July 19, 2006

Guide to LibriVox Audio Books


In case you’re not aware, LibriVox is a site which brings together volunteers to narrated books in the public domain, and then offers these audio books as free downloads on MP3 and Ogg Vorbis formats. They have 1000s of completed free titles, most of which are classic literature, short stories, and poetry.

There is quite a bit of variance in the quality of the recordings and the narrators so at LearnOutLoud.com we’ve put together a guide of quick reviews on the quality of narrators and recordings for each LibriVox solo project. They have a number of projects which are collaborations of multiple narrators and we haven’t had time to listen to all of those yet. This has helped us feature the best LibriVox audio books which you can browse here:


So without further ado here is our guide to LibriVox audio books:

Completed Books

Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger, Jr.
-Alice gives a fun reading here. She does a lot of different voices sort of like she’s reading a kids story. The audio quality is good. She may be a little too dramatic for some tastes but she puts a lot of energy into it.

Poetics by Aristotle
-Robert Foster does a decent job here with handling Aristotle. He doesn’t seem to have a great command over the text and he maybe should’ve read it before narrating it. He stumbles over words and his audio overmodulates a little.

Tristan and Iseult by Joseph Bédier
-Joy Chan has an awesome British accent that is perfect for reading this audio book. The audio quality is average, but her narration is top notch.

The Parenticide Club by Ambrose Bierce
-Good reading by British accented Peter Yearsley. Not terribly exciting, but fitting for the text. Decent audio.

Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly
-Stellar narration by Alice and this sounds like a really interesting audio book. I was captivated.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
-Bravo Joy Chan! She narrates this 12 Hrs. 30 Min. audio book wonderfully. Her accent continues to be the coolest on the LibriVox scene. Recording quality is good, not great.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
-Good amateur narration by Kara Shallenberg. Maybe not dynamic enough to keep the constant attention of children, but still high quality narration.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
-It’s good technically but it lacks passion. Denny Sayers narration is a little dry for this adventure novel. The audio recording is well done.

North of Boston by Robert Frost
-High quality audio and good narration by Brad Bush for these Robert Frost poems. Bush has a southern accent which I’m not sure fits Frost, but it’s not too overbearing.

China and the Chinese by Herbert Allen Giles
-David Barnes delivers these lectures on China in fine fashion. They were originally delivered in 1902, and depending on your interest level in China, may or may not hold you full attention.

The Four Million by O. Henry
-Marian Brown’s narration is fine for these O. Henry short stories. The audio quality is very good, but the narration could use a little more dramatic flare.

Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
-The audio quality on this one is okay. There’s a constant fuzz in the background and the edits in the audio are audible. The narration by Brit Martin Clifton is fine but it doesn’t overcome the weak audio.

A Calendar of Sonnets by Helen Hunt Jackson
-These are really short sonnets. Laura Fox does well to read them, but they might be too short to bother with.

The Tao Teh King by Lao-Tze
-Eric S. Piotrowski delivers this audio book in a tolerable way but it lacks the depth and insight of Phil Chirco’s LearnOutLoud.com narration of the Tao Te Ching.

American Indian Fairy Tales
-Chip sounds like a professional narrator. I was very impressed with this recording. There’s nothing amateur about this audio book.

Spirits in Bondage by C.S. Lewis
-C.S. Lewis’s first book is read well by Robert Garrison. His voice is gravelly, yet clear and suitable for Lewis in his early days.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
-Brit Jon Ingram reads The Communist Manifesto and his narration is solid. The digitizing has some artifact that is a bit piercing at times, but it’s still listenable.

Typee by Herman Melville
-Very professional recording by Michael Scherer of this 11 1/2 hour audio book. He doesn’t overdramatize yet he still does a good sailor’s voice.

Absolute Surrender and Other Addresses by Andrew Murray
-Joy Chan gives an inspired reading of Andrew Murray’s sermons. The audio quality still has a little hiss but her cool accent and enthusiastic reading overcome it.

From October to Brest-Litovsk by Leon D. Trotsky
-Good recording and good narration by Rebecca. Don’t be fooled by the name. This is a British man reading.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
-John Greenman gives an entertaining narration which seems directed at kids. He has fun with it even though the voices might be a little annoying for adults. The recording quality is good.

Chapters from my Autobiography by Mark Twain
-John Greenman reads Twain’s autobiography with wit and understanding and the recording quality is high quality.

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
-Well done narration from John Greenman who has become the voice of Mark Twain on the LibriVox scene.

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
-Rebecca (a British man) has an excellent voice for this H.G. Wells novel. The sound is good and his voice keeps the listener intrigued.

The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde
-LibriVox’s most prolific narrator Joy Chan gives a good reading of these stories with her British accent. There is a little fuzz to the recording.

The Romance of Rubber by United States Rubber Company, edited by John Martin
-Good, if you’re interested in rubber.

Completed Short Works

Sarrasine by Honoré de Balzac (transl. Clara Bell and others)
-Chip is basically a professional narrator. He’s the best. He even pronounces his French phrases correctly.

Present at a Hanging and Other Ghost Stories by Ambrose Bierce
-Peter Yearsley gives a soft-spoken, haunted reading of these stories. You can understand him, but he could pick up the pace a bit and project a little more.

