[Last updated: 3th December 2015]
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What's this all about then?
At LibriVox, volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain into digital audio (eg. mp3), and then make the audio files available to the world, for free (through our catalog, a podcast, and in a variety of other formats at Archive.org)
Why are you doing this? What's in it for you?
We love reading, love books, love literature, think the public domain should be defended and enriched, we like free stuff, we like to hear people read to us, and we like reading to other people. It's fun, it's a great community, it's a rewarding public service to the world. And "nothing" is in it for us, except the satisfaction of participating in a wonderful project.
Who started the crazy project?
Hugh McGuire started LibriVox in August 2005, and quickly corralled a few friends and random strangers to make a recording of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent. The project began spiraling out of control, and Kristen McQuillin came on board, stabilized things and designed our original website. Kara Shallenberg added an almost frightening keenness, and served as cataloger-in-chief; Chris Goringe was the back-end coder who seemed to be able to fix things 2-3 seconds after getting an email. Other early volunteers got the ball rolling, and now over 7000 people have recorded or helped at LibriVox, and we're all just one big family, including, we hope, you.
Who are the LibriVox moderators and what do they do?
The moderators (also known as admins and MCs) are LibriVox volunteers who help in the forums and look after cataloging. Every recording project is assigned one MC. The MC answers any questions the collaborative book coordinator or solo reader might have, puts the project in the 'In Progress' section on the catalog and, upon project completion, sends the completed files to the LibriVox section of archive.org. A new catalog page is then created and the recordings are made available for download so listeners can enjoy them. Admins can also fix some catalogue errors and edit forum posts (see our Forum Policies). Moderators are drawn from within the community of dedicated LibriVoxers, and are identified with "LibriVox Admin Team" next to their forum posts.
What does LibriVox mean?
'LibriVox' is the sort of name you invent when you don't know Latin at all. 'Libri' means book, and 'Vox' means 'voice' -- so it means: 'BookVoice'. But it's possible Latin scholars would cringe at some error in the melding together of the two words. Still, it sounded pretty good. Another Latin word for book is 'Liber', which also means: 'child, offspring'; and 'free, independent, unrestricted'. So we like to think LibriVox might be interpreted as 'child of the voice', and 'free voice'. Finally, the other link we like is 'library' so you could imagine it to mean Library of Voice, which sounds cool too. But all this is the result of using online Latin dictionaries with no formal training.
What does "Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain" mean?
We've had much healthy debate about this tag line. It's been called pretentious, swanky, lofty, inspiring, verbose, unclear, self-important, hype and exciting. Maybe it's all of those things, but it served us well in the beginning of the project, and consensus is we're going to keep it. What does it mean? LibriVox makes free audio books. We free books into audio. Free beer and free speech, we're doing both. We're unlocking text with our voices and freeing the books into the airwaves. We are freeing works of literature to be experienced by those who might not have experienced them before. Some of us are making a stand about public, non-commercial space, about public domain, about the importance of efforts outside the pervasive commercial framework that dominates our world. But some of us are just reading because we like it. This can be political if you wish, or mean nothing more than this: we read books and give the audio files away for free. Both are valid, both are important. In fact, we don't care why you volunteer for LibriVox, or why you listen to our books, as long as you enjoy what you are doing. P.S. we might change the tag line to: "Free Audiobooks," which would probably be easier for all concerned, but Hugh is stubborn.
"Our objective is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet." Are you crazy?
Okay, so it's pretty unlikely we'll succeed. Probably impossible. But what's wrong with trying? Like world peace, we think it's a worthy objective. Don't you? It would be silly to say: "Our objective is to make some books available", since we've done that already. We want the project to continue while there are public domain books to read. If that takes 1,000 years, well, nothing could make us happier.
What do all the other acronyms in the forum mean?
Have a look here: http://wiki.librivox.org/index.php/Glossary and just ask if something's not covered.
I'm new, and I'd like to read? What do I do?
The best place to start is here: How to Volunteer for LibriVox. Please do a 1-Minute test, to check that all your equipment is working well, and that your technical settings are correct. A time-honoured first recording for many volunteers is our Weekly Poetry, in the Short Works forum. But if you want to dive right in, try the Readers Wanted section of the forum. There you will find lists of books needing readers. Click on the name of a book you like, and read the first post. This will show you the claimed and unclaimed chapters and information about how to record. Post a claim for a chapter, (eg: "I would like to read chapter 4") and the book coordinator will update the first post.
Alternately, if you want to record a whole book on your own, go to the New Projects Launch Pad and post to let us know you'll be doing a whole book. But we would much prefer you donate your voice to an ongoing project first before going Solo. It's harder than you might think, and testing out on a smaller undertaking is a good idea.
