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Creative Commons Audiobooks 138

xanderwilson writes "The New York Times (2nd half of the article; free reg. required as always) writes, 'Project Gutenberg is well known for offering free electronic versions of famous public-domain texts. Now Telltale Weekly wants to be its audio-book equivalent.' Of interest to others in the Slashdot community: Ogg Vorbis and MP3 downloads, payment via Bitpass micropayments, and a cheap-now, free later (with a Creative Commons License) business model." (And if you buy the Ogg Vorbis versions, part of the money goes to
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Creative Commons Audiobooks

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  • what is Ogg Vorbis? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Face the Facts ( 770331 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:55AM (#8836539) Journal
    what the f&*^#$ is ogg? Some stupid linux invention?

    From their site []: "Ogg Vorbis is a completely open, patent-free, professional audio encoding and streaming technology with all the benefits of Open Source." In other words, it has better compression than mp3, and since it's open source, you don't have to pay licensing fees on players that decode Ogg like you would with mp3.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      And what idiot moderator modded this "informative"? he was responding to no-one at all. This is blatant karma-whoring.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What I don't get is why they didn't choose Ogg Speex [], a codec that is similarly Free, but aimed especially at voice recordings.

      • by xanderwilson ( 662093 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @10:03AM (#8837146) Homepage
        I considered this initially and I'm suprised that of all the feedback requests for other formats, this is the first time anyone has publicly or privately requested Speex.

        Mainly it's the lack of support for Speex (I know, I know. Something has to come first, the chicken or the egg.) in devices and software. But I figure the more popular Ogg Vorbis gets (and the more support gets) the more likely Speex will eventually become a complimentary standard. While Ogg Vorbis was designed for music, not voice, it's still a better alternative than MP3.

        For the "fundraising" part of this audiobook project, a third format Telltale might offer would most likely be AAC, based on user requests. But I do intend to eventually support Speex for free works.

        • by lingenfr ( 62184 )
          I also wondered about Speex. I signed up with Bitpass, but don't have enough bandwidth to download a book yet. I am wondering if they do music and soundeffects backgrounds to their reading. If so, some folks wouldn't like what Speex does to the music. I have used Speex to encode some talkradio. I am no expert and did not monkey with all of the settings, but there was a noticeable difference in voice quality (not that bothered me) but when music started playing in the background it was poor and broken.

    • by pavon ( 30274 )
      No one in this thread has really managed to explain why ogg vorbis is necisarry yet. As people have pointed out mp3 (and aac, wma, mp3pro etc) is patented and therefore in order to write an mp3 player or encoder you must pay licencing fees, which are normally charged for each player/encoder that you distribute.

      With open source software however, it is impossible to keep track of how many copies have been distributed because anyone is free to modify or redistribute the software. This pretty much makes it ill
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:55AM (#8836542)
    Time to look into getting 4Mbps internet and upgrade the 120G hard disk to make room for the War and Peace mp3.
    • Time to look into getting 4Mbps internet and upgrade the 120G hard disk to make room for the War and Peace mp3.

      Pff, real men download James Joyce's Ulysses.
    • fwiw, I recently put together a collection of readings [] of Lessig's new book, and I wanted to pick a standard audio file quality.

      I finally settled on 24kbit/s (at 11Khz, mono). And so, they should even stream over modems -- and an hour of audio comes out to only about 10 MB...

    • Re:Time to upgrade (Score:4, Informative)

      by clifyt ( 11768 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @10:35AM (#8837369)
      Ya know, when I signed up for, one of the first things I bought was War and Piece. It comes in 8 files -- the largest of which is 123 the simple calculation is that it should take around 1 Gig at the highest quality of recording. It also comes in:

      Fair (1 Hour of audio = 2MB): 20MB
      Medium / Good (1 Hour = 4 MB): 33MB
      Medium / Better (1 Hour = 7 MB): 61MB
      and as mentioned
      Excellent (1 Hour = 14MB): 123MB

      The Medium Better is good enough for most speech oriented listenings of this which would weigh in at half (for the math impared) a gig.

      Heck, you could listen to War and Peace on a solid state MP3 player and not have a problem at this resolution. 120Gig??? You are outta your gord. My several year old 5Gig iPod carries this easily (and its just as confusing remembering the characters in audio as it is in print -- then again, I'm not on the motorcycle shooting around at 90MPH weaving in around cars with the print version either).

