LibriVox - Resource for downloading and recording public domain free audio books

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Another example of digital voice being put to a great use is at a website I recently stumbled upon called LibriVox.org – I was on the hunt for audio books for my children when Google pointed me to this resource. Simple concept, they tend to be the best ones, which is take public domain books and have volunteers from around the world record themselves reading them. In turn producing a huge catalog of free audiobooks for the world to enjoy. This is a fantastic initiative, not just because my children get to listen to some classics but for the great many people who for some reason or another can’t or don’t want to read.

LibriVox was started back in 2005 by a man called Hugh McGuire and since then has amassed a few select sidekicks to help with web design, audio book cataloging and the day to day running of LibriVox. Add to that the legion of  volunteers worldwide the LibriVox catalog has grown and grown very fast.

Obviously being digitally recorded readings of books this caught my eye. Most volunteers it seems use Audacity, the very popular open source and free digital audio editing and recording software which runs on all common platforms (Mac, Windows and Linux). Some are also using digital voice recorders for their recordings so I thought I would weigh in with my comments on the best recorders to use should you want to make a contribution and volunteer as a reader for LibriVox. All the details on becoming a volunteer for LibriVox can be found on their extensive FAQ page. You don’t have to read a whole book either, LibriVox have a torrent style approach to recordings asking people to record chapters rather then whole books. Although if you are keen you can record a whole book if you wish.

So you want to record for LibriVox and you quite like the idea of using a digital voice recorder to do it. Benefits are that you can dictate from anywhere so you do not have to sit in front of your computer (visualises a reader in a hammock) so you can be more relaxed and in your favourite reading position.

Olympus VN-711PC digital voice recorder, ideal for recording audio books

You do not need a super expensive recorder either, one of the low end digital notetakers would be ideal and I would also recommend grabbing a noise cancelling microphone to concentrate the audio on your voice and not any background noise. The VN series recorders from Olympus are ideal (VN-8600PC or the new VN-711PC for example) as these are very cheap but produce excellent audio quality especially for one person speaking. Make sure you grab a VN series recorder whose model number ends in PC which means they can be connected to a computer (Mac or Windows) to transfer across your recorded audio files, early models without the PC in the model number can not and are useless for this kind of exercise.

Olympus noise cancelling microphoneAdd to these cheap high quality voice recorders a noise cancelling microphone like the Olympus ME-15 or Olympus ME-52W microphones and you are good to go. Both microphones come with an extension cable and tie-pin clip so they can be clipped to your shirt, ideal for when you sit back and just speak your book aloud, all up quite a cheap bundle.

Just a tip. With the note taker style recorders like the VN series mentioned while you are talking if you need to take a break, sneeze or have a coughing fit then you can simply pause the recording. With this style of voice recorder you can not stop/start recording then rewind hear what you last said and then continue recording. These types of voice recorders are called digital dictaphones and they emulate old style tape recorders and they are very expensive. If you find that you are unable to read without making mistakes then you can also use Audacity after you have recorded to edit out the mistakes.

Has that inspired you to give back and become a volunteer for LibriVox?

VN Series recorders are available in Australia from us, Dictate Australia and can also be found at Officeworks. For readers outside of Australia check your local large electrical retailer or Amazon.com

Follow LibriVox.org on Twitter You can follow LibriVox.org on Twitter @librivox

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