The Book of Job (ASV)
-Robert Garrison has a strong voice which works well for the Old Testament and his recording quality sounds great.

Ecclesiastes (ASV)
-Robert Garrison has a strong voice which works well for the Old Testament and his recording quality sounds great.

Three Short Works by Gustav Flaubert
-Dark British reading by David Barnes. He does a good job with it.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
-Betsie Bush is an average narrator and the sound quality is a little below average. It’s only 13 minutes though so it’s probably tolerable.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
-Chip is a professional. He narrates with gusto.

Magna Carta
-A very proper British reading of the Magna Carta read by Jim Mowatt.

The Song of Songs (ASV)
-Another good recording of a book of the Bible read by Robert Garrison.

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
-John Gonzales trying a little too hard to sound British and humorous in the reading of this short pamphlet. The recording is good.

The Stolen White Elephant by Mark Twain
-Kristen McQuillin gives an adequate narration of this Twain short story with average sound recording.

The Constitution of the United States of America, 1787 by The Founding Fathers of the United States
-Kristen McQuillin gives a good narration of the Constitution

Amendments to the United States Constitution (version 2) by Founding Fathers
-A much better reading of the U.S. Amendments from Jim Cadwell.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
-Jim Cadwell narration is fine but the audio quality is a little tinny and there’s some digital artifact.

U.S. Historical Documents
-Very professional recording and narration from Michael Scherer including Articles of Confederation, US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Gettysburg Address. He runs the site Americana Phonic.

Completed Poetry

The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
-Robert Garrison narrates this Lewis Carroll poem well. It could have a little more enthusiam.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
-Kristin Luoma gives a splendid, dramatic reading of Coleridge’s classic poem.

War Is Kind by Stephen Crane
-ChipDoc might just be the best narrator LibriVox has. An excellent reading.

So that’s our LibriVox guide for now. Since we wrote this guide we’ve added over 1000 new audio books from Librivox based on their quality.

All LibriVox Titles on LearnOutLoud with 1000 New Titles

Among the 1000 new audio books there are 150 free audio books specifically for kids. All these new free audio books for kids can be found in our Kids Section:

150 New Free Kids Audio Books from LibriVox

And here are some of the great new audio books we’ve added by category:


Mozart: The Man and the Artist as Revealed in His Own Words by Friedrich Kerst

The World I Live In by Helen Keller

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography

Edison, His Life and Inventions by Frank Lewis Dyer

The Life of St. Teresa by St. Teresa of Avila


A Short History of the United States by Edward Channing

A Short History of England by G.K. Chesterton

Herodotus’ Histories, Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

The Book of the National Parks by Robert Sterling Yard


The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

John Barleycorn or Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London

Walking by Henry David Thoreau

The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain

The Aeneid by Virgil

2 B R 0 2 B by Kurt Vonnegut

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

The Last Man by Mary Shelley

Candide by Voltaire

Poems of William Blake

Dubliners by James Joyce

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev


Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus

The Sayings of Confucius

Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill

Introduction to The Philosophy of History by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Discourse on the Method by Rene Descartes

The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

The Joyful Wisdom, or The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche

The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

Discourse on Inequality by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Essays, First Series and Essays, Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Religion & Spirituality:

The Tree of Wisdom by Nagarjuna

In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? by Charles M. Sheldon

The People’s Idea of God by Mary Baker Eddy

The Large Catechism by Martin Luther

Conceptions of Divine Love by St. Teresa of Avila

The Golden Bough by James Frazer

Bhagavad Gita Translated by Sir Edwin Arnold

The Meaning of the Glorious Koran

Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg

The Bahai Revelation by Thornton Chase

The Story of Mormonism by James E. Talmage

Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness by Evelyn Underhill

Twentieth Century New Testament


On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin

The Story of Alchemy and the Beginnings of Chemistry by M. M. Pattison Muir

The Outline of Science by J. Arthur Thomson

Philosophy and Fun of Algebra by Mary Everest Boole

Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein

Curiosities of the Sky by Garrett Serviss

Self Development:

Supreme Personality by Delmer Eugene Croft

A Practical Guide to Self-Hypnosis by Melvin Powers

Mental Efficiency by Arnold Bennett

The Power of Concentration by Theron Q. Dumont

The Secret of Dreams by Yacki Raizizun

A Guide to Men: Being Encore Reflections of a Bachelor Girl by Helen Rowland

How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett

And this is just scratching the surface of what they’ve got!

And here are even MORE great Librivox titles we’ve added as of November of 2014!