      Don't ya hate it when folks ruin 'funny' rated threads with serious info :-P
  • I want to see them get public domain songs up there too... if the RIAA hasn't filed a motion against that -- are there even public domain songs anymore?
    • You may want to take a look at iRate []. Not all are necessarily public domain, but all are freely distributed by their authors.
    • ...are there even public domain songs anymore?

      I think a safe bet would be anything from WWI or earlier is public domain.

      I bet that song "Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal," is public domain. Just about any early ragtime piece would be, I think, like the Scott Joplin stuff. The song "The Entertainer," for instance, is copyright 1902, and stuff that old is certainly public domain, despite Disney's best efforts.
    • See the Mutopia project [] (Canadian server, American mirror [] from IBiblio). They provide public domain and BSD-style licensed musical scores in GNU LilyPond format, and have PDFs and MIDIs of the score rendered for download. Many classical music pieces are available there, and the PDFs make for nice printouts.

      It's not quite a song, as in a recording (any recordings from before the PD date probably haven't survived), but it's still public domain music.
  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:58AM (#8836555)
    Five years or 100,000 paid downloads whichever comes first... yes I can support that model. Why the heck can't the RIAA or MPAA get with it??? nah, they've got to keep milking the cash cow for as long as they possible can... why else is stuff like Pink Floyd or Led Zepp's back catalogue so expensive still some thirty years after first release???
    • why else is stuff like Pink Floyd or Led Zepp's back catalogue so expensive still some thirty years after first release???

      This is so in order for the mentioned artists not starving to death.
      • If copyright terms approximating the life of the author are necessary to prevent the author from starving to death, then what about the works of recording artists who have already passed away, often along with the songwriter? Why can't Elvis's recordings become free? What is the reasoning behind life plus 70 except as welfare for people who happen to be born heirs to an author?

    • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:25AM (#8836652) Journal
      Because that music is still better than 99.9999% of the music released in the thirty years prior. Thats sort of like asking why a 67 caddy is more expensive used today then when it was first sold.
      • "Thats sort of like asking why a 67 caddy is more expensive used today then when it was first sold."

        the supply of '67 Cadillacs is limited and numbers are falling... Pink Floyd music is limited to how many times they can keep cranking the presses to knock out perfect copies in fresh formats everytime there's a new playing medium available. ie it's currently out on 30th anniversary special edition in 5.1 surround sound with DVD extras... The music hasn't changed... but there are limits to how many times t

      • Its also due to the fact that its been filtered by the years.

        When folks talk about how great anything was X years ago, they conviently forget about all the shit that didn't make it. Its like houses, a good friend of mine always claims they don't make them like they use to and point of the great old houses available today -- duh...the bad shit fell down, burned down or was torn down.

        If you listen to any popular oldies station, they recycle the same play list over and over and over. Out of 1982, I can cou
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:58AM (#8836556)
    I fail to see how this is analogous to the Gutenburg Project. Firstly, the Gutenburg Project has free books, with a wealth of literature there for all.

    This project, is not free, thought it is cheap, but does it have the depth of literature behind it? Audiobooks are relatively new compared to normal books, is there such a great selection and wealth of information/literature out there to warrant a community project such as this?
    • by xanderwilson ( 662093 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:28AM (#8836660) Homepage
      The idea is to slowly and continually fund, stock, and build a free audio library. Recordings of classic texts, which is the heart of Telltale Weekly, will be offered freely after five years or a given number of sales. When free, these audiobooks can be freely distributed whereever and however, including at Project Gutenberg, if they are interested.

      Selling the work cheaply until then pays for current and future bandwidth, hosting, and recording costs--and attracts more talent to the project.

    • Hey I'm working on a project that also addresses this []
      Its starting slowly but been fun so far. Tell me what you think
  • Reg Free Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by BoldAC ( 735721 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:07AM (#8836591)
    Reg Free Link. Enjoy! []

  • Neato... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jin Wicked ( 317953 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:31AM (#8836672) Homepage Journal

    If I had the free time available, I would so love to "make" an audiobook reading an older public domain work or something... too bad I don't have anything in the way of good enough sound equipment for it.

