LibriVox Brings Free Audiobooks to All
October 3, 2013
If you’ve got a computer, iPod, tablet, or a stack of blank CDs, you can now help yourself to free audiobook-versions of the works of Jane Austen, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy, Edith Wharton, Henry James, and more. Thanks to recent public donations and a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, LibriVox, a website providing free public domain audiobooks (which means roughly anything published before 1923), has a revamped website and improved functionality enabling thousands of volunteers to better build and expand the site’s library. Visitors to the website can now browse through over 7,000 titles, which are contributed by volunteers who submit new recordings themselves, including works in foreign languages, poetry, novels, children’s fiction, plays, and nonfiction. A partnership with Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive has also boosted expansion; Project Gutenberg provides copies of free texts and the Internet Archive hosts the recordings for volunteers to read/record them for LibriVox users.
LibriVox was conceived by Montreal writer Hugh McGuire in 2005. The vision was to have a project “big enough so that it runs on its own to a degree.” And so it does. With more than 3,000 people contributing to LibriVox in some capacity, the average number of recordings per month has neared a hundred titles. The one significant limitation the endeavor faces is copyright infringement. In order to avoid legal issues, the only titles available via LibriVox are ones for which intellectual property rights have expired, making them public domain. That limits the site mostly to works that are considered “classics.” This does not hamper McGuire’s original goal, however. LibriVox is well on its way of achieving its mission statement: “To make all the books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet.”