Audio books are nothing new—they’re convenient and easy on the eyes, but they are expensive. Enter my new favorite Web site: Librivox.org.
As a volunteer-run, totally free service for digital audio books, Librivox lives up to its promise of providing “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.”
That “public domain” thing is the catch, but also a strength. Instead of endless copies of Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn, Flat Belly Diet, and other overhyped bestsellers, these are largely books that have (as my English teacher in high school would have put it) stood the test of time.
And—surprise—some of those English-class staples are actually enjoyable experiences! I just finished listening to Oliver Twist, and reveled in listening to Dickens’s meandering but devilishly clever prose.
One aspect of Librivox that took me aback at first is that different chapters may be read by different readers. So while it grates when a reader stumbles over words more common in the 19th century than our own, there are also unexpected pleasures to be had from listening to varied readers. I heard Dickens as interpreted by men and women in Southern American, New England American, South Asian, African, English, and Irish voices, and each lent its own appeal to the project.
If the air of a community reading attracts you, and you’re up for digging into titles you’ve heard about forever but haven’t read, log on and find out what’s in store for you. Here’s a tiny sample of the authors available:
- Jane Austen
- James Baldwin
- E.M. Forster
- HP Lovecraft
- Jules Verne
- Kurt Vonnegut
And there are also books in French, Danish, German, Chinese ... even Esperanto.
Give it a listen.