    That would be a good way of making older or more obscure works of literature available to the blind or anyone who wants to enjoy them on the go, with volunteer readers narrating the texts. Of course they'd need to be screened for quality, but I think something like that would be feasible. The fees could pretty much be cheap enough to just cover the costs of bandwidth and hosting.

    • Re:Neato... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @09:44AM (#8837024) Homepage
      I know a thing or two about sound. I don't think that equipment is the big barrier - while audiophiles and sound engineers love to spend tens of thousands of dollars, the truth is that if you get a decent mic (about $100) for your PC, that will be plenty for spoken voice. Sure, it may not have perfect frequency reproduction and good noise rejection, but we're not recording a live band - just one person with no stray noise. You should also have a nice quiet room.

      Where the cost comes into it is in the editing. Most people probably have acceptable voices - if you just teach yourself to speak at a good rate without stuttering. However, NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY, can read a page of text without any errors. Those nice audiobooks that you buy probably had 5 takes for every paragraph. If somebody misreads a sentence they probably just pause and reread it. Then the editor has to listen to the whole thing and splice out the errors. That takes TIME! Plus they probaby do multiple recordings of passages as necessary to get the right dramatic effect.

      Then of course somebody has to "proofread" the final work for accuracy.

      It is just like filiming movies - a nice digital camera is probably all you need to make a feature film, in theory (that and the sound equipment). However, the reality is that you need to film each scene from 14 angles 24 times and pick the very best clips for the show. That is what makes filming expensive.

      I don't think that you'll ever see a completely free Gutenberg-like project for audiobooks - at least not until voice synthesizers sound just like people. Gutenberg works because of OCR and the ease of distributed proofreading.

      Maybe the first step would be a distributed editing approach for audiobooks. If you could get somebody to do the initial reading, the editing could potentially be distributed. Granted, forget a simple web-browser interface - we'll need client-server at the least (potentially a Java applet might work), and lots of bandwidth. Still something worth thinking about though...
      • Re:Neato... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by xanderwilson ( 662093 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @10:13AM (#8837221) Homepage
        Where the cost comes into it is in the editing.

        Ah, somebody understands....

        Still something worth thinking about though...

        At some point later this year I'd like to start a steering/planning discussion (forum or list, likely) about the direction Telltale will take to become more community-led. I'm fairly certain that by the end of the year, this project will be limited by what I'm doing with it, rather than encouraged by my work. If this is something that interests you, I hope you'll send me a note or join the newsletter.


    • too bad I don't have anything in the way of good enough sound equipment for it.

      File size is important. Super high fidelity CD quality is not required or even wanted. It makes the files too big.

      Voice is defined by the telephone company as 300 HZ to 3KHZ, not 20 HZ to 20 KHZ usualy mentioned for high fideliety music.

      A computer with a sound card and a headset with MONO boom mike provide excelent results. If you are running Windows, then the free utility CDEX used for ripping CD's to MP3 has a record fu
  • Not that cheap (Score:4, Informative)

    by twoshortplanks ( 124523 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:37AM (#8836693) Homepage
    I love the idea. This could be really big. However, it's not actually that cheap. Auduble offer two books a month for 40usd. Picking two books off the front page (Cold mountain, 14h 21m, Dude Where's My Country, 6h 57m) that's 3.12 cents a minute.

    From Telltale A Modest Proposal Swift, 18m 21s) costs 75 cents. That's 4.15cents a minute.

    Of course, you don't have the DRM crap you get with audible, or the subscription stuff, and you get it in plain mp3s (or OGGs!), and you can give it to your blind neighbour for free, and eventually they'll set the file free for anyone...but for *now*, it's still not the cheapest thing on the block.

    (Someone please check my maths)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:42AM (#8836710)
    Try They have been covered on /. before and they allow you to download .mp3 files (of somewhat crappy quality) for free. Or if you want audio quality then you can take out your wallet. They also have hundreds of titles available. It's the only way to survive on the graveyard shift.
  • great idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rnd() ( 118781 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:51AM (#8836743) Homepage
    This is a great idea. Maybe we'd even see more technical books available as audiobooks (think the Dover maths texts, for example).

    Audiobooks have completely changed my reading habits over the past few years. I now read several books each week, during exercise, driving here and there, etc.

