch Books on Tape in 1975 initially as a tape-rental business that he ran with his wife Sigrid out of their home. The proliferation of in-dash cassette players in the 1970s and the advent of the Sony Walkman in 1980 helped the company take off as part of a growing audiobook industry. Random House acquired Books on Tape and its then-6,000-title catalog in 2001 for an estimated $20 million. BoT remains a Penguin Random House Audio’s imprint serving the school and library market.

Hecht was born April 23, 1930 in Los Angeles. While at Stanford University, he took up rowing, and he rowed in his first Olympics in 1952, the same year he graduated from college. Hecht made the U.S. rowing team again in 1956 and took home a gold medal in the two-man crew event in Melbourne.

After his Olympic triumph, Hecht earned a master’s degree in journalism at Stanford and taught English at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., where he started a rowing club. He served in the Marines as a fighter pilot and later became a commercial pilot. He maintained ties to rowing throughout his life, launching the crew program at UC Irvine in 1965, and later coaching the team there following a coaching stint at UCLA. In more recent years, Hecht pursued a longtime dream of becoming a long-haul trucker, a career allowing him ample time on the job to listen to audiobooks.