Arts & Entertainment:

Hollywood: Its Morals and Manners by Theodore Dreiser

The Letters of a Post-Impressionist by Vincent Van Gogh

The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America by D.W. Griffith

Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky

The Art of the Moving Picture by Vachel Lindsay

The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

How to Appreciate Music by Gustav Kobbe

A Popular History of the Art of Music by W.S.B. Mathews


The Education of Henry Adams

The Adventures of Buffalo Bill by William Frederick Cody

Representative Men by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

Auguste Rodin by Rainer Maria Rilke

Geronimo’s Story of His Life

My Life and Work by Henry Ford

Saint Francis of Assisi: A Biography by Johannes Jorgensen


The Art of Money Getting by P.T. Barnum

Principles of Economics by Alfred Marshall

Capital: Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1 by Karl Marx

The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes

Living on Half a Dime a Day by Sarah Elizabeth Harper Monmouth

Education & Professional:

Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education by John Dewey

Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook by Maria Montessori

Notes on Nursing by Florence Nightingale

The Elements of Style by William Strunk


On War (Volume One) and On War (Volumes Two and Three) by Carl von Clausewitz

The Journal of Lewis and Clarke

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I through VI by Edward Gibbon

History of the United States, Volume 1 – 7 by Charles Austin Beard & Mary Ritter Beard

Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 1 – 5 by Francois Guizot

A Popular History of Ireland by Thomas D’Arcy McGee

The French Revolution by Hilaire Belloc

Ten Days that Shook the World by John Reed


French Self-Taught by Franz J.L. Thimm

My Very First Little German Book

An Introduction to the Greek of the New Testament by George Lovell Cary


The Magic Skin by Honore de Balzac

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Futuria Fantasia, Spring 1940 by Ray Bradbury

The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Faust Part I by Johann Wolfgang Goethe

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

A Rubaiyat Miscellany by Omar Khayyam

Anna Christie by Eugene O’Neill

Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott

Othello by William Shakespeare

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

The Trojan Women by Euripides

Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King) by Sophocles

The Iliad of Homer, Rendered into English Blank Verse by Homer

Metamorphoses by Ovid

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Charles Dickens by G.K. Chesterton

Poems: Series One and Poems: Series Two by Emily Dickinson

John Keats: Selected Poems

The Lady With the Dog and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov

Five Beloved Stories by O. Henry

Six Creepy Stories by Edgar Allan Poe


A Cynic Looks At Life by Ambrose Bierce

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume

The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals by Immanuel Kant

An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding by John Locke

Essays: Book 1, Essays: Book 2, and Essays: Book 3 by Michel de Montaigne

Ecce Homo by Friedrich Nietzsche

The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Proposed Roads to Freedom by Bertrand Russell

The Art of Controversy (or: The Art of Being Right) by Arthur Schopenhauer

What is Man? and Other Essays by Mark Twain

The Analects of Confucius

The Republic by Plato

The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle

Of Peace of Mind by Seneca

Pragmatism by William James

The Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza


Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Friedrich Engels

Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann

Considerations on Representative Government by John Stuart Mill

The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses of Theodore Roosevelt

Essays on Political Economy by Frederic Bastiat

The Soul of Man by Oscar Wilde

Religion & Spirituality:

The Path of Light: The Bodhi-Charyavatara of Santi-Deva by Shantideva

The Universal Religion: Bahaism – Its Rise and Social Import by Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney

The Greatest Thing in the World and Other Addresses by Henry Drummond

The Mahabharata by Vyasa: The Epic of Ancient India Condensed into English Verse

The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther

Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray

The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer

The Profits of Religion by Upton Sinclair

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-madinah and Meccah by Richard Burton

The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith

Torah (JPSA): Genesis


Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin

Opticks by Isaac Newton

Great Astronomers by Robert Ball

Anatomy of the Human Body, Part 1 – 5

Meteorology; or Weather Explained by J.G. M’Pherson

The Outline of Science, Vol. 1 – 3

Easy Lessons in Einstein by Edwin E. Slosson

Self Development:

Byways to Blessedness by James Allen

Self and Self-Management: Essays about Existing by Arnold Bennett

Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them by Hereward Carrington

Laugh and Live by Douglas Fairbanks

Creative Mind by Ernest Holmes

The Victorious Attitude by Orison Swett Marden

Creative Unity by Rabindranath Tagore

In Tune with the Infinite by Ralph Waldo Trine

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Thought Vibration, or The Law of Attraction in the Thought World by William Atkinson

The Speaking Voice by Katherine Everts

The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana

Social Sciences:

Two Years and Four Months in a Lunatic Asylum by Hiram Chase

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

Winds of Doctrine: Studies in Contemporary Opinion by George Santayana

Woman and the New Race by Margaret Sanger

The Psychology of Alcoholism by George Barton

The Anatomy of Melancholy, Volume 1 – 3 by Robert Burton

Psychotherapy by Hugo Munsterberg

The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets by Jane Addams

Sports & Hobbies:

The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo

American Cookery by Amelia Simmons

Football Days: Memories of the Game and of the Men behind the Ball by William Hanford Edwards

The Flower Garden: A Handbook of Practical Garden Lore by Ida Dandridge Bennett

The Decoration of Houses by Edith Wharton

The Social History of Smoking by George L. Apperson

The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton

Dogs and All About Them by Robert Leighton

Cats: Their Points and Characteristics by W. Gordon Stables


My Trip Abroad by Charlie Chaplin

A Traveller in War-Time by Winston Churchill

A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir

The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau

American Notes for General Circulation by Charles Dickens

The Worst Journey in the World, Vol. 1 and The Worst Journey in the World, Vol. 2 by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Letters of Travel by Rudyard Kipling

On a Chinese Screen by W. Somerset Maugham

Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope

New Free Audio Books from Great Authors

Along with the great audio books listed above that we’ve added, we’ve also added many free titles from some of the greatest authors of all time. Librivox has dived deep into the public domain treasures of great authors to provide you some never before heard audio books. Check out this list of authors below which we have added many free audio books to.

