August 12

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Librivox turns 10: free audiobooks, a decade on

Librivox is one of the most interesting of the volunteer content creation schemes around, and it’s just turned ten, so if you’ve not seen the site, head on over and check it out.

A decade ago a handful of people decided to record an audiobook. Since then the snowballing group of volunteers have set up ways to allow anyone to contribute to the project of making all of the books in the public domain accessible in audio form. Librivox produces about a hundred audiobooks a month, all without paid staff, a budget, or facilities.

Gold Coast Libraries provides a lot of audiobooks, because people love them, insatiably. Physical copies are still popular and downloads from services like BorrowBox and Overdrive continue to increase. Librivox is great for our customers, though, because it is non-commercial. It costs thousands of dollars to create a professional audiobook, so the Library Service’s vendors concentrate on titles which large numbers of people will pay for. Librivox captures the other books.

Let me give an example from my own recordings. I recorded a series of folktales translated from ancient Egyptian papyri. About 50 000 people have downloaded them or listened to them on YouTube.. That seems like a small town of people, but it is still well below viable for a commercial publisher. This need for a large audience also makes it particularly difficult to find historical, Australian works in audio. The wonderful thing about Librivox is that it’s filled with niche material. Not everything will interest you, but for the things that do catch your ear, this is the only place to find them. The recordings have been made for people like you, by people who share your enthusiasm for whatever the book is about.

So, congratulations to Librivox on 10 years and 9570 books.