Fuse #8

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hearing For Free

Audiobooks are a beast unto themselves. In my library we've a large shelf of them. There, in a wildly conglomerated mix, sit books on tape and books on cd for the taking. Yet I can't tell you how many times someone will ask for their favorite book, say Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, only to find we haven't a copy specifically on tape or cd. Still, with the popularity of sites like Audible.com, the range of ways in which to find and listen to audible books has never been greater.

Which brings us to LibriVox. In a recent New York Times article we learn that this site was created so as to provide free audio books that are in the public domain for anyone to download.
LibriVox’s founder, Hugh McGuire, 32, a software developer and writer in Montreal, said there were another 100 works in development, all of which would be recorded, edited and uploaded by volunteers. “The principles of the project are to be totally noncommercial, totally ad free, totally volunteer and totally public domain,” he said.
Not that LibriVox is the be all and end all in all this audible. After all, when you purchase or borrow a book from Recorded Books, you know that you're going to get some high quality readings. As for LibriVox...
At its worst a free audiobook can sound like a teenager reading aloud in high school English class. At its best it can offer excellent sound quality and skilled narration infused with a passion for the text. In between is a world of competent readings, sometimes spiced with affected accents, mumbled words and distant car horns and reflecting all manner of literary interpretations.
Still, it's hard to deny the charms of that which is free. For those who don't like the selection at their local library or feel a little empty of pocket, maybe LibriVox really is the future. Interesting stuff.


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