Note: These are the full author results for these authors, so if you’re looking for just the free titles you can see (Free) next to the Audio Download format in the results now for free titles.

James Allen Audio – Numerous free self help classics from the author of As a Man Thinketh.

G.K. Chesterton Audio – Plenty from this English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist.

Wilkie Collins Audio – Many works from this English novelist, playwright, and author of short stories.

Joseph Conrad Audio – Many novels from the author of Heart of Darkness.

Philip K. Dick Audio – Some free short stories from this master of science fiction.

Charles Dickens Audio – Plenty of new free offerings!

Fyodor Dostoevsky Audio – More novels and short stories from this great Russian author.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Audio – 30 new free titles from the world’s greatest crime fiction writer.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Audio – New short stories from the The Great Gatsby author.

Thomas Hardy Audio – New free Thomas Hardy novels and short stories.

Henrik Ibsen Audio – Numerous dramatized plays from the major 19th-century Norwegian playwright.

Henry James Audio – Over 20 new free works from this great American writer.

Jack London Audio – Variety of works from the famous American author, journalist, and social activist.

Martin Luther Audio – Audio from the seminal figure of the 16th-century movement in Christianity known later as the Protestant Reformation.

George MacDonald Audio – Many free works from the Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.

William Shakespeare Audio – Basically all the plays of the Bard now free from Librivox.

George Bernard Shaw Audio – A dozen free plays from the Irish playwright.

Leo Tolstoy Audio – Over a dozen free works from this Russian giant.

Anthony Trollope Audio – Over 30 free novels!

Mark Twain Audio – Almost 30 new works to listen to!

H.G. Wells Audio – 20 new free titles from this prolific English writer best remembered for his science fiction novels.

Edith Wharton Audio – New free works from the first woman to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for literature.

Aristotle Audio – Over a dozen philosophical works from the great Greek philosopher.

Plato Audio – A great many dialogues and other works by the great Greek philosopher.

500 New Free Kids Audio Books

Of the 2500 free audio books we’ve added from Librivox about 500 of them are geared towards kids. We’ve sectioned these titles off in our Librivox kids publisher page which you can browse here:

Over 500 Free Librivox Audio Books for Kids on Kids.LearnOutLoud.com

Here are some great new free kids books you can grab:

Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll

The Blue Lagoon by H. De Vere Stacpoole

The Box-Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Children’s Bible by Henry Sherman

The Children’s Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum

Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt

Historic Adventures: Tales from American History by Rupert S. Holland

Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates

The Life of George Washington in Words of One Syllable by Josephine Pollard

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

Myths That Every Child Should Know by Hamilton Wright Mabie

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

A School History of the Great War by Albert E. McKinley

The Story Book of Science by Jean-Henri Fabre

The Story of Young Abraham Lincoln by Wayne Whipple

Viking Tales by Jennie Hall

Zip, the Adventures of a Frisky Fox Terrier by Frances Trego Montgomery

July 19, 2006

DRM-free MP3s from Y! Music???

Very cool blog post from Ian Rogers over at Yahoo! Music about their desire to sell content as DRM-free MP3s rather than protected WMA files (which among other things do not play on iPods). Ian makes the great point that music companies are already selling DRM-free content whenever they sell a CD. Sure there’s an extra step involved of ripping that track to mp3 but what high school/college student doesn’t know how to do that these days?

I’ve been making a similar point to publishers for a while now. At LearnOutLoud we currently have the largest selection of DRM-free spoken word audio content of any site on the Net. And our selection is set to triple or quadruple by year’s end (stay tuned!). We’re able to pay the publishers we work with a whole heck of a lot more because we don’t have the costs associated with implementing and servicing DRM’ed content. And our customers benefit because they don’t have to worry about tedious stuff like authorizing computers or devices, not being able to listen to their stuff both at home and at the office, etc.

I was interviewed last week by someone writing a paper on DRM and they asked what I thought the future of DRM would be in five years. I said (and it was indeed Ian who I first heard this from) that either we’ll see no DRM whatsoever or the DRM that will be there will be so transparent that it won’t bother you and you won’t even know that it’s there.

Sadly, that’s not the case today. I’m a huge fan of the Rhapsody music service but there are times when I’ve driving and trying to listen to my Rhapsody music and DRM issues make me want to toss my Zen player onto the 405. Customers are becoming increasingly wary of this and so unless things get better soon I think you’re going to see more people moving to DRM free audio services in the future.

Hopefully Yahoo! Music can pull a DRM-free service off. I’m definitely rooting for them.

July 14, 2006

What if a mobile phone could make your life better?


Came across this amazing article in the Washington Post yesterday (thanks Kareem!). I’ve been fired up about mobile for a long time now but reading this article just adds more fuel to the fire. It’s soooo nice to see an application of technology that truly changes lives for the better. Not that there’s anything wrong with the plethora of RSS aggregators and video sharing service out there…but at the end of the day the question is whether we’re using technology or whether technology is using us right?

