Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Audio Books



Thanks to my lovely work computer (which puts out radio static you wouldn't believe), I can't listen to the radio at work. So I have to rely on my music CDs or audiobook CDs and mp3s. I much prefer the latter. I don't like to listen to music when I'm doing something else; either it's too interesting to be background or too background to keep me interested. Also, there's only so many times you can listen to the same song without getting sick of it. (Which is why commercial radio is the most boring thing on Earth, especially now that the stations' repertoires are so small.) So it's audiobooks for me.



If your workplace has a liberal internet policy and a fast pipeline, then the online version of BBC7 is definitely the place to be. They read stories to you, as well as broadcasting classic comedy shows. But alas, I'm out of luck there. So the library is my friend. Library versions of audiobooks are nearly always unabridged. Also, you've already paid taxes for them, so if you don't use the library, you're wasting your own money. But what if the library isn't quite enough?



My next recommendation used to be "mp3.com", but that's gone. (For all practical purposes.) So here's a few good deals.



Audiobooksforfree.com has hundreds of public domain books available for free download and read by human beings. The catch is that the free version is only 8k, which means it sounds like somebody reading a book behind an electric fan in the summertime. But...it is read by human beings with English accents, and the books are really good ones. Naturally, they would like you to pay money and get the better versions...and I admit to being tempted. I've spent more than a hundred bucks at a bookstore in my time, and I certainly didn't get hundreds of audiobook files on DVD for it.



Christian Classics Ethereal Library has an mp3 section. Ruth Lomas does not have an English accent, and you do get to hear her turning the pages. But all in all, I very much enjoyed her reading of Chesterton's story "The Trees of Pride". If you ever wanted to read Anna Karenina or the Fioretti, you can download it here!



Radio Gutenberg is the audio download page for Project Gutenberg. They now have audio versions of all the Gutenberg texts of Doyle, Conrad, Dickens, Twain, Wells, Verne, London, Eliot, Defoe, Melville, Hardy, Burroughs, and Wharton, and single audio files by many other authors. This is a great resource for long car trips and the like. The Gutenberg audio archives also include American folksongs performed by Roger McGuinn and old jazz, opera, and classical recordings of public domain pieces, as well as early gramophone records teaching Spanish and typing. This is great stuff.



Wil McCarthy put out his 2003 book The Wellstone in audiobook format for free download. Problem is, it's not read by a real human being but a voice synthesizer. Even a good voice synthesizer is just that. However, I'll admit to having been driven by desperation in the past to use the accessibility software on my work computer to read a text file through my headphones while I performed some mindnumbingly boring task, and it's definitely better than nothing. I applaud Mr. McCarthy's act of kindness.



This should keep me busy for a while, and maybe even teach me something. Better than mindnumbing boredom any day.

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