Audiobooks and LibriVox

For someone who loves books, I find it unbelievably depressing to buy them sometimes.  It’s fun when I can follow some stranger’s breathless recommendations, or there is some other element of serendipity involved.  It’s less fun when I browse the bestsellers and new releases section of a book store, and have to face the fact that what most readers want from a book, or at least what publishers think readers want, is Hitler and Gladwell.

With paper books, the fun discovery methods provide me with more books than I could possibly ever read, so there’s no problem.

Audio books are trickier.  Audible, the big boy of audiobooks, has the inventory of a bland medium-sized chain store.  It’s economics: Audiobooks are expensive to make, so one invests in the potential bestsellers.  Which doesn’t mean they’re bad, just that browsing through them is depressing as hell.

Enter LibriVox, which I’ve written about before, where volunteers make audiobooks of works in the public domain.  Think about that: It means that every book on LibriVox is an old forgotten book that some book fanatic loved so much that they spent months making an audio recording of it.  Recommendations don’t come stronger than that.

There’s now also a commerical offshoot of LibriVox, Iambik, which takes the same “read the books you love” approach to lesser-known copyrighted works.

Projects like these are the audiobook equivalent of a dusty, second-hand store, full of surprises of the best kind: Ideas, perspectives, fantasies.  The people behind this are clearly insane, but bless them!

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