I definitely have no desire to wax philosophical here but at the same time I think it’s refreshing to see a clear case where technology is improving peoples’ lives and presents the opportunity to possibly lift an entire generation out of poverty through enhanced communication, better business possibilities, etc.

So what does this have to do with audio learning? Well…my gut tells me that when the audio learning thing hits the developing world it’s not going to come via the PC but largely via the mobile phone. Imagine this…kids growing up in rural Africa learning English and other basic skills via a cell phone. Based on what I’m reading in this article I don’t think that’s too far off. It might be a while before the sub-$100 laptop is a reality. During that time the whole effort might be leap-frogged by a cheap cellular phone that can provide voice and data access.

I’ll admit I know nothing about this.

This might be an idealistic Pollyannish notion from a guy who lacks basic know-how about what goes on over there.

Or not.

A buddy of mine reminded me yesterday that the only limitation is our imagination. So for today I’m going to imagine a world in which kids from Africa and other third world countries grow up listening to educational and inspirational audio material and use the knowledge they’ve gained to create sustainable businesses and teach others and lift their countries out of crushing poverty. Will that dream become a reality? I don’t know but we’re going to do our darnedest to make it come true.

Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for all of your support of LearnOutLoud. We’re experiencing record levels of traffic this week and I want to express how excited I am about what’s going on. After all, we’re just getting started.


July 12, 2006

How to Have a Better Brain


I’ve been doing a lot of looking lately at what people can do to improve their brains. Does that sound strange? Perhaps…but think about it. We spend tons of time and money as a culture on improving all sorts of other parts of ourselves. Think how much money is spent on skin care or on making our bodies more asthetically appealing (the plastic surgery industry is HUGE). Yet, what affects our mood and happiness more than our brain?

I think most people feel that there isn’t much you can to improve your brain. From what I’ve been learning lately I beg to differ. I tihnk there is actually a ton of stuff that people can do to improve brain chemistry and mood. Unfortunately the vast majority of our culture turns to chemicals to do this. Either prescription drugs (“improving” brain chemistry is basically what anti-depressant drugs do), legal drugs (like alcohol or nicotine) or illegal drugs (I heard recently that cocaine is a $100 billion industry in the U.S. alone!!!).

What are some non-chemical ways to improve brain chemistry? I’ve listened a couple of Dr. Daniel Amen’s audiobooks recently and there are some good suggestions in there. Currently I’m listening to Making a Good Brain Great and while I haven’t gotten to the part that talks about improving the brain yet there are some pretty strong warnings about what not to do. For instance, while football and soccer are great sports, the number of head injuries that are incurred can lead to major psychological problems later in life due to the brain damage that can occur. That’s something I’ve never thought of. Anyway, for a free preview of Amen’s stuff check out this speech he gave on IT Conversations.

One practice that has been shown to improve brain function is meditation (see a couple of stories related to this here and here). I’ve been experimenting with different types of meditation and contemplative practice lately. One of the best ways to introduce yourself to meditation is through guided meditation audio. A couple of titles that I’ve tried recently include some of Bodhipaksa’s stuff and Andrew Cohen’s Meditation audiobook. Meditation requires a lot of patience but based on everything I’ve been reading lately the benefits are tough to deny.

Of course another common sense way to improve brain function is to make sure the brain is getting plenty of oxygen. In fact, the brain loses consciousness after being deprived of oxygen for just 8-10 seconds. There are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that you are getting plenty of oxygen to your brain. The first is deep, diaphragmatic breathing. This is pretty simple to do (just take deep breaths and make sure that it’s your abdomen and not your chest that is moving). However, one tool that I’ve found that helps with this is a bio-feedback device called Wild Divine. It’ll help you monitor and regulate your breathing patterns. I’ll often hook this up when I’m reading or watching a movie (yup, I’m a dork) and it’s interesting to see times when I’m breathing free and easy and other times when I’m breathing more shallow or even holding my breath.

Of course another way to ensure good blood flow to the brain is through exercise. There are dozens of ways to exercise but one of the best I’ve found for this purpose is yoga. The combination of cardio work and deep breathing can produce an “oxygen high” of sorts that feels pretty damn cool. I’m fortunate enough to have one of the world’s best yoga studios in my backyard but for those who don’t the audio versions of yoga courses can be a great substitute.

So those are a few ways to “have a better brain.” No doubt there are many more. If you have any suggestions feel free to post in the forums. I’m a junkie for anything I can do to improve the most valuable part of my body. 🙂

July 6, 2006

The Infinite Mind

Recently I’ve been completely obsessed with Lictenstein Media’s The Infinite Mind program. Each one-hour episode focuses on a particular issue related to the brain, be it mental illness, how the brain is affected by outside stimuli, what certain emotions mean, or the outward consequences of neurological process. A quick look at the episodes we carry on LearnOutLoud will give you a good idea of the wide range of topics that fit within this spectrum. All of them feature guests that are experts on a specific subject, with discussion that is approachable yet heady. They also sometimes feature slice of life examples to help one better understand a certain issue, such as one woman’s vivid description of a panic attack (“If you could visualize someone holding you by the hair over the George Washington bridge…”), or another person’s tragic acknowledgement that her mother’s creative genius was probably fueled by the same mania that led her to suicide. This formal structure works to complete a fairly thorough picture of what is discussed; from introduction, to expert analysis, to “street-level” experience.

