Keep Calm and Record for LibrivoxThis is a LibriVox recording. All LibriVox recordings are in the public domain. For more information, or to volunteer, please contact LibriVox-dot-org!

I’ve heard that — and more recently read it — enough times that I can recite it by heart.

I discovered LibriVox in the winter of 2011-2012, when I was driving a pizza delivery route for what seemed like all day and all night. Amanda’s book club had finally voted to read Jane Eyre, after kicking the suggestion around for months. And I was frustrated beyond belief that I had no time to read it. I was sure I could participate in the discussion without reading it, because I’d read it at least a half-dozen times in the past. But I really wanted the experience of reading it afresh with this particular group at this particular time.  So I checked my library for an audio book version that I could listen to in the car. There was only one audio copy in the system, and it was already checked out.

Venting a bit to my favorite librarian, as I was about to set out on another long day’s driving, I found my solution. She pointed out that a book of that vintage must be in the public domain, suggested an internet search, and there was LibriVox. Not only Jane Eyre, but plenty of other favorite old books, all available free online. When I finished Jane, I went on to some Dickens, some Sherlock Holmes, some Stevenson. The pizza job ended, but my connection with LibriVox stayed.

VoiceofbooksListening to books is just as natural to me as solitary silent reading. In this family, reading aloud has never been for small children only. Just because we’re old enough to read for ourselves, we don’t see any reason to give up the pleasure of sharing books aloud. I’ve spent about five decades reading aloud and being read aloud to. When my family gets together, we pass a book around and everybody takes turns reading chapters. And that means that audiobooks have been kicking around in my family for years, as long as we’ve been tossing a cassette in the tape recorder to save our read-aloud sessions and share them with each other. Professional audiobooks from the library have been an occasional option. But LibriVox was even better — both because it was absolutely free, and because it sounded so much like home.

What some might see as its chief drawback, its amateur readers, was for me its endearing quality. Listening to all the volunteer readers on LibriVox recordings, taking turns chapter by chapter, as if passing the book around the room, is for me part of its charm. There’s something homelike and comfortable about all the quirky individual  variations in accents and reading styles. It feels exactly like read-aloud sessions within my own family circle.

Recording for LibriVoxEventually, I felt so much at home that I became one of their volunteer readers. I had little experience with the technicalities of audio recording, but it turned out to be easier than I’d thought. All it took was an inexpensive microphone, a free sound-editing program called Audacity, a few days’ practice, and away we went.

LibriVox’s motto is “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain”. Their goal is to make audio versions of every public domain text available for free on the internet. Their catalog has all the old classics, from ancient Greek plays to Victorian romances. For me, with my strong taste for nonfiction, the history and biography choices are a playground of unexpected items, from WWI food-rationing pamphlets to William Still’s Underground Railroad memoirs.

Here’s the LibriVox Home Page, which includes a link to their full catalog of available audio books. And here’s their About LibriVox page, telling more about how they began, what they do, and how they do it.

For those interested in what sort of books I’ve had a hand in recording, here’s My Catalog Page, showing which projects I’ve worked on. Any marked “in progress” are still in the preparation stages; the ones with cute album cover pictures and a big green “download” button are completed works available for your listening pleasure.

 Come and listen! (And, if you are so moved, get yourself a microphone and come read!)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Meg Green
    Mar 22, 2013 @ 11:24:20

    Hey, I just found your Librivox catalogue! And so… we’re back in business, very chuffed indeed. Mwah, mwah! M.


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