Friday, June 6, 2008

Classics. Audio. Free.

Admit it, one of those words above is more exciting than the other two.

I don't know what it is about summer, but something about the shift in seasons triggers my desire to read more classic books. Weird, I know, but there you have it. In casually bopping around I stumbled onto this site called LibriVox which provides (here it comes again) free audio book readings of titles in the public domain.

Which means a lot of classic books over 85 years old.

At LibriVox the readers are all volunteers which can make for some interesting choices and voices. Shorter poems, for example, have several versions by different readers. Walt Whitman's O Captain! My Captain! has no less that 13 different readers tackling it. And with Joyce's Ulysses (all 32-plus hours worth) "pub-like background noise was encouraged, as well as creative group readings; and no editing was required, so in places there may be some accidental variation from the original text." Well, that sounds intriguing!

Finding my way through the catalog I stumbled on at least half a dozen titles I've wanted to read and never got around to. The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood by Sabatini to start, and there are a couple of Dickens titles I haven't read yet. Ooo, and some Kafka! Plays by Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare get full-cast readings that could helpful for some students -- yes, I do advocate listening as a legitimate form of reading, so long as it is a complete text.

In fact, I can't think of a better way of dealing with all that downtime commuting to and from summer jobs, or during lunch breaks, than with some fine classic book recordings. Forced to hang with extended family over the Fourth of July or Labor Day Weekends? Disappear into a quiet spot with some audio books. Can't stand the eye strain of reading in the bright sun at the beach (or prefer to look less nerd-like with a pair of ear buds)? Want something to do after you've built yourself that hammock? Here you go.

Sure, there are lots of ways you can get free audio books. The local library has audio books that you can upload onto your computer or MP3 player of choice, but why not remove a step? LibriVox has it set up for easy downloads, things went to my iTunes with a single click, and it took no time to load.

Another thing about LibriVox that I thought was cool: you can also participate by volunteering to read chapters from books.

Worth a look-see.


Joe Cottonwood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Cottonwood said...

Oops. Mis-spelled an author's name. Here's the corrected comment:

How about "Gripping. Audio. Free." Instead of "the classics," how about some contemporary books produced with great zest? And yes, they are free. Many are high suspense, high action thrillers, lots of science fiction, some comedy. Some are thoughtful and occasionally, heaven help us, literary. You'll find them at or you can download them from iTunes.

Okay, one of them is mine. It's on the comedy/literary end of the spectrum. But guys are going to like Scott Sigler and J.C. Hutchins for the action. On the quieter side, I recommend Nathan Lowell.

Anonymous said...

i recommend both.

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the links. Only listened to a few audiobooks, since they require focus when I feel I should be free to do something else. But I might try it with some quilting. This is possibly a way to do some classics my boys don't think they want to read. The thrillers could be good, a little like the old radio days, but less cheesy.