Thus far I can list a few episodes that warrant serious attention. First of all is the incredible Art and Madness, which explores the undeniable link between insanity and creative brilliance. Here you will hear about musicians, poets and actors that have made incredible works of art, only to be hampered and sometimes killed by debilitating illness.

Next up, I would say Marriage is an episode that stuck with me, not because of any sort of personal affinity at this point in my life, but more for the questions raised on whether or not fidelity is hard-wired into us. Additionally the episode offers the most concise common sense advice I’ve yet heard on what it takes from an emotional standpoint to turn formative passions into lifelong bonds.

I’ll also mention Alcoholism, which is treated in this instance as nothing short of a neurological illness. With alcohol however, the pain is consensual: it’s always a choice one makes when they decide to drink. The episode addresses this argument, and goes further to show how certain people may have less of a choice in the matter than you may think.

Religion endeavors to trace the human attraction to the religious experience and why interest in the divine endures to this day despite encroaching secularism. Experts identify parts of the brain that are now associated with religious impulse, and we see how religion’s tenants may appeal to a primal aspect of human neurology that has yet to be identified.

Finally I’ll there’s Narcissism. All of us have probably met someone we feel is self-absorbed, but does that necessarily mean they are a narcissist? Here we learn that narcissists lack a certain sense of empathy that makes them believe they somehow exist beyond established laws of social conduct. Think of it as the most extreme selfishness you’ve ever known and somehow that doesn’t describe all of what these people go through. I thought many of those interviewed in this episode were terrifying to be honest with you.

In all, every episode of the Infinite Mind has it’s pearls of wisdom to impart. If you can download any one of these episodes, be sure to get one on a topic you are especially interested in. I can guarantee you will hear an hour of information packed with insight you can’t find anywhere else. I was basically up for hearing every one of these shows, and I have yet to leave unsatisfied with the wealth of detailed information available. Definitely an amazing way to fill up your iPod.

July 5, 2006

Over 1000 Free Audio & Video Titles!

Not sure if you’ve been to our free audio & video directory lately, but we’ve been adding a lot:


Recent stuff we’ve added:

Audio Anarchy – Free MP3 downloads from anarchist thinkers like Emma Goldman

Boston University’s World of Ideas – Free streaming audio lectures and debates from smart people like Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, et al.

Americana Phonic – Downloads and streaming audio of America’s founding documents

Lannan Foundation – Poets and political activists speak at Lannan’s Readings & Conversations with folks like Salman Rushdie, Joyce Carol Oates, and Howard Zinn on streaming audio

Cato Institute – This libertarian think tank puts out tons of free MP3 downloads of their speakers covering social issues, U.S. politics, economics, foreign policy, and more

Miller Center of Public Affairs – Along with the most comprehensive collection of presidential speeches on MP3 download, their forum features politicians and major historians discussing history and contemporary issues

LibriVox – The web’s coolest community of volunteer narrators reading classic public domain books just keeps getting cooler. And we’ve added a bunch more of their best titles to our site (we’ve listened to most of them to ensure they’re the high quality ones).

History and Politics Out Loud – Check out this “Out Loud” site of free historical speeches streaming on audio

BookTV’s In Depth Programs – And this one might be my favorite. 3-hour-long, in-depth interviews on streaming video with some of the greatest authors of our time: Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Simon Winchester, Harold Bloom, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Friedman, Susan Sontag, and many more.

We just keep finding more and more great stuff! If you find any educational free audio & video titles to add don’t hesitate to email us!

July 5, 2006

10 Cures for the Summertime Blues


Summertime is in full swing. It’s a great time for traveling and relaxing of course but it’s also the perfect time to start audio learning. Listening to books and podcasts is an excellent way to pass time while you’re at the beach or in your car on the way to Grandmother’s house. To help you fight off those summertime blues I’ve put together a list of 10 free downloads for you to throw on your iPod or other MP3 player this summer. Enjoy!

10. Ted Talks – The good people from the TED Conference have just posted a bunch of free downloads from their most recent conference including talks by Al Gore and
Tony Robbins. Considering that the conference normally cost $4,400 to attend this is quite the deal.

9. Podrunner and fitPod – Exercising this summer? (I hope so. 🙂 If so, download these mixes to your MP3 player. They have different bpm timings to match the pace of your workout. A great way to keep motivated and in rhythm.

8. Guided Meditation from Meditainment – Summer is all about relaxing right? Why not put a meditation track on your iPod for those moments when life gets a little to stressful.

7. 50 Things I’m Going To Do Today – It’s a great time of the year to build habits, especially if you’re a little less busy. 50 Things is a great free audio download that will give you some suggestions for positive habits you can build into your life. I probably listen to this once every couple of weeks and never fail to be reminded of something I should be doing.

6. Free Culture – Summer seems to be synonymous with freedom for many people. After all you’re free from school and usually free from work at least for a little while. Spend some of your free time listening to Free Culture, Lawrence Lessig’s seminal work on copyright and intellectual property. The chapters are read by people like Doug Kaye and Dave Winer.

