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Free public domain audiobooks (librivox.org)
370 points by agmm on Nov 29, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments

I have been working on remastering some audiobooks from there, once I got more books done, I will have a proper section for people to download them for free from my website (direct links from the listing, no bs).

Remastering as in removing background noise, EQing, compression and normalization of audio levels and reducing the librivox intro to the start of the audiobook only, rather than annoying people every chapter.

Are you able to submit them back so it's easier for users to find your work?

You should publish how you do it to help others.

The community has the manpower but now always the knowledge

I'm grateful that you're willing to do so much work for free. Kudos!

Thank you, that's desperately needed.

For a technical audience, I would look at some TTS (text to speech) programs especially by google and IBM.

It's definitely robotic and nothing like a nice narrator but audiobooks are amazing regardless. And your mind actually starts filling in the emotional blanks. It can also be really cool to use like internet archive's scanned book's OCR -> TTS and make an audiobook from a cool old book that would never be professionally narrated

And for anyone who listens to a lot of audio, I'd look into using an audio equalizer. Pulling down the high frequencies (especially for some woman narrators) makes it more comfortable after many hours of listening. On android the "Smart audiobook" app has this and it's really nice. Maybe some headphones/android phones can do this globally

> And your mind actually starts filling in the emotional blanks.

I've listened to numerous books (mostly but not exclusively fiction) using TTS and I'd like to confirm this experience. It's kind of remarkable, once I became accustomed to the sound of the TTS program the weirdness just sort of evaporated and I was left with an experience that feels very similar to reading visually.

iPhone users can enable Spoken Content.

Open an ebook. Swipe down with two fingers. Instant audio book.

Also, you can select the Voices option (under Spoken Content) to download high quality Siri voices.

Thank you for the suggestion. I had been using Voice Over which is a very similar feature but not quite as good for reading ebooks and the like.

Voice Dream Reader is also very good on the iPhone. It can use any of the apple voices (download high quality versions in accessibility settings), and has other voices available. It can OCR pdf files that are otherwise inaccessible. It also makes a great audio book player.

i am unable to do this on my iPhone do i need to enable it in the settings.

More to the point, I’ve had trouble using Siri to speak in certain titles in iBooks on iOS. It would drop words or entire sentences or paragraphs. It was unusable for those titles. Not sure if it was bad OCR on the source file or what. I haven’t tried it on titles purchased from Apple, so I can’t speak to that.

I've been playing around with the IBM TTS for audiozing research papers. I think that research should be more accessible and I think that the audioform is the way forward.

The comprehension of powerful ideas should be easy, effortless and intuitive. Listening to content has the double benefit of ensuring that talking about complex subjects is all the more familiar. If you've been introduced to a topic through speech, talking about it is all the more natural.

Thanks for promoting TTS. I’ve listened to many books, fiction and non-, on Android using Google TTS and it felt like half-baked masa cakes; good enough to eat, but even better once fully cooked. One of the ebook readers I used (available on F-Droid, included pitch change) allowed for custom spellings of strings, though “sat” being read as “Saturday”, and “Dr” as “drive”, were difficult to fix so I relied on context. On iOS I’m happy to learn about Speech Options from a child comment.

I've listened to enough TTS for non-fiction that it doesn't really bother me. In fact, I sometimes prefer the TTS over a low-quality narrator. TTS for fiction less so.

my problem with non-fiction TTS (or at least the non-fiction I read) is it often involves diagrams or figures and that really doesn't work with TTS, sadly. But histories are nice

In my experience, it works pretty well nonfiction that has a narrative structure, like histories, but doesn't work as well for more technical books, like those about programming languages.

Amazon echoes can read Kindle books using TTS. It's not completely horrible.

highly recommend @Voice Aloud Reader (TTS Reader) on Android too

I am very thankful for librivox. I have listened to "Heretics", "Orthodoxy", and "Against Eugenics and Other Evils" by G.K. Chesterton. I've also listened to some works of St. Patrick read by librivox contributors, quality has been very high (exceptional when you consider that it was all for free).

I’m reading heretics currently! Curious why you listened to Against Eugenics and Other Evils as opposed to Everlasting Man? Seems like Heretics and Orthodoxy and Everlasting Man are the three works that people read most often by Chesterton.

It's on the list, but when I was deciding which to listen to next I was interacting with some eugenicists online and felt like it would be interesting to hear Chesterton's point of view.

Sounds great. I am reading through C.S. Lewis currently. Chesterton might be next.

Past related threads:

LibriVox: Free Public Domain Audiobooks - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23558686 - June 2020 (81 comments)

Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22104143 - Jan 2020 (84 comments)

LibriVox: free public domain audiobooks - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11141452 - Feb 2016 (37 comments)

LibriVox hits 100 Million downloads, looking for a PHP Dev - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3808080 - April 2012 (9 comments)

Thank you kindly.

As a learner of French, I absolutely love Librivox. Science fiction (Jules Verne), fairy tales (Charles Perrault), poetry (Charles Baudelaire), novels (Victor Hugo) -- there is so much really good source material in French. However, as one would expect from a free/public domain resource, classics over 100 years old are well covered... But for anything newer, you'll probably need Audible*...

*edit: Or check out audiobooks from your local library!

