>A few weeks ago I stumbled across LibriVox, which describes itself as an “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” Be that as it may, LibriVox is a site where volunteers sit down and record themselves reading from books such as “Pride and Prejudice”, “Bleak House”, or “The City of God”. Their catalogue presently contains over 2,000 titles, and is growing all the time.
I first discovered LibriVox through ITunes, when I was searching for some Chesterton to listen to in the evening. I was pleased with the selection I downloaded, and decided to investigate the site. The wealth of material available, everything from fiction and poetry to history and philosophy, is simply extraordinary. And it all comes at no cost to you, unlike some audio books which can cost a pretty penny.
Admittedly some of the readers are better than others. It is probably a good idea, if you decide to subscribe in ITunes, to listen to part of the recording on the LibriVox site first before going through the downloading process. Particularly if you are going to be listening to a rather long book, it will not do you much good to have the work taking up space on your IPod if you cannot stand the intonations of the reader. On the other hand, if you find that you respond well to the style of a particular reader, the advanced search options in LibriVox allow you to locate other recordings made by that reader, oftentimes in genres other than that in which you initially discovered them.
For example, I very much enjoy the reading styles of two LibriVox British volunteers, David Barnes and Martin Clifton. Their well-spoken English reminds me of when I lived in London and used to listen to Radio 4 short stories and dramatizations in the evenings. I have listened to other recordings on LibriVox these two gentlemen have made, simply on the strength of previous recordings they made of works I specifically sought.
It is often difficult to find time to read if you are no longer a student, and I do not pretend that listening to an audio recording is the same as the tactile pleasure of turning the pages of a book. However, the recording does allow you to fall asleep in the evening and not worry about having to turn out the lights or losing your page. The mind seems to recall the text spoken into the ear much more easily than the eyes recall the printed word on the page so that, if you fall asleep halfway through a chapter, the next night you can pick it up again from where you last recall hearing the story. Some authors, as well, seem to be more easily understood and remembered via audio recordings, since their writing style may come off as strange or stilted to modern ears.
Regardless of your subject matter choice, Librivox is a superb resource, and one which provides real literature to a world in desperate need of something to counteract Dan Brown and the like.