What is LibriVox?

Over the last few months, I have acquired yet another hobby.  Those who know me may appropriately groan at this point.

There is a wonderful little website called LibriVox.org.  They specialize in converting public domain works from text into spoken word.  This has a number of useful side effects:

  • Those who are vision impaired may enjoy these works free of charge (as all LibriVox recordings are themselves in the public domain and therefore freely distributed online).
  • Those of us who prefer spoken word literature (like myself) gain access to an immense body of work.
  • Volunteers can hone their skills by either listening to recordings (checking for errors, repeats, omissions) or recording their own submissions (wonderful for the new podcast producer).
  • This is yet another way that our literary heritage can be preserved.

I first discovered Librivox when I was hunting around for an audiobook version of Moby Dick.  This classic by Herman Melville was in the public domain and I was sure there must be someone out there who had already recorded it.  Sure enough, not only had one intrepid soul recorded the ENTIRE VOLUME HIMSELF, but he did a fantastic job, providing voices for each of the myriad characters.  If you’re in the market for an endless tome about whaling, I strongly recommend it!

At any rate, I eventually clicked over to the part of the site about volunteering.  After reading the introductory info and testing out my mic, I realized that there was a LOT to learn.  Not only did I need to speak well, but I also had to make sure both my hardware, software, and recording environment were at least passable.  I say passable because new readers typically start out recording the “Weekly Poetry,” that is, the poem selected each week for all able-bodied readers to record together.  LibriVox wants the works recorded and available, so duplicates of the same work are not only allowed, but encouraged!

Each week I read the poem and submitted it.  Gradually my confidence built to the point where I no longer feared rejection by the moderators (which only happens for very sound reasoning) and I was recording like a champ.  I also invested in a reasonable mic (Samson Go Mic), a mic stand, and a pop filter.  This latter piece of radioman equipment is a piece of fabric through which one speaks through, removing nasty “pops” and S’s.  I managed to afford all of this across two Xmas gift cards (thanks Amy and Jenny!) and it really raised the level of my recordings.  There’s more to my technical journey, but suffice it to say, I now have a “passable” setup. ;-)

My next task was to select a piece of lit to read that had not yet been transverbalized into the database.  Being a new fan of horror, I picked the last unread short story by H. P. Lovecraft, “Poetry and the Gods” (his later works are still under copyright).  The work, if you know Lovecraft, was a tough read and it took many tries to get a passable version out.  It’s not perfect, but I learned a LOT about recording longer passages and it passed muster with the LibriVox admins!

For those interested, here’s a link to all those pieces I’ve recorded thus far.  If the work links into a collection (as the poetry does), look for a file marked with “JR,” my initials.  Also, if the collection is unfinished, it will load a forum page with a “Magic Window” containing all of the files entered thus far.  My username on there is “Loyaleagle.”  I don’t want to leave the impression that many people will do any of this, but I know a few who WILL and now they have convenient directions. :P

Lastly, here is a direct link to the completed H. P. Lovecraft story, “Poetry and the Gods.”  [Source Text]  It turns out to be a wonderful little piece about poetry and its celestial meaning.  If you like Greek mythos, you’ll enjoy many of the references sprinkled throughout the story.

So get out there and listen to some fantastic fiction.  I’d rather just point you to Librivox.org than any specific link or compilation.  If you wander around the site long enough, I’m sure you’ll find something you love all on your own!  Or maybe look into volunteering.  They always need more readers AND listeners!

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