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.
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