Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finding good, free audiobooks

I've been listening to audiobooks more often recently, both because doing that allows me to get to books I'd otherwise not have time for, and because I've decided I like that better than listening to National Public Radio (and getting angry at the political news.)

I never pay for audiobooks -- I get them free in some fashion.

Of course, one way to do this is through the public library. If your local library offers books in the Overdrive format, you can download audiobooks to your tablet or smart phone from library websites. If you have a smartphone or another device that can stream Internet broadcasts to wherever you listen to audiobooks, check to see if your library offers Hoopla. 

But I want to talk about another website — LibriVox.

LibriVox is a site that uses volunteers to turn public domain books (basically, anything published before 1923) into free audiobooks. As of 2012, it had more than 6,000 audiobooks, organized into various fiction and nonfiction categories.

The volunteers who record for LibriVox have various degrees in talent, so the trick to finding a good audiobook there, aside from finding a title you're interested in, is to find a good reader.

The works that are read by a committee tend to include readers who are not very good, so generally your best route is to use an individual reader.

Here's a pro tip: You can search Librivox by reader, checking to see what's available from the best readers.

And who are the best readers? Here's a list from professional reader Lee Ann Howlett, which incorporated some of the names suggested by others in a discussion on Goodreads:

"I've been recording for LibriVox for over 4 years on solo and group projects. They're a great bunch of people. My personal favorites are 4 names already mentioned here: Karen Savage, Elizabeth Klett, Andy Minter and Mil Nicholson (who is also a professional actress). On a couple of group projects, I had to follow Mil Nicholson and I told her I hoped that never happened again. I would also add Kara Shallenberg, Laurie Anne Walden, Cori Samuel, Kirsten Ferreri, Kristin Hughes, Roger Melin, Mark Smith, and the wonderful Ruth Golding.

"I know that I've left some good ones off but LibriVox really does have a lot of talent. You can usually (at least for solos) listen to a portion of the first chapter and get a pretty good idea of the reader's voice and style."

The last sentence is important; if you find an audiobook and it isn't be a recommended reader, just listen to the first few minutes in your web browser.

The Wikipedia article on LibriVox also has a list of some of the best readers and highest-rated books.

RAW fans will want to know there is quite a bit of James Joyce on LibriVox site, also some Aleister Crowley and Ezra Pound, Arthur Machen, Jonathan Swift and other RAW favorites. I have a copy of A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man on my MP3 player I hope to get to soon.

(Cross posted in a little bit different form from from my work blog).

UPDATE: Interesting article about LibriVox from Reason magazine, via Jesse Walker.



2 comments:

gacord said...

I've had good and bad success with LibriVox. I agree with finding good readers. For the Joyce books, I've listened to a bit off LibriVox but I just have to say I think Jim Norton (Father Ted, not the comedian) and Marcella Riordan totally rock the narration. That's a pay for unless you can find the CD's or Overdrive at your library though.

michael said...

My Ulysses reading group has used this, found at Open Culture:

http://www.openculture.com/2012/04/james_joyces_ulysses_a_free_audio_book.html

Also note the links to many other classics.