Saturday, May 23, 2009

Audiobooks from Libravox

I have recently been downloading and listening to audiobooks from Librivox, which is a site that contains audiofiles for works in the public domain that are available for the public (for free) to download and listen to. From what I can tell, you can either download the entire work (if it is complete) in a zip file or receive it in serial form. (For a Victorian novel, this would be ideal, and would perhaps mimic how original readers received the work.) Some of the works at Librivox are already completed; some are ongoing; you can search for only completed works if you prefer. There is a way to access the files through iTunes in case you want to put them on an iPod. That's a huge advantage over my own public library's downloadable audiobook system; the files there cannot be listened to on an iPod.

The wonderful thing about Librivox is the selection: there are many not-so-well-known works, and also some of the most famous. There's also poetry, which is quite nice, and nonfiction as well as fiction. The diversity of the selection is incredible. Again, since these are works in the public domain, they are pre-1923, but since eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels happen to be some of my favorites, I am fine with this. There are works in German and French (and probably other languages) as well as English. The selection is, as I've said, eclectic. Anyone can volunteer to read!

That last fact also leads to, perhaps, the worst thing about Librivox--anyone can read these books. Sometimes, an individual reader will do an entire work; sometimes, you get a group. I've listened to two works thus far--Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers, and The Sign of the Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Barchester Towers featured many readers. The words "Proudie," "St. Ewolds," and other proper names in the book were pronounced in different ways by different readers. The readers were not all native speakers of English--this is not a problem for me, as I like accents, but it can lead to some interesting mispronunciations (the word "ascertain" was pronounced consistently as "as certain"), and also, because different languages have different rules of intonation and emphasis, sometimes the emotional resonance of the work seems slightly different. This discordance can, paradoxically, lead to a new or better understanding of the work (because you're hearing the words in a way you didn't expect to), and I grew to like all of the readers for BT. There were some truly excellent readers in the bunch, and many okay ones: only one horrible one, though, and she did only one chapter. All in all, I enjoyed the motley crew.

The Sign of the Four was read by a single reader, a Canadian, so I enjoyed her vowels in "about" and suchlike. I did not enjoy her mispronunciation of the name Goethe--she said it so it rhymed with "both", and that set me on edge in the very worst of ways. Still, I listened to the entire book, and she did a mostly fine job with it.

So anyway, I recommend to those of you who enjoy audiobooks, who enjoy things in the public domain, and who are tolerant of readerly eccentricity.

No comments:

Post a Comment