I listened to Treasure Island[0] on librivox and was impressed with the quality of the voice actor (Adrian Praetzellis). Beware though, some books are fragmented and performed by N different voice actors/actresses which can be jarring.

[0] https://librivox.org/treasure-island-by-robert-louis-stevens...

Another excellent narrator with a British accent is Karen Savage. She has read many complete works by Jane Austen and E. Nesbit, among other titles, and is as good as any professional voice actor:

  - 'Pride and Prejudice' (Austen)
  - 'Sense and Sensibility' (Austen)
  - 'The Story of the Treasure Seekers' (Nesbit)
  - 'The Railway Children' (Nesbit)
  - many others (says 141 total matches)

Direct link listing her books on librivox:


You can tell she's good because her books are copied and sold on Audible.

wow, that's an incredible amount of work

HN lurker for years, created an account just to say how much I love the librivox recordings by Adrian Praetzellis. His "Wind in the Willows" is just wonderful.

If anyone has a few free cycles & wants to help, the project is on Github & there are plenty of open tickets.


It's been a while since I've listened to something on librivox. When I did, it was hit or miss in terms of narrator quality (as you'd expect from a volunteer-led initiative). If you have access to something like Overdrive or Libby through your public library, I'd check there first. You'll probably be more satisfied with a professionally recorded audiobook.

This is a great resource for classical works, but to me, it emphasizes what a damn shame it is that copyright terms are so long. In my mind, a copyright term of, say, 25 years is reasonable, and more than long enough to compensate authors for their work. Imagine if we had free access to works written in the 80s and 90s, rather than the 1800s.

I agree that this project emphasizes the unfortunate state of copyright. The last Civil War veteran died in the 1950s. Imagine he had written a memoir of his war experiences. If the United States had always had its current copyright laws, that book would only now be entering the public domain. Billie Eilish's music might not be public domain until 2150. There's no justification for such long copyrights. Artists aren't making art so their estates will make money fifty years after they're dead.

A german resource is: https://vorleser.net Anyone who is interested in merging a set of mp3 files to a single m4b file or use a single mp3 file with chapters, check out https://github.com/sandreas/m4b-tool (Author here)

Who wants to hear Edward Kemper (the serial killer, a tall, imposing “co-Ed killer”, who was also well read) recite audiobooks? Anyone heard his Star Wars reading before? He’s absent from this library.


Can anyone recommend a microphone / audio setup for recording audio books? I'd like to record some and I want to avoid the quality problems some Librivox recordings have.

Actually, more important: is there an app that makes recording audio books easier? Like, can I record in one shot, and mark places I want to cut out so I can just re-speak one passage, and later on it'll automatically be cut together like I want? I could probably jury-rig some keyboard-based app to do it...

I did some podcasts using a Blue Yeti and it sounded great as long as the knobs and switches on the mic were properly configured. Afterwards I used Audacity for noise removal, some EQ for things like bass roll-off, and TAP Scaling Limiter for adjusting levels. It was helpful to compare to other podcasts on the same speakers or headphones. Doing the same today I would probably give Ocenaudio a shot, as I like it so far. Good luck.

Edit: Yes, apps that allow you to mark and quickly edit are common.

Youtube is likely full of advice on this topic. With live examples.

Only on youtube, you have to watch everything through a filter of "who is an expert sharing their knowledge" and "who is trying to sell me this thing".

I've been working on something similar to this specifically for crowd-sourcing readings of the Bible available here: https://thereadbible.com/

It's super MVP and currently uses youtube for the recordings, but it works and is entirely hosted on GitHub Pages (including user-submitted data that runs through a github action).

This is a really cool project!

I've downloaded these audiobooks for my grandad (in german). He really enjoyed listening to the stories. Thanks to all the volunteers for their hard work !

The the text to speech market is so suppressed. I've seen some amazing demos but nothing that comes out and open source or consumer markets outside of Amazon and other big players.

For text-to-speech services such as Google or Amazon it costs more (end user perspective) to process audiobooks from eBooks. Compared to buy the audiobook through a subscription service.

Deep fakes audio sounds better than most text to speech models that are freely available.

reminds me of an episode of planet money where they read a whole book that just entered public domain: https://www.npr.org/2021/01/14/956800308/the-great-gatsby

Nate DiMeo recorded it for The Memory Palace too: https://beta.prx.org/stories/380337

Not really related to this site but I have been dying for a version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide books different than the ones on Audible. All the books other than the first one are read by someone who gives Zaphod a New Yorker style accent which totally kills the character, and thus the books, for me.

This was a fun listen - Around the World in Seventy-Two Days by Nellie Bly https://librivox.org/around-the-world-in-seventy-two-days-by...

I love this, but the problem is discoverability. Not sure how I would find my next book on here.

Any Android app recommendations that let me access LibriVox contents?

You can grab the RSS feed from LibriVox and put it into most podcast apps.

I'm on iOS and really enjoy using Overcast.

Archive.org has a pretty easy interface. I prefer it over the Android apps I've tried, because I can easily move to desktop using synced browser data, or send books to other devices. Example:


The mobile site is actually half-decent. You can download the MP3s and listen to them in something like VLC as well.

Eventually TTS technology will automate all public domain books so they can be listened through audio.

In any voice you want.

This kind of work is a great candidate for a multilingual text<>speech dataset

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