Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I like to read, but to be honest more often than not when the opportunity to sit down with a book presents itself, I get distracted by other things. Either that or I feel completely lazy and simply want to sit in front of the TV or computer and do absolutely nothing productive. However, in the past year I discovered a wonderful invention – audio books. Yes, I know they’ve been around for quite some time, but my discovery was fairly recent mainly because my commute got a tad longer at the beginning of 2007. I can’t stand listening to the radio, but with nothing else to occupy the time, I usually ended up channel surfing, listening to nothing in particular.

Enter audio books. Ever since discovering audio books, I’ve listened to six books, both fiction and nonfiction, and am currently on my seventh. That’s seven more than I would have read by now if I had to sit down with book in hand. It’s gotten to the point where I sit in my truck for a few extra minutes just to finish the section or to find out what happens next. I’ve even spent my lunch break listening to a book. When I finish one, I hurry to the library to pick out the next one.

While searching online for audio books, I stumbled across Librivox, a website providing free audio books that are in the public domain, meaning almost anything published before 1923. With over 1,000 titles and many more in the works (all free!), the folks at Librivox are on their way toward their goal of the “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” Among the finished works are Pilgrim’s Progress, Little Women, Around the World in 80 Days, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the Bible and many others. Here’s the other interesting part (besides the whole “free” thing) – it’s all done by volunteers! Nobody is turned away from contributing, either as a reader or prooflistener. Naturally, this leads to some recordings being better done than others, but that doesn’t matter. Critiquing of someone’s reading style is highly frowned upon simply because volunteers, no matter the talent level, are always welcome. There is technical proofing though, to make sure stumbles, repeats, loud burps, etc are edited out of the finished product. Some books are done as a collaborative effort by multiple readers and some are solo projects with only one reader. The value found in this project (besides the whole “free” thing) is that books the audio publishers wouldn’t find profitable to publish find their way into the acoustical world and made available where they perhaps otherwise wouldn’t.

I’ve been very fascinated by this project and have even begun to volunteer. Let me say that this is perhaps one of the easiest, hardest things I’ve ever done. Easy because, well, how hard can it be to read a book, right? True. It’s also hard because the recording has to be free from the aforementioned stumbles, etc. It usually takes me at least twice as long to edit as it does to record, but I’m enjoying the new hobby immensely. My first project is quite large – I’ve decided to liberate Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. I’m about halfway done with the first book. If you want to do some volunteer reading, all you need is a computer, some free downloadable software, and a microphone (the one I use is a headset combo purchased for about $20). Oh, and your voice of course. And if reading aloud isn’t your thing, listeners are always needed. If this sounds like something that would interest you, follow the link and join the liberation!


Mark Kelly said...

esky -
i can't get the link to work for Librivox. everytime i click it i get an error page (i tried on two different computers). just thought you'd want to know.

then again, it could just be me.

=) m. kelly

Stephen said...

Oops. Fixed it. Thanks for the heads up.