Earnestly Contending

The Best Thing to Happen for Reading Since the Printing Press

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Miller on June 8, 2010

Over five-hundred years ago a man named Johannes Gutenberg invented a device that helped shape our western culture. Up until his time, books were written by hand and very few people were able to own them. With his invention of the printing press, printed materials were made readily available to the public. This one invention thrust the world forward at a rapid pace of information, invention, and industry. We have made quite a bit of progress since Gutenberg’s press. As I sit here on my computer I think of all the advantages we have and how long and strenuous it must have been to carve out a dye instead of type on my Mac. Yet, all of these advancements have simply improved on the printed method and has done nothing for the other problem of finding time to read what is written. On the contrary, the advancements in printing and publishing have only hindered the obstacles one is faced with in finding the time to delve into the plethora of written material. With the dawn of the information age we are inundated with printed and published materials every day, but I have found that I am less inclined to finish a book or to persevere through the drooping eyelids and press on to the next chapter.

Therefore, I was delighted when I found out about audio books. With all I have to do throughout the day that demands the focus of my eyes I realized that I didn’t have much time left over for reading. However, most of this work I was doing didn’t require the use of my ears or rather much intellect. Taking advantage of audio books seemed like an answer to my problem. As soon as I started looking for books on audio I realized that there was another disadvantage. Audio Books are expensive and often times cost more than the books themselves. This makes since because someone has to do the work of reading and recording the books. What I thought would be the answer to my problems was countered with another problem – my lack of funds.

I was just about to give up. I couldn’t find an answer for the problem I had: an ever growing list of books to read, the business of my day, and the limits of my funds. Then I found it; the best website I ever laid eyes on. It wasn’t beautiful because of it’s innovative graphics or for it’s ease in browsing but for the promise that it had in answering my dilemma.

Librivox.org is a website that offers audio books FOR FREE. As it proclaims in the opening banner, “LibriVox: Acoustical Liberation of Books in the Public Domain.” Finally, the answer to my dilemma. Yet, I was skeptical. It took me a while to navigate the cite but once I started searching for books I found that most of the titles that I’ve had on my wish list to read were there for free. I wish I had known about this cite when I was in college because there were several of my textbooks for philosophy for free as well. Where had you been for all my life, LibriVox?

How does it work? LibriVox answers that question for you on it’s home page.

“LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.”

Librivox is partnered with Project Gutenberg and the Internet Acrchives and therefore all of their expenses are free. It is run purely by volunteers, but this does not deter the amount of books that they have available.

Have you ever wanted to read some classical books such as, Descartes’ Discourse on Method or Plato’s Republic but you’ve found the task too daunting? Well now it has been made easy for you to read and appreciate these wonderful forms of literature without feeling bogged down with the time it will take.

Have you seen movies based on classic literature such as, Alice in Wonderland, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Troy and thought that you might want to read the books as well? Now you can with the convenience of LibriVox.

What are books in the public domain? They are books that were written awhile ago and their patent has expired. There’s nothing illegal here. Everything on LibriVox is free to download and use for whatever you want.

What sort of book does LibriVox offer in audio form? Classic books. LibriVox has authors ranging from Shakespeare to C. S. Lewis. From Plato to Immanuel Kant. There are even great puritan authors such as John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. The selections are endless and the list is growing as more people volunteer.

What types of audio files do they have? LibriVox offers three different files for download ranging from low to high quality, but the neatest little feature on LibriVox is that you can download the files as Podcasts for ITunes. The first advantage here is that you can download individual books faster with one click of the mouse and the files will store and line up chronologically as a podcast. Secondly, when you’re listening to them as a podcast you can stop at any point and the file will save where you are at until you come back. It’s like an audio bookmark. The mp3 downloads don’t allow you to do this.

What’s the catch? There is one disadvantage in that anyone can record for LibriVox. Half way through The Count of Monte Cristo some lady with a thick accent starts reading and it’s hard to understand. This shouldn’t deter you though. I can only encourage you to find those chapters and record them yourself to be submitted as a replacement.

If you’re anything like me, you’re busy. This could be the biggest obstacle in filling our lives with amazing classic literature. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Wether you’re driving, doing the dishes, or mowing the lawn, you can find time to fill your life with remarkable literature and maybe even give back your time to a worthy cause that won’t cost you a thing.

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