Monday, May 10, 2010

Librivox.org: Free Downloadable Audio Books

I recently had to travel to and from Tel Aviv every day for a spate of work. The travel time is between 1 to 2 hours each direction, depending on the time of day and whether I drove or took the train.

BBC gets pretty repetitive, not to mention the fact that their concepts of interesting and balanced don't match mine, and Israeli radio stations are hit and (mostly) miss. And I can't listen to game podcasts all the time. So I was thrilled to find librivox.org, a site that does for audio books what Project Gutenberg does for books: convert them and put them online, for free.

There's something about listening to a soothing voice read a literary classic that makes even the most complex book enjoyable and accessible. Those of you who have a hard time sitting down to read an 18th or 19th century novel might just get hooked if you can listen to it being read. I think it evokes the primal pleasure of being read to as a child. And a reader - a good reader - makes any text more vibrant and comprehensible.

The audio files are divided by chapter. Some books are read the entire way through by a single reader, while others are read by different readers. Quality varies, but most are good. Some are excellent. My favorite so far, and my lucky first choice to which to listen, was Brenda Dayne reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

The version of Anne of Green Gables that I listened to had a few middle chapters read by someone with a cloying voice, but there are at least five versions on the site. Silas Marner was also read excellently.

2 comments:

Dug said...

I actually read a chapter of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea for LibriVox. It's the really boring one where they talk about the physics of a submarine. I didn't think it was boring (being an engineer), but I'm sure most people would.

I consider myself a pretty good reader (I read aloud to my wife nearly every night), but not of professional calibre. Still, knowing that my voice would be heard by so many people at a time where even throwaway pop music recordings take the best parts of dozens of takes to create the final product was a surprisingly stressful and time-consuming effort. I may at some point go back to reading for them - part of the problem is that they only do fairly old books that are out of copyright, and I'm not really a "classics" kind of guy.

That said, it's a wonderful service, even if the reading is occasionally hit and miss (what do you want for free?) and I urge anyone who uses the service to donate either time or money to it.

Poet said...

The most enjoyable audio book I listened to was narnia. But it wasn't just one person reading the book, it was a whole production, with different voices for the characters etc.

I highly recommend finding it.

And thanks for this, I'll give it a go.