Project Details

Headphones resting on an open book


The world’s books in free, downloadable audio format

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @librivox

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  • Community Engagement
  • Audiovisual

LibriVox is a site that sets out to ‘make digital audio recordings of every existing public domain book and offer them free to the world on the net.’ 

The site, founded by Montreal-based writer and web developer Hugh McGuire, recruited 13 people to this crusade in the week it launched back in 2005. Together, the 14 read and recorded Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent.

The group, which now has 6,600 contributors, has since gone on to complete 8200 works, with 600 in progress, in 35 languages.

McGuire’s idea was to make the audio equivalent of Project Gutenberg, the non-profit volunteer effort to digitise and archive as many free e-books in as many languages as possible, that Michael Hart launched in 1971. Gutenberg, set out to do for literary appreciation in the digital age what public libraries did in the 19th century, has now completed 45,000 books.

The texts, poetry, short stories, plays, novels that feature on LibriVox have all been read aloud by volunteers, who record the works in chunks of about a chapter, or about 20 minutes of audio each.

The outfit is vehemently egalitarian – ‘We accept all volunteers in all languages,’ runs its blurb. ‘With all kinds of accents, you’re welcome to volunteer to read in any language you speak, as long as you can make yourself understood in it. You don’t need to audition, we’ll accept you no matter what you sound like.’  

Volunteers use free software and any old rudimentary audio equipment they have to hand to do their recording: the variations in sound quality are more than made up for in the enthusiasm and intimacy of their readings.

‘It’s a more personal experience,’ says McGuire, ‘it feels like someone’s reading to you rather than a professional packaged thing.’ The files are hosted on Internet Archive as MP3 and OGGs. 
McGuire has gone on to found a commercial company which partners with publishers and narrators to record in-copyright audiobooks – called iambik audiobooks.

Last updated: 23rd of May, 2014

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