Do you mean *anyone* can record for LibriVox?
Yes! All you need is a way to record into mp3 (most PCs and Macs can do that with a microphone and some free software, we assume if you are using GNU/Linux that you can figure it out -- but just ask if you need help!)
Don't you have any standards?
It depends what you mean by standards. Our feeling is this: in order for LibriVox to be successful we must welcome anyone who wishes to honour a work of literature by lending their voice to it. Some readers are better than others, and the quality of reading will change from book to book and sometimes from chapter to chapter. But we will not judge your reading, though we may give you some advice if you ask for it. This is not Hollywood, and LibriVox has nothing to do with commercial media's values, production or otherwise. However: we think almost all of our readings are excellent, and we DO try to catch technical problems (like repeated text etc.) with our Listeners Wanted/prooflistening stage. Maybe you'd like to help?
You mean your readings might have mistakes in them?
Project Gutenberg has a 99% accuracy rate target for its texts; we aim to equal or better that. For a 20 minute audio recording, 99% is equivalent to 12 seconds of error. Count to 12 and see how long that is. So, we think by a pretty objective measure, even with a few mistakes, we're doing pretty well.
Do I have to read a whole book on my own?
No! No! No! The point of LibriVox was to get all sorts of people, all over the world, to record small chunks, so that the difficult task of recording a whole book is distributed among many. But you *can* read a whole book on your own, if you wish (though we'd prefer if you contribute to a collective project first).
Can I read a whole book on my own?
Yes! Please! If you wish to do so, please post on the forum in the New Projects Launch Pad. The thread on 'Solo recordings' gives lots more help. But we'd prefer if you join a collective project first, to read a chapter or two and find out how it all works.
I wrote an unpublished book! Can LibriVox record it?
Unfortunately, no. We are focused on producing audio recordings of published public domain books. However, you can consider publishing an audio version directly on Internet Archive or over at https://scribl.com/ - they accept recordings of unpublished books. And if you hang out on the forums here, and do some recordings, you might find some willing volunteers to help you record yours too - just not as an official LibriVox recording.
How can I volunteer to coordinate a book reading?
Before you become a book coordinator, we ask that you record a few chapters from other projects, just so that you have some idea of the problems your group of volunteers might have. Also, it's good to see how other book coordinators manage the process first. If you spend some time on our forum, and don't want to record, but are keen on coordinating a reading, that would be fine too. Have a look at this page for more information.
Will I get sued for copyright infringement?
LibriVox only records books that are clearly in the United States public domain, because this is where the files will ultimately be stored. 'Public Domain' means they are no longer covered by copyright, and anyone can use the texts as they wish. As copyright law varies from country to country, the copyright status of any given book may vary too. So if you're not sure about recording a particular work, please just ask!
How can I tell if a book is public domain?
Project Gutenberg has a huge catalog of public domain e-books, and they do extensive legal checking before releasing their titles. Generally, books published in the USA enter the public domain on January 1st after a complete 95 years, which for 2019 means books published in 1923 and earlier. After that, and elsewhere in the world, it gets more complicated. But we're happy to help -- post in the Book Suggestions forum for advice.
May I add incidental music to my recordings?
No, please don't. It adds yet another complication for our hard-working meta-coordinators if they have to verify copyright status of added music.
I don't want to read, but I'd like to help. What can I do?
First, please know that almost none of our readers think their reading is very good. You may be better than you think! But if you are really shy (or simply can't read aloud), there are still many ways you can help.
* Participate in the forums; everyone's ideas are welcome
* Listen to the chapters and let us know of any problems (proof-listening)
* Make CD covers and thumbnails for our recordings
* Turn finished projects into MP4 format (for iPods)
* Assist with book coordination
* Promote LibriVox with a button or banner on your website
* Post about us on your blog and link to us
* Distribute recordings (by seeding torrents or burning CDs to give away)
* Help locate readers--tell your friends and recruit your family!
What is "The LibriVox Disclaimer?"
The LibriVox disclaimer is a little line our volunteers read at the beginning of every recording. It generally goes like this:
"Chapter 1 of A Little Princess. This is a LibriVox recording. All LibriVox recordings are in the public domain. For more information, or to volunteer, please visit librivox.org. This reading by Kara Shallenberg, http://www.kayray.org. A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Chapter one: Sara"
We sometimes use a short version for poems: "The Cow, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Read for librivox.org by Henry Frigon." and at the end, "End of poem. This recording is in the public domain."
