Friday, November 28, 2014

LibriVox: Acoustical Liberation and the Public Domain

Since my last post here was about the sad saga of Janux and my school's investment in closed educational resources instead of open, I wanted to post something here about one of my favorite open resources online: LibriVox audiobooks. I just added a new post over at Anatomy of an Online course how I am using LibriVox in my UnTextbook, and now I want to make some more general observations about LibriVox and the power of open educational resources. (And since that open education ecosystem is important for building connected courses in the open, I'll tag this for #ccourses too!)

But first, some background about LibriVox. Let's start with their wonderful motto: Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain. As you can see, they are part of the open education ecosystem where one good thing naturally leads to another. There are, thank goodness, literally millions of books in the public domain which have been digitized in various ways by various organizations and made freely available online. Then, find generous and enthusiastic volunteers who are eager to read those books aloud and share their recordings with others — that is how LibriVox works. People from all over the world, recording public domain materials in various languages and then sharing those recordings online. If you have never visited the LibriVox website, I think you will be amazed at what you find there:

Best of all, those LibriVox recordings are also in the public domain, which means that people can take these audio recordings and in turn create other great things: one good thing leads to another... and that then leads to yet more good things in the open education ecosystem. You will find lots of LibriVox audio at YouTube, for example, where people have synched up the audio with a video presentation of the text. Take a look at the CCProse channel, for example, and their presentation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Pretty nifty, yes?

If you are curious about how LibriVox works, check out their informative About LibriVox page, which provides a great overview (see screenshot below) with abundant links to additional information. What is really exciting is that they are creating enormous quantities of material; if you subscribe to the RSS feed for new releases, you will see new projects being completed all the time. 

Meanwhile, since I was just writing about the millions of dollars being poured into the apparently dead-end Janux project at my school, consider LibriVox's expenses: the great folks at Internet Archive host their audiofiles for free, so their operating expenses are incredibly low. And I mean incredibly low — "In early 2010 we ran a fund-raising drive to raise $20,000 for our expenses for the next few years. In July 2013 we launched a new fund-raising drive with the goal of raising $50,000 for short and long term expenses." I cannot imagine a more stark contrast with the multimillion-dollar boondoggle that is Janux.

So, if you are the kind of person who makes charitable donations, especially around this time of year, please think about supporting the Internet Archive and also LibriVox. By supporting Internet Archive, you are supporting LibriVox, and you can even specifically request that your Internet Archive go to LibriVox support. For more information, see the LibriVox Donate page. I just donated: it feels good! :-)

Long live the acoustical liberation!

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