    The trouble would be to find talented readers (as a previous post pointed out), but if it required a minimal download fee to hire good readers (or let them quit their day job), I'd certainly support that.

    I currently pay $50/month for a membership at Talking Book World, which has a lot of titles, though their selection is fairly light on nonfiction and technical subjects.
    • What early (pre-1923) math/technical texts do you think would be most accessible in audiobook format? The math texts at the Dover site either list no dates or list dates that are after 1923 (and are not currently copyright-free). Book requests are most welcome.

      Works currently under copyright, but released under a CCL (most often a noncommercial one) would likely have to be produced and hosted competely free of charge from the start, which will be possible down the road, but probably not now, especially for
      • I think most of the Dover stuff is in the public domain...

        I know that it would be tough for a reader to articulate all of the notation properly, but someone who knew the material well enough would, I believe, have a good shot.
  • It's the best-selling book in history and many familiar translations are already in the Public Domain. I imagine there's some commentary that's in the public domain too. There will always be people who want to pay to listen to it. And once it becomes freely available on this site, I'm sure there are lots of religious organizations that can make use of it.

    I see they have one track from the Bible up right now. I wouldn't be suprised if that was their best seller (at least, before /. linked to them!)

    • Already available (Score:5, Informative)

      by doublem ( 118724 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @09:22AM (#8836881) Homepage Journal
      The Bible is already on the web for free in MP3 format. []

      In several languages:

      The World English Bible narrated by David Williams Old and New Testaments

      The King James Bible narrated by Stephen Johnston Old and New Testaments

      La Biblia Reina Valera narrated by Juan Alberto Ovalle Nuevo Testamento y Salmos

      The King James Bible narrated by ASI New Testament

      The Mandarin Bible narrated by ASI Old and New Testaments

      Cantonese NT narrated by ASI

      Scripture Selections KJV and WEB Encoded for email

      Urdu New Testament narrated by ASI

      Hindi New Testament narrated by ASI

      Tagalog New Testament narrated by ASI

      Slovak New Testament narrated by ASI

      Polish Bible narrated selections

      The Gospels and Psalms in Arabic

      Worship Songs in mp3

      Hebrew Old Testament narrated by ASI

      Punjabi New Testament

      Bengali New Testament

      Free Christian AudioBooks

      Tamil New Testament

      God's Powerful Saviour
  • More Free AudioBooks (Score:3, Informative)

    by wehe ( 135130 ) <<wehe> <at> <>> on Monday April 12, 2004 @09:30AM (#8836931) Homepage Journal
    Here is a (yet small) collection of links to Free AudioBooks and eBooks [].

    BTW: Linux on laptops for blind people [].
  • by Call Me Black Cloud ( 616282 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @10:18AM (#8837259)
    I listen to audiobooks only when I commute. I don't listen to them when I'm working at my computer, and I don't listen to them at home for recreation. If I was to use this service I would have to burn the books to a cd (since I don't own an MP3 player), and I would have to pay for the content and the CDs.

    That's not a good deal for me, since I'm already paying for audiobooks through my taxes. My county library system has a very large collection of audiobooks (cassette and CD). If my local branch lacks one I want I just request it through the web interface and in a few days I can pick it up right down the street. In the US the situation is probably similar for most people.

    This assumes that Telltale Weekly will expand beyond its current catalog of 23 titles of course...
    • The comment is justified, and well taken, except that there are a fair number of people who do listen to audiobooks for recreation. I realized this recently when I had to have some fairly involved surgery on my right eye, which left me bored stiff while I recovered. My fiancee was wonderful enough to bring me a stack of books on tape, and it seriously got me through the rough 2 weeks when I could do little else. Browsing through some of the support groups for eye conditions, you'll probably find a pretty la
  • Natural Voices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by garyok ( 218493 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @10:38AM (#8837394)
    I wonder how hard it'd be to write a litte app that'd take books a sentence at a time and stick them through AT&T's Natural Voices demo. Mash up all the MP3s at the end and, hey presto, free audiobooks.

    As long as the author isn't inconsiderate enough to write sentence longer than 30 words...

    But, before this egregarious misapplication of provisionally available proprietary technology commences, does anyone know what good, free (as in speech and beer) text-to-voice tools are available?
    • Well, festival works under Linux and ReadPlease does exactly what you want under Windows, but the sound of a computer talking at you for hours on end is NOT pleasant..

