Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How To Find Good Books On Librivox

librivox gif

A lot of people ask me how I find time to read so many old books (I would call them classics but most of them are just old). Honestly, 80% of the classics I "read," I actually listen to on audiobook, and the vast majority of those audiobooks I download from Librivox.

If you're not familiar, Librivox publishes audiobooks of works in the public domain you can download for free. I've written about why I find Librivox more browser-friendly than Project Gutenberg before, but I also use Librivox a lot because I find it really convenient to listen to snippets of books while I'm doing routine tasks around the house or driving on errands. Since I only read one or two books at a time, audiobooks are a great way for me to balance two novels at once.

The problem with Librivox is that the quality of the audiobooks can be hit-or-miss. It's 100% volunteer, so some readers are professional and others could use some practice. This can make people shy away from trying their audiobooks; but I stumble across awesome audiobooks on Librivox all the time, and if you follow some basic guidelines (developed by myself through experience) you can make better choices in downloading books.

1. Start with short stories. Librivox has tons of short story collections, and they're a great place to start out. After you listen to some short stories, you'll probably come across a narrator or two that you really like. When that happens...

2. Look up the narrator you like and download all their stuff. Most narrators stick to particular subjects or genres, so this is a great way to discover books you might not have heard of before.

3. Books with multiple narrators are generally to be avoided. I've done the multiple narrator thing, and it's tough, even when you're enjoying the book. Right now I'm at the point where I simply won't download a novel with more than one narrator. It's better to have an okay narrator reading an entire book than a mix of excellent, okay, and not-that-great narrators together for one book. The latter makes it really difficult to follow the thread of the story.

4. Always download the latest version of a book. Sometimes you'll search for a book and come up with multiple recordings for it. ALWAYS download the latest. Chances are someone decided to create a new version because they thought the previous one was an insult to their literary sensibilities.

5. To find new books: Browse the list of recently cataloged books or just randomly search for keywords. Librivox used to have a list of the most popular downloads, but I can't find that link now. You can also try to find recs online. I like to check out GoodReads groups dedicated to audiobooks.

6. To make your life easier: In iTunes, highlight all the tracks in your audiobook, right click, go to Get Info>Options, and select Equalizer Preset>Spoken Word, Media Kind>Audiobook, Remember position>Yes, and Skip when shuffling>yes.

Questions? Comments? Have you listened to any audiobooks from Librivox you really liked?

ETA: Here is thread to a GoodReads discussion group about books people have enjoyed from Librivox. Sorry I'm posting it so late, but it took me forever to find it: Audiobooks>Good Librivox books discussion.

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