Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Free Books and Audio Books

When I was very young, my favorite books in the whole world were the Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. My mom bought me the first seven books of the series when I was still in elementary school. I read them at least five times. I could tell you the names of all the characters and all of their cultural behaviors. At that tender age I fantasized about adventures with John Carter, Dejah Thoris, and Tars Tarkas on the planet of Barsoom (what the Martians called their planet). You can still order these books through Amazon.com (what can't you order through Amazon?), but if you would like to sample them before you buy, head over to Project Gutenberg. There, you can read "A Princess of Mars", "Gods of Mars", and many more. You could even check out some of ERB's Tarzan novels. They are all a great deal of pure escapist fun.

I mention Project Gutenberg because they now house over 19,000 literary works which have passed into the public domain. Would you like to read a little "Treasure Island"? It's there! ... Along with about 70 other works of Robert Louis Stevenson. They have about 20 works by Louisa May Alcott, including, of course, "Little Women". Don't even get me started on the Jane Austin collection!

Now, if you prefer to get your classics through audio means, PG does have some of the books in audio format. Unfortunately, they are largely computer generated and un-listenable. If you want to listen to your books, you should check out LibriVox. What PG is to the written word, LibriVox is to the spoken word.

Now, as any parent will tell you, reading a book aloud can take a while. Add to this the time to edit and re-read where necessary, and you will understand why the selection from LibriVox is significantly more limited. At present there are only 48 completed books in English. Also, many of these are performed by groups, as opposed to soloists. Still they are fun to listen to. Warning though: The audio files are rather large, so you'll probably need a high-speed connection to really enjoy them.

Both of these services also give you the opportunity to contribute. You can scan or proofread books for PG, or join a group of voice actors to bring one of your favorite classics to life for LibriVox. Both have instructions and support for how you can help.

Check them out and let me what your favorites are.

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