Thursday, November 27, 2014

LibriVox: Free audiobooks for my classes

One of the most exciting discoveries I made when working on the UnTextbook in summer 2014 was the amazing range of relevant full-text, public domain audiobooks at LibriVox! I'm someone who listens to a lot of audiobooks (I do almost all my reading for pleasure with audiobooks), so I'm excited to have audiobooks to share with my students.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION. There are audiobooks available for 36 units in the UnTextbook: Reading Units with Audio. LibriVox offers a variety of download options for people who want to listen offline, and I have linked to their online audio player story-by-story for each page in the reading units with audio, as you can see here: Why the Lizard Moves His Head Up and Down.

DETAILS.

As the LibriVox motto proclaims, this amazing community of volunteer readers is dedicated to the "acoustical liberation of books in the public domain." The recordings are not just CC-licensed; even better: the recordings themselves are in the public domain, just as the texts are.

For my purposes, the best LibriVox recordings are the ones that match up nicely with the specific contents that I have included, as in the Lizard story. Sometimes, the LibriVox audio files do not stop/start at the same places where I have excerpted the content for the UnTextbook, but even in those cases the audio can be useful, especially for people who are dedicated audio listeners.

During the first semester of using the UnTextbook in Fall 2014, there was a small but very dedicated group of students who used the audio, and several of them remarked that it was a determining factor for them in choosing their reading unit each week.

For the Spring 2015 semester, I want to do a better job with the audio: (1) I want to find ways to encourage students who have never used audiobooks to give it a try, possibly with some Tech Tips that encourage them to try out the different audio options and also compare just listening to listening while reading the text, and (2) I want to promote LibriVox books by including a recommended book every day in the class announcements, just as I currently include a free Kindle ebook every day; to do this, I've started to systematically review the LibriVox holdings, bookmarking possible items to feature with Diigo. I've also subscribed to the LibriVox RSS feed for new releases so that I can keep up with new items too, along with new releases at Project Gutenberg; here is the Inoreader HTML clippings view for those new public domain ebooks.

My main focus in Summer 2015 will be redesigning my Indian Epics materials while I work on the UnTextbook, so I am especially interested in Indian materials I can find at LibriVox.

HISTORY. I had known about LibriVox for years, but I had not realized how large their collection has grown! I had already completed a significant part of my UnTextbook in summer 2014 when I discovered how many books I could use at LibriVox. So, I refocused my project to take advantage of as many audiobooks as I could, and when I start expanding the UnTextbook in summer 2015, I will be using LibriVox as a key factor in deciding what new material to include. I've starting building a Diigo list of possible UnTextbook LibriVox materials so that I'll be able to hit the ground running when summer 2015 arrives!

GOALS. Here are my goals in sharing audiobooks with my students:
  • To support students who enjoy listening to the reading material, either just by listening or by listening while they also read the accompanying text.
  • To make students aware of the free audiobooks available at LibriVox, both books relevant to our class along with other books that might be of interest.
GENERAL THOUGHTS

I love audiobooks, and I love the public domain, so of course I think LibriVox is an amazing project. They have such a great community of readers, and there are new books coming online all the time. One of the problems with the site, though, is that it is not all that easy to discover things; I hope I can eventually build up a kind of "online library" of mythology and folklore materials that will help people in general access these wonderful LibriVox materials, in addition to promoting this content with my students.

A personal note about audiobooks: I've been listening to audiobooks since the early 1970s when I was just a little kid. My grandmother was blind, and she shared reel-to-reel tapes with me so that I could listen to books while I played with my toys. So, some of my happiest memories are of playing with Legos or Spirograph while listening to books on tape! Many of the same books I loved then are available now at LibriVox, like Alice in Wonderland or Andrew Lang's fairy books. In high school and college, I didn't listen to books on tape so much, but I fell in love with Audible.com back in the year 2000, and I've been a loyal subscriber all along. Commercial audiobooks can be quite expensive, though, so I am thrilled that LibriVox provides people with the opportunity to enjoy thousands of free audiobooks online!


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