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – What could be a more classic summer read than Huckleberry Finn? Now, thanks to the fine folks at Literal Systems you can listen to it for free…the full 9 1/2 hour unabridged version.

4. Learn a Foreign Language – Summer is the perfect time to spend learning or brushing up on a foreign language. There are a ton of free language learning podcasts including InstaSpanish, The French Pod Class and Let’s Speak Italian!.

3. The Founding Documents of the United States of America – We just passed July 4th, the date we celebrate our Independence here in the U.S. Last month we recorded many of the Founding Documents of our country onto audio including the “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Whether you’re a history buff or buff-to-be, these are worth the download.

2. Cal-Berkeley Course Podcasts – Wait a minute. Wasn’t summer the time to take a break from all that schoolwork? Sure…but think about it this way. It’s also a great time to listen to a course you didn’t get to take during the school year or always had an interest in. Berkeley has put a ton of their courses available online for free. Introduction to Computers, Wildlife Ecology, Existentialism in Literature and Film and more!

1. Jon Udell’s Summer Listening List – Jon Udell writes for Infoworld and has posted a list of five “Summer Listening” podcasts. It’s a really good list covering everything from ending the oil addicition and blended value to the wealth of networks and biomimicry.

So that should keep your ears busy for a while. If you’re still looking for more check out our Free Audio and Video Directory which now contains over 1,000 free resources for you to learn from. Enjoy your summer and keep Learning Out Loud!

June 28, 2006

TED Talks – Very Cool!


Back in January I blogged about how I’d like to see the sessions from the TED Conference made available on audio and video. Chris Anderson, the Editor of Wired magazine and the Curator of the TED Conference, saw my blog and let me know that they had some exciting plans in the works to make some of the content publicly available.

Today I noticed that a half-dozen of the sessions from the TED Conference are now available for free on audio and video. I just got done watching the session with Tony Robbins and it’s really good stuff. People pay over $4,000 to attend the TED Conference so the fact that they are willing to make this content available to people who can’t go says volumes about what the TED Conference is all about.

Kudos to Chris and the rest of the people at TED for helping to bring the ideas from the TED Conference to the world and in the process helping to change the world. It’s an incredible world we live anyone with a PC and an Internet connection can now access all this amazing content.

June 28, 2006

Search *Within* Our Podcast Directory


NOTE: Sorry we don’t have this option any longer.

You’ve always been able to search our podcast directory to find the best podcasts to learn from. Now you can actually search within the audio for each podcast episode. We’ve recently partnered with Podzinger, a company that has a very cool audio search service. This will allow you to find podcasts that match your tastes or find podcasts on current events.

For example, let’s say you would like to hear some recent podcast episodes about the World Cup. Try this search. You’ll see some of the podcasts you would expect (e.g., the ESPN.com Mix Podcast, Sports Business Radio, Skinny on Sports) and some others you probably wouldn’t (e.g., Digital Planet and the English as a Second Language Podcast). It’s a cool way to expose yourself to some new podcasts.

Give it a try today by going to podcasts.learnoutloud.com. We’re hoping to incorporate more and more of our audio content into this search mechanism in the future. Whatever we can do to make Learning Out Loud more fun and easier for you…that’s our mission.


June 18, 2006

A Guide to DRM-Free Audio

Let’s face it. The DRM (if you’re unfamiliar with the term DRM, click here for an overview) debate is probably never going to be resolved. On one hand, you have consumers (and consumer advocates) who hate having media they legally purchased crippled by what are sometimes ridiculous restrictions. On the other hand, you’ve got content producers who feel that distributing DRM-free media will result in rapidly declining business as people opt for sharing content with others rather than actually purchasing. I have no intention to get into that debate but do want to offer up something that I feel pretty strongly:

If you are opposed to DRM and want to see more DRM-free content made available the best thing you can do is support the companies that are distributing DRM-free media.

It’s not easy to run a company selling DRM-free media. A large number of content producers won’t do business with you because they feel that their content isn’t being protected adequately (even though many of these same content producers sell the same content on CD witih no DRM). So many DRM-free companies are forced to sell whatever they can and may not have the most popular artists or latest releases. However, if we’re ever hoping to live in a world where DRM doesn’t exist or has a much smaller impact I think it’s important to do our best to support these companies.

To help in that regard I’ve compiled a list of companies that sell DRM-free audio (both music and spoken word). After all, the first step in the process is knowing which companies sell content with no DRM restrictions. I feel that the best way to fight DRM is to do what we can to support them (and I’ll admit upfront that there is at least a little bit of selfishness here as we do have DRM-free spoken word audio on our site). If we do then maybe, just maybe, we’ll live in a DRM-free world one day (or at least in a world where there are more options for people who want legal content without DRM restrictions).

A couple of notes: I’ve tried to stick with reviewing companies whose legality isn’t in question. There are a number of companies (the most notable being allofmp3.com) who sell DRM-free media but where it is not certain if they are paying proper royalties to artists. Since this represents a bit of a grey market I haven’t reviewed them. Also, I have no doubt that I’ve left some good and worthwhile companies off this list. I’ve tried to stick with the larger companies with the biggest selections. If I’ve missed anyone worthy of mention, please feel free to leave a post in the forums or drop me an e-mail at jon at learnoutloud dot com.

