LibriVox is a volunteer project to make great books (specifically those out of copyright) available to everyone as free audiobooks. Launched in August 2005 by Hugh McGuire, a Montreal-based writer and engineer, LibriVox has become a vibrant community of people who are passionate about books, and about recording them to share with the world. In March alone, LibriVox added 70 new titles to its catalog. Building on Project Gutenberg and related projects such as Distributed Proofreaders, LibriVox has achieved critical mass and continues to build momentum.

In this week’s ITConversations podcast, Hugh McGuire discusses the origins of LibriVox, its organic growth, and its distinctive architecture of participation. Central to the philosophy of the project is the idea that readers come first. And in this case, that means the people who produce the audiobooks. For an average book-lover, who may have no prior experience with the technologies of digital audio or with the art of reading books aloud, it’s no small challenge to make a good recording of a chapter of a book. LibriVox respects the efforts of these fledgling audiobook creators, and organizes itself to protect and encourage them. As you’ll see (and hear) if you check out the LibriVox catalog, the results have been impressive.

By the way, as a result of our conversation I realized that the LibriVox catalog pages lacked RSS feeds for convenient downloading of whole books into podcatchers, so I wrote a little script to create them. I’m happy to report that the script is now in use, and RSS feeds are being phased in to LibriVox catalog pages. Cool!