Every recording should have this disclaimer; firstly to help the listener know what the recording is (of course!), secondly as a legal notification of the public domain status, and thirdly to encourage new volunteers to come and help.
Where does LibriVox get its funding?
We’re a group of volunteers with no paid staff and no budget. The Internet Archive hosts our audio files for free -- although you can make donations to them, mentioning LibriVox, which they manage for us.
In February 2010, we held a limited-time, fixed-amount funding drive as our hosting and development costs were growing just too large to be handled by donation of time and resources. Read the original announcement and the achievement post for details of the costs and donations received.
In July 2013 we launched a new funding drive, "LibriVox needs your help!", with the short term goal of raising $50,000. For more details see - http://librivox.org/2013/07/03/librivox-needs-your-help-2/. Going forward, we will continue to have a donation page on the LibriVox website. This is new for us and we hope it will bring in enough in donations to cover ongoing system administration costs and development support for future upgrades to our new software systems. This is made easier if we have a cushion in the bank so that LibriVox volunteers don’t have to stay up at night worrying about how this or that will be paid for.
Can I advertise on your site?
No. We are a completely non-commercial project, and we don't want ad. money.
Are you planning an IPO?
No. We will remain an independent, non-commercial, volunteer, non-profit project.
I work for Yahoo/Google/Microsoft/a VC and I would like to buy you, who should I contact?
We'd be happy if you could help us out somehow, but LibriVox, as they say, is not for sale. Though anyone is free to use our content however they wish -- including Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, and even VCs.
Do I have to know what 'podcast' means to volunteer for LibriVox?
No! All you need is your voice, some free software for your computer, a microphone -- and the desire to read out loud.
What does podcast mean?
A podcast is just a way of delivering audio content to your computer or mp3 player, automatically. LibriVox podcasts books from our catalog, one at time. If you subscribe to the LibriVox podcast, you'll get a new audio file from us on your computer four times a week.
What software should I use to record and edit? (PC, Mac, GNU/Linux)
Many of us use Audacity, a free multi-track audio editor and recorder for GNU/Linux, BSD, Mac OS, and Windows. You can download it here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net
There are many other programs available, and plenty of ways to get audio from your voice to the computer. Take a look in the forums for more suggestions and help.
What hardware should I use to record?
Our readers use many types of equipment to record. We recommend using a USB microphone that plugs into your computer. Many computers, tablets and phones come with built-in microphones and depending on the sound quality, those may be good options as well. Whatever your equipment, we recommend that you start with a 1-Minute test, to check that all your equipment is working well, and that your technical settings are correct. There's more information on hardware options and some specific recommendations in our wiki.
128kbps? Huh? What language are you talking?
128 kbps is a way of indicating sound quality of an MP3. This is a high quality file, well suited to music. We use this because archive.org, where we store the audiobooks, will automatically convert 128 kbps files into other formats when we upload them.
Why aren't you recording in ogg vorbis?
Archive.org automatically converts our 128kbps mp3 files to 64kbps mp3 and ogg vorbis. So we get three files for the price of one (free), and our files are made available in ogg vorbis on the Internet Archive page for each item (click Internet Archive Page on any book page in the LibriVox catalogue).
Do you offer Bit Torrents?
Yes! You will find a torrent link on every book page in the LibriVox catalogue.
Haven't you heard of computer-generated audiobooks?
Yes, we have -- in fact there are a number available direct from Project Gutenberg, among other places. However, we feel that texts read by real humans are sufficiently better that it's worth spending our time recording them. And we hope you agree!
Are there any other projects like LibriVox?
Yes! There are many others using podcasting to bring literature to people's ears. Some projects are collecting public domain works in a similar fashion to us. We think there's enough public domain texts to keep us all busy for years to come.
How are the views (download counts) on the archive.org pages calculated?
So downloading the complete book as a zip is 1 download. Listening to a chapter each day is one download per chapter. I suppose even listening to 1 minute and deciding you don't like it is one download too.archive.org's FAQ wrote: Downloads (“Views” in Archive.org parlance) are calculated per item page, per IP address, per day. If you stream a show today, that's one download. If you view the txt file tomorrow, that's another download. If you download every file from a show's page the next day, that counts as one more download. If you download the same file a thousand times the day after that, that still only counts as one more download.
LISTENING TO LIBRIVOX RECORDINGS
Where can I download the books you've already recorded?
Where is your podcast feed?
Why haven't you recorded my favourite book yet?
We record books suggested by volunteers. If you post your suggestion in the Book Suggestions forum, you may get lots of interest, and then we'll have your book done.
But please note we do not record books where this would be an infringement of copyright (No Harry Potter, no Lord of the Rings, no Danielle Steele) In practical terms, this generally means your favourite book must be available from Project Gutenberg before we will consider reading it.
I've got another question about listening??
Take a look at our wiki, which includes information about finding particular readers, accents, technical information on using different kinds of players and much more. If that doesn't help, sign up to the forum and ask.
COPYRIGHT AND PUBLIC DOMAIN
What does "Public Domain" mean?
Copyright gives an individual or corporation exclusive rights on a text, for a limited period of time. This means no one else can reproduce the text, or make derivative works (such as audio recordings) while the copyright is in force. Eventually, though, copyright expires, and the text enters the 'public domain' -- meaning anyone can use that text however they wish. This is a complicated business, but in the US, anything published more than 95 years ago is public domain, in the US. It may not be public domain in other countries. Similarly, a book may be in the public domain in another country, but not in the US. For more information and links, visit our public domain wiki page.
Why don't you use a Creative Commons License?
We had this discussion early on, and decided we didn't want to add any restrictions to the recordings we make, which are based on public domain books. This means others can use our recordings however they wish, including for commercial purposes. We would prefer if people acknowledged us if they do use our recordings, be we can't force them to. This makes some people uncomfortable, but the books we record are public domain, and we want our recordings to be public domain too.
For a more robust discussion, see here.
How do I know if a book is public domain?
The best place to look is http://www.gutenberg.org -- this is a huge catalog of ebooks, in many languages and most of them are in the US public domain. Gutenberg does extensive legal work to assure the copyright status of their books, so they are a safe resource -- just check the licence text within the ebook, to be sure. Of course, there are many non-Gutenberg books in the public domain, and if we are sure that's the case, we'd be happy to record them too.
Please note that, because the LibriVox server resides in the US, we are bound by US copyright laws. There are many Gutenberg & similar projects based outside the US, but at LibriVox we only record books from them which were published more than 95 years ago.
What if English is not my native language -- may I volunteer to read in English anyway? (Or, for English speakers: May I read in another language?)
Yes! Part of what makes listening to a LibriVox book so enjoyable is the wide variety of voices, dialects, and accents you'll hear. You're welcome to volunteer to read any language you speak, as long as you can make yourself understood in it. Try children's literature or short poetry if you're hesitant about your skill in another language. Ask for help with pronunciation if you need it, but remember we're not aiming for perfection.
Are you doing books in other languages?
Yes. We have complete works in more than twenty languages, including German, French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. The multilingual collections have many shorter contributions in even more languages. All we need is willing volunteers who are fluent in the language they'd like to record. Post in Book Suggestions if you want to recruit a team to work on a book in a particular language.
LIBRIVOX LANGUAGE GUIDELINES
1. The main language of the forum is English.
This means that most posts about LibriVox, questions about how it works, etc. should all be in English. The reason is that most of our moderators are English-speaking, and we need to be able to answer questions, and monitor what's going on on the forum. And don't worry if your English is rusty!!
2. Book Threads may be in another language (see 3)
If a "New Projects Launch Pad" thread is started for a non-English book, this thread can be in the language of the book (French, German etc). For non-English threads, please name them: [LANGUAGE] Book Name - Author Name
eg: [DEUTSCH] Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei - Engels/Marx
3. How to start a non-English book thread
Starting a non-English book thread is the same as an English one. You must be prepared to be a Book Coordinator, which means you must have recorded a few chapters for another LibriVox project. You also must be ready to translate some bits of text into the language of the book, such as: "This is a LibriVox recording, all LibriVox recordings are in the public domain..." if we don't already have a version in the language. To find out more about being a Book Coordinator, click here.
If you have any questions, just ask!
I've just listened to a LibriVox recording. How can I give feedback? Do you have a rating system?
We have decided not to operate a rating/ranking system, because the general consensus is that negative feedback would be too discouraging for our volunteer readers. Please find more background in this thread: https://librivox.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=454
* If you have positive feedback, you could post it here in the forum (we always like to read it!), or you could send an email and we'll pass it on to the reader for you. Also, if you'd like to recommend a reading, please do so by telling your friends, blogging about it or even visiting the relevant page at archive.org (where our files are stored) as they do have a review system.
* If you have negative feedback, please send it to info AT librivox DOT org and the administrators will see how best to deal with it, and possibly pass on some points to the reader or raise a specific issue in the forum, if appropriate. Negative feedback posted directly to the forum may be edited or deleted (see our Forum Policies page.)
* If you spot a problem with a recording, please also email us at info AT librivox DOT org or start a new thread in Error Reports (please read the sticky in that forum first.)