      I don't know how blind computer users can stand it..

    • Re:Natural Voices (Score:3, Informative)

      by MenTaLguY ( 5483 )
      Festival [] is at least tolerably good; it's under an X11-style license. It's admittedly not as nice as AT&T's thing though.
      • I agree with the poster - I tried listening to the Tale of Two Cities through Festival - it's pretty hard to listen to for more than 10 minutes. Ideally I would read it to myself, but then.... :-)
    • Re:Natural Voices (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Create your own voice with FestVox. There are some really good free limited domain voices out there.
  • yaknow, i'm thinking i could:
    - take some of my best short stories,
    - get my wife who worked in radio to record them,
    - post the MP3s,
    - encourage editors to listen on the subway ride.

    Maybe that way i could get a book deal.
  • Although multimedia has enhanced the way we experience various contents, words by themselves (at least in good writing) are really the highest level of abstraction of human thought, the result of intense focus and mental effort. It allows speed reading, skimming, or slow reflection. These are the things that I can only do with text and not with other multimedia. So whether people come up with audio/video or whatever new multimedia libraries, the e-text libraries like Guttenburg would always have a specia
  • by LetterJ ( 3524 ) <> on Monday April 12, 2004 @11:51AM (#8838021) Homepage
    I currently listen to quite a few audiobooks, but supplement it with audio of classic radio, Supreme Court arguments, etc.

    Most of the oral arguments to the most important Supreme Court cases are available as MP3's from [].

    Thousands of old radio programs, including mysteries, comedies, political/historical audio, etc. are available for a small flat monthly fee ($7.50/month) at [].

    I've found it really interesting to be able to listen to *primary* sources for a lot of the cultural history of the United States. Think you understand Brown v. the Board of Education? Listen to the arguments and you'll see how much is missing from your high school telling of the story. It tends to be a bit more meat for listening when compared to the candy that many modern audiobooks provide.

  • by davekebab ( 613420 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:11PM (#8838961)
    There are plenty of streaming books and plays on the BBC radio site.
    The current Book at Bedtime [] (GMT and not streaming live) is Jane Eyre and there are Plays, Short Stories and Soaps [] too. Contemporary and classic.

    All content is free -- paid for by the British taxpayer :)


  • I've been toying with the idea of doing some audiobook reading: for the people in here that do it for a living (for example) or that know somebody who does: how did you start? how does it work?

    I have also been thinking about doing it for free (after all, I'm sure there must be charities somewhere that need books/magazines/newspapers readers for people that can't read for a reason or another) but google was not very helpful, does anybody have any ideas about where to look?
    • Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic [], which is one of the groups Telltale Weekly supports, can always use volunteers. Call 1-800-803-7201 to find a studio near you. There are also usually services for the print-disabled that are local. Look in your yellow pages.

      I'll be putting up some recording tips (& recommended equipment) shortly for producers/performers who want to be involved at Telltale. Up to this point, participants in the project have had their own home studios (from a simple four-track an

      • thanks for the reply, I am in Canada so it's unlikely they'd have recording studios here: the Canadian association for the blind does have studios but only in Eastern Canada it seems...
  • I'm there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scottennis ( 225462 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @03:03PM (#8840124) Homepage
    I wrote a short story for my son and recorded it at a local studio.

    After hearing about TellTale Weekly on NPR I decided to see if they'd post my story.

    They did.

    They set the price to cover bandwidth costs and still give me some pocket change. It's a 20 page story which reads in just under 30 minutes. The price was set at $1.50.

    I think that the biggest detractor for this medium is that most people don't realize how long it takes to read things out loud.

    I read books on tape for the blind through Minnesota State Services for the blind. Even a book which is written with the intent to be read aloud takes more time than just reading through it to yourself.

    Anyway, just thought I'd throw in a shameless plug for my story, with hopefully some insights into the whole process.

    It's called Ah Sunflower
  • Project Gutenberg already has a section devoted to audio ebooks [], but I have to say I'm all for this Telltale Weekly. All of the PG Audio Books I've listened too have been text-to-speech computer generated audio, and have been rather difficult to understand. As long as Telltale Weekly actually has human readers recording, they will be better than what PG currently has. I do hope that Telltale Weekly submits their audio ebooks to be included in PG.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak