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March 27, 2004 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Speaking of free audio books, Project Gutenberg is currently working on releasing about 500 free, public domain audio books in mp3 format. Among the titles included are Melville's Typee, A Midsummer Night's Dream,A Modest Proposal, Huck Finn, and many, many more. I have some Great Expectations for this one...
posted by kaibutsu (15 comments total)
(Saw the Lessig post below, and was going to post this as a comment, but then decided it probably worthy of an FPP of its own.)
posted by kaibutsu at 5:46 PM on March 27, 2004

While I applaud the effort, I would rather this be released in Speex format. Much better compression for speech. I've used it to compress vocab words from a french language teaching program and squished 700mb into something like 15 and the quality remained high enough that a none french speaker (mean) could understand it. Try that with mp3.
posted by Grod at 5:54 PM on March 27, 2004

I sampled some of these recently. It seems like a large percentage of recordings are machine read, which pretty much wrings all the life out of the literature as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Galvatron at 6:41 PM on March 27, 2004

"A Modest Proposal" is about 2500 words long, which is hardly a "book" by anyone's standards.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:08 PM on March 27, 2004

I think text-to-speech is a far cry from audio books. I couldn't see myself listening to more than five minutes of that at a clip. And I think I would fall asleep if I listened to a CD of it on my commute. Text is one thing; audio isn't very Project Gutenberg-able.
posted by bbrown at 7:35 PM on March 27, 2004

Well, acting or literature students could volunteer to record readings of public domain books, and the whole thing could be put on the web or ftp or a torrent.
posted by crunchburger at 7:48 PM on March 27, 2004

That Mike Eschmann sure has a distinctive voice.

These are 'human read' according to the catalogue (inserted 'human-read' into the notes field of the advanced search); but some of them still seem to be machine read.
posted by carter at 7:49 PM on March 27, 2004

This is kind of ridiculous. Shouldn't Gutenberg's efforts be geared toward getting more books online, or at least improving the moose-voice? Why would anyone download all these MP3s rather than just running the text through a freeware T2S engine?
posted by PrinceValium at 9:39 PM on March 27, 2004

"The Life, Adventures and Piracies of the Famous Captain Singleton C - (COPYRIGHTED WORK)
by Defoe, Daniel Released: Jan 2006
Tour through the Eastern Counties of England
C - (COPYRIGHTED WORK) by Defoe, Daniel
Released: Jan 2006
Journal Of The Plague Year, A C - (COPYRIGHTED WORK)
by Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731 Released: Jan 2006 "

Computers today! Humans tomorrow!

Guess it's that Commodore64 SAM voice till January.
Though I already got the DeFoe downloaded, so I might as well...
posted by Busithoth at 9:45 PM on March 27, 2004

I've only listened to a bit of one, admittedly, since I'm on a dial-up and generally don't have the time for such downloads. And the voice sounded flat, yeah, but I was pretty damned impressed. It could be that there's a variety of methods being experimented with here - it would be nice if someone with some bandwidth could check that out.

In any case, you could view it as a move towards accessibility. Properly-rendered Plaintext for the blind, if you will.

Holy Christ. Just got one of the Commordores... Wow. Melville in all 8 bits of glory.

Sorry guys - should have researched this a bit better before posting.

But crunchland's idea is great. It would be awesome if there were a free human-read audio-book and text site available. It would be a great resource for helping literacy rates in depressed areas, I bet. Give a kid a great classic book and a few CD's of someone reading it - you'll have kids speaking Dickensenian English in no time. Would be a good resource for those with long car trips to deal with, as well.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:03 PM on March 27, 2004

Consider volunteering for RFBD (Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic) -- they always need new human readers, in areas from literature to graduate-level sciences. These human-read recordings are provided to blind and dyslexic students.
posted by quarantine at 2:42 AM on March 28, 2004

Jumping back to format for a moment - wouldn't .ogg be more appropos for PG?
posted by Ryvar at 4:09 AM on March 28, 2004

Oh! Duh! They want people to be able to listen to the audiobooks on their iPods etc. for when on the bus or whatever. Should've realized that right away.
posted by Ryvar at 4:10 AM on March 28, 2004

While I applaud the effort, I would rather this be released in Speex format.

That's a great idea! Then I'd be able to listen to free audiobooks wherever I go on my portable Speex player! Oh, wait...
posted by Eamon at 8:33 AM on March 28, 2004

This site has free audio books (at the worst setting) for download as mp3s.
posted by amberglow at 3:13 PM on March 28, 2004

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