Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Quality and Librivox

The question of the quality of Librivox recordings has been raised, and as a heavy user, I wanted to wade in.

The policy of Librivox, as I imperfectly understand it, is not to criticise the recording of a text, by comparing it with a professional recording. The very effective idea seems to be, that if you think you could do better, and please do, and we all benefit.

So, some recordings are not as well read as others. Or, rather, some recordings closely resemble professional audiobooks, and others do not.

My feelings are this: The readers, by recording a text (a painstaking and lonely task, I should imagine), and giving it to everyone for nothing, are due thanks and gratitude, and nothing more. As I sit listening to yet another recording on the way to work, I am sometimes amazed: this person, from the other side of the world, has done a very difficult, very kind thing, for ME, a complete stranger, without ever expecting anything in return. How rare is that? When was the last time the same thing could be said about me?

The most amazing thing of all, for me, is that the quality of the recordings is so ridiculously HIGH, given the circumstances. After someone has recorded (having passed all the technical hurdles), someone else has to proof-listen, someone else has to move the files around, dozens of people have to be coordinated - its a logistical nightmare. And yet, so often, the result is a match for the best you could buy. Better: Librivox recordings are not truncated or abridged. Better than that: they are free. Best of all: They are a labour of love, something that is apparent in the voice of the most nervous reader.

I am half way through 'Lord Jim' at the moment. This is one of the rarer audiobooks on Librivox, which I could choose to buy unabridged, if I wanted to. However, I find it impossible to believe it could be any better than Stewart Wills magnificent rendition. Truly, I believe no hired hand could match him.

This blog is about trying to show my appreciation to the people at Librivox, who have given me so much pleasure in the last few months. It pains me to think that some of the volunteers might be discouraged by what they feel is criticism, aimed at them. Please be assured that you are appreciated.


Kri said...

The appreciation is well received, by this reader at least.

I personally don't have any problem with criticism, as long as it's respectful and the writer doesn't express it as if it's solid fact.

Your summary of the stance we take at LV regarding criticism is pretty spot on though, and I happen to agree with it within the confines of the community. Unwarranted criticism (in the community) has a tendency to hinder the entire purpose of the project.

Stewart Wills said...

Chris, thanks so much for your kind words regarding the "Lord Jim" recording. It is tremendously gratifying and much appreciated.

Kara said...

Wow, thanks for the wonderful post :) It's so nice when someone really understands us!

ChrisHughes said...

kri: I am glad you agree. I am especially delighted that you commented, as it was your 'Heart of Darkness' that I listened to first. (or rather Conrad's: I have no idea about the shading of your heart - I hope it is pink!) In fact, I saw you in the forums discussing the suitability of your voice for the task, so I wanted to do a whole post about that...
stewart: My appreciation is greater that yours, I assure you. You have a great knack of making Marlow sound conversational, which makes it less of a novel, and more of a fireside chat. Review coming soon.
kara: Ah, Kara. Would that I did understand you. But, the life of one from the far-off and exotic land of Ca-Li-For-Nia will always be a distant imagining for the parochial likes of me. Seriously, though, thanks for posting. Looking forward to my next audio trip to Oceanside.