DRM-Free Music Sites

eMusic logo eMusic – The best-known and most popular DRM-free music site. I love what these guys are doing. First of all they’re cheap ($0.25 a download). They’ve got a large selection (over a million songs) and they are bringing on an increasing number of well-known artists (e.g., Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Coldplay, Johnny Cash). They certainly don’t have as much of the latest and greatest as iTunes or Rhapsody but what they’ve amassed is pretty impressive. I’d love to see eMusic get even more popular and give the big boys a run for their money.

Pros: Great selection, low prices, increasing selection of popular artists

Cons: No rollover on their monthly plans (either use your monthly downloads or you lose them), no a la carte sales

Audio Lunchbox – This is a great site for independent music. They have a number of plans ranging from monthly to a “Platinum” plan which offers over a thousand downloads for $250/year. While eMusic might have a wider selection and better prices on many titles, ALB does have a lot of music that eMusic doesn’t.

Pros: Diverse selection of independent music, low prices, can purchase a la carte, RSS feed available for new additions

Cons: Like eMusic your monthly credits do not roll over, credit system can be a bit confusing

Magnatune logo Magnatune – I love what John Buckman has done at Magnatune. One of the coolest things is that CDs on Magnatune sell for a minimum price of $5 but you can choose to pay whatever you want. The cool thing is that the average selling price is $8.93. And Magnatune splits all royalties with its artists so when you buy anything on the site you know exactly how much the artist is getting paid. Magnatune might not have as many names that you’ve heard of but there’s a heck of a lot of good music there and given the general “goodness” of their business model this is a company definitely worth supporting.

Pros: Multiple DRM-free formats (even WAV files!), listen to albums in their entirety before buying, give 3 copies of music you buy to friends, their motto (“We are not Evil”)

Cons: Not many artists that you’ve previously heard of

betterPropaganda – A sweet site for indie music with free MP3 downloads. Most of the artists are up-and-coming ones although artists like Brian Eno, Snow Patrol and Belle and Sebastian are featured (however, many artists have a limited number of tracks available). betterPropaganda has done a lot with playlists and podcasts and has a cool recommendations service from Loomia (the same company we use for our recommendations service). Definitely a site to keep an eye on.

Pros: FREE MP3 downloads, Nice mix of up-and-coming independent artists and more established ones, playlists, podcasts and recommendations

Cons: Limited number of tracks from more popular artists

Others: Bleep | CommonTunes | Epitonic | Garage Band | Insound

DRM-Free Audiobook Sites

Telltale Weekly logo Telltale Weekly – Telltale Weekly and its sister site, The Spoken Alexandria Project, have a number of free and low-cost public domain audiobooks. A glance at their bestsellers list produces titles from authors like Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and H.G. Wells (of The War of the Worlds fame). Telltale’s prices are very low and they have made a commitment to releasing recordings under the Creative Commons License in the future. In addition, they give 7% of gross revenues to worthy charities such as Project Gutenberg and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Pros: Low prices and many free titles, Multiple file formats (MP3, AAC and Ogg Vorbis), Charitable giving

Cons: Selection consists only of public domain titles, many titles are fairly short in length

Librivox logo Librivox – Librivox has an interesting take on audiobooks. They gathered an army of volunteers to read public domain audiobooks a chapter at a time. The upside is that they are producing a ton of content to listen to. The downside is that they chapter-by-chapter approach leads to some big inconsistencies in quality (although this does appear to be getting over time). And since these titles are all available for free it’s tough to complain.

Pros: All audiobooks are free to download, large and growing selection of classical literature

Cons: Selection consists only of public domain titles, inconsistency both among and within titles

LearnOutLoud – We’re doing the DRM-free thing as well and while our selection is still pretty small (approx. 400 titles) it’s growing pretty quickly. A number of our titles are public domain but most are not including titles like Think and Grow Rich and content from authors like Bodhipaksa and Sir John Templeton. We’re heavy on self-improvement titles but working hard to expand our selection in other areas as well. In addition, we give away one free full-length audiobook each month.

Pros: DRM-free non-public domain audiobooks, Multiple file formats (MP3 and bookmarkable MPEG-4), Personalized recommendations

Cons: Selection is still somewhat small and focused primarily on self-improvement titles

Others: AudioBooksForFree.com | Christian Audio | iAmplify | LiteralSystems.org | Project Gutenberg

DRM-Free Podcast Sites

No discussion of DRM-free audio would be complete without a nod to the podcasting community. I’m not going to review all of them but the best directories I’ve seen are Yahoo! Podcasts, iTunes, ODEO, Podcast Pickle, Podcast Alley and the directory here at LearnOutLoud.

So that’s a round-up of what we’ve found. Like I said, I’m sure we’ve missed some. If you happen to know of any other sites that should be included or of any information that’s incorrect drop me a line at jon at learnoutloud dot com or make a post in the forums and I’ll update this blog post. We’re big fans of all of the sites listed here, as much for what they are trying to do in terms of making DRM-free audio available as for where they are today. If enough of us do our best to support these site I feel we can tip the balance in favor of DRM-free media in the future. It won’t happen overnight but I think it’s a worthy goal.