Monday, December 19, 2005

Gutenberg Radio

Librivox is offering free access to recorded versions of titles from the Project Gutenberg library of public domain electronic books. The recordings are done by volunteers. There are 12 complete titles available so far, and Librivox is soliciting additional readers.

When I was at the Library of Michigan, we ran a studio for recording books as part of our service for the visually impaired. The process to learn to do this well was long and challenging. I'm listening to one of the Librivox recordings as I write this (Stave 2 of A Christmas Carol, as read by Kara Shallenberg). I used to review audiobooks for Library Journal and AudioFile, so I've heard a lot of recorded books over the years. No one will confuse Ms. Shallenberg with a professional actor/narrator from Recorded Books or Books on Tape, but her reading is actually very good. She modulates her voice to convey Mr. Dickens' emotion without getting carried away, and her enunciation is excellent.

This could be an interesting precedent for creating a cooperatively developed library of recorded materials. It would seem to me that the most difficult challenge would be getting enough narrators of sufficient vocal quality to keep up the flow of new material. There are only so many hams and hacks (such as your faithful correspondent) who might be willing to take on such a chore.

1 comment:

Andy Havens said...

How long will it take? I don't know... but when Project Gutenberg started, people thought it would never work. Now there are 17,000 free e-books online there; nearly 2 million downloaded every month.

Here's an interesting note I noted; you put in a link to the Web site of the woman who recorded the title you mentioned. I wondered, "I wonder where George got that link?" My bet, I betted, was that it was somewhere on the Librivox site... which it was; each recording has a place for a link to the site of the reader.

Which means that you can, essentially, advertise your Web site, to the whole listening world, for the price of taking the time to record a public domain work. From a marketing standpoint, one might recommend a book that's somewhat related to what you do. But that's not necessarily a requirement.

What on earth is Andy yapping about today? I'm yapping about how clever the Librivox people are being, in making sure that they've provided a way to make their content viral for their participants in a way that's helpful/valuable for those volunteers.

Is it worth it? I don't know... If I were a budding voice-actor, though, I'd sure as heck spend some free time reading some works and posting them on Librivox, and link to it from my personal site.

If I had a site on children's books, I'd record a couple children's classics from Gutenberg, link to them from my site (and vice versa, of course) and plug the "free downloadable audiobooks read by our proprietor" angle.

If my library had first-editions of some of those Gutenberg texts, or had any kind of special relationship to any of the 17,000 volumes in the collection, I might find some volunteers to do the reading, put the pointers up, etc.

Many media, all overlapping, tell a better story.

Fun stuff.