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founding August 2005
founder Hugh McGuire
Seat Worldwide (based in the USA)
motto "... to make all public domain books available, for free, in audio format on the Internet"
main emphasis 5,047 audiobooks in the public domain (July 2012)
method 60-145 new audio books per month (2009)
Action space Worldwide
Volunteers 3,183 lecturing volunteers (January 2010)
Members 20,243 registered forum users (January 2010)

LibriVox is a digital library with public domain audio books , mostly in English. The content can be accessed free of charge on the Internet . There are currently over 14,000 texts.

Audiobooks in English make up approximately 85% of the supply, but works in over 41 other languages ​​are available.


In August 2005, Montreal-based Hugh McGuire founded LibriVox when he started a blog asking: "Can the net harness a bunch of volunteers to help bring books in the public domain to life through podcasting ?" of volunteers to bring public domain books to podcasting?).

The responses showed enough interest that the first LibriVox recording in MP3 format was completed within a month, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent . The individual chapters were read by McGuire and eleven volunteers who were interested in the blog for this project.

In October LibriVox got its own URL (, and McGuire set up an internet forum there. The number of volunteers and audio books steadily increased. At the end of the first year there were over 30 books available for download on the website.

At the end of 2006, the website was bringing out over 30 audio books per month. Reports of the project on the Internet and in the press resulted in the number of volunteers increasing to hundreds.

By the end of 2008, LibriVox had 2,000 books and short texts in circulation, with the participation of 2,400 volunteer readers. LibriVox distributed an additional 1,018 books by the end of 2009, which meant a stock of 3,018 books and shorter texts read by over 3,100 volunteers around the world.

The structure of LibriVox has changed little over time. The technology of the website is continuously being refined by the volunteers who have knowledge of web design. The project is constantly improving thanks to suggestions and tips from volunteers and users. B. the inclusion of books, the catalog and the individual catalog pages.


LibriVox is an open source project run by volunteers , which belongs to the area of free content and public domain . It is not operated by a legal entity and has no budget, as the Internet Archive provides the servers and each volunteer provides its services free of charge. The recording of texts is directed by an Internet forum , supported by a team of administrators, which also maintains the catalog with complete and emerging audio books.

The basis can only be a work that is in the public domain according to US copyright law. Volunteers choose whether they want to start a new project alone (solo project) or encourage other readers to do so (group project); or they participate in existing group projects of other people. These group projects are managed by a book coordinator (BC). Each project is supervised by a meta coordinator (MC), which among other things transfers the finished recording to the server and catalogs it. After the volunteer has recorded a chapter, for example with a PC, a microphone and the free audio editor and recorder Audacity , he uploads it to the website. Another volunteer hears the recording correction and, if necessary, points out any deficiencies that need to be corrected.

Finished audio books can be found in the catalog or under New Releases on the LibriVox website. The Internet Archive stores the MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files . Recordings can also be downloaded from other locations, e.g. B. on iTunes . Because these are audiobooks in the public domain, they are also available independently of LibriVox on the Internet or e.g. B. distributed as CD.

Some administrators and a number of volunteers speak German, there are instructions and discussions in German. Therefore, you don't have to speak English to participate.


LibriVox only records texts that are in the public domain in the USA . The readers completely waive the copyright for all LibriVox audio books , so that these recordings are in the public domain. The stated goal of LibriVox is: "... to make all public domain books available, for free, in audio format on the Internet."

LibriVox has a large number of works on offer. These include prose, poetry, dramas, and non-fiction. Using the detailed search function, the catalog enables audio books to be found by specific languages, subject areas, authors or readers. In January 2010, Thomas Hardy's novel The Return of the Native topped the list of most downloaded audiobooks.

The range of German audio books (192 books and smaller texts in January 2010) ranges from translations by Greek and Latin authors to Weimar Classics and texts that have recently become public domain.

Due to copyright protection, there is only a limited number of current texts, e.g. B. the 9/11 Commission Report .

As of January 2010, the catalog contained approximately 54 percent prose, 2 percent dramas, 29 percent non-fiction, and 15 percent poetry.

About 85 percent of the recordings are in English, complete works are available in 27 languages ​​(January 2010). After English, most of the recordings are in German, Chinese and French. Audiobooks are also available in languages ​​such as Urdu and Tagalog.

Use in Germany

Fate puts happiness in your hand , Wilhelm Raabe

The audio books are on servers in the USA. Therefore, the copyright of the USA applies to LibriVox, which is generally based on the year of publication of a work. In Germany and the EU, copyright protection ends 70 years after the author's death. This can mean that a book is in the public domain in the USA, while it is still subject to copyright protection in Germany and the EU. A user of LibriVox in Germany must check whether the author and other authors of a book, such as B. the translator, died 70 years ago. The period of 70 years begins at the end of the calendar year in which the event decisive for the beginning of the period occurred (Section 69 of the Copyright Act). E.g. died B. the author in 1939, his works are in the public domain from January 1st, 2010.


LibriVox has received significant attention, particularly from those promoting and promoting volunteer content and alternative practices regarding intellectual property on the Internet.

The project receives support from the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg . Mike Linksvayer, Vice President of Creative Commons , described it as "perhaps the most interesting collaborative culture project this side of Wikipedia " ( perhaps the most interesting collaborative cultural project this side of Wikipedia).

Worldwide media reported on LibriVox, including BBC's Click , MSNBC's The Today Show , Wired, the US PC magazine and the UK newspapers Metro and Sunday Times.

Many Librivox audiobooks have also been uploaded to Youtube, which is not without its problems, because in this way profit is made by placing advertisements from voluntary work.


In the LibriVox web forums, those involved and users express suggestions for improvement and criticism. The rule that all recordings are accepted as long as they reproduce the respective text faithfully and understandably is often discussed. Some listeners complain about unsatisfactory recording quality, deficits in linguistic expression, background noise, pronunciation that is difficult to understand or recordings by non-native speakers.

The LibriVox administrators counter that in a volunteer project, the technical equipment and the talent of the readers naturally differ from each other and do not always correspond to the level of a commercial audio book. This can also be found when reading aloud privately at home.

Web links

Commons : LibriVox  - collection of images, videos and audio files
LibriVox website
LibriVox tools

References and comments

  2. ", on the homepage. Accessed June 15, 2020.
  3. ^ Hugh McGuire: Clarity (blog entry) . February 12, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  4. About LibriVox . Retrieved January 16, 2010.
  5. ^ Mike Linksvayer: LibriVox: 1500 public domain audio books (blog entry) . July 2, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2009.