About a year ago I realized two things. One, my waistline had expanded without my permission and two; my acquaintance with classic literature was scanty at best. I hadn’t read even a fraction of the canon, whatever that is. Research indicates that every country and most publishers have a list. Who gets to decide which books are included? What are the criteria for exclusion? Who knows?

At any rate, I needed to exercise but I wanted to read. I didn’t have time for both and attempting to keep track of words on a page while doing sit-ups made me seasick.  Not to mention the expense of purchased books, or the toll on my back which lugging the tomes home from the library, might entail. What was a chubby reader to do?

A rumor reached my ears of a magical place of brilliant heroes whose admirable goal “is to record all the books in the public domain.” (Which, coincidentally, includes an astounding number of books categorized as classic literature. Go figure.) I searched and found: Librivox.org, “where volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and publish the audio files on the internet.”

They had a list that stretched from Burroughs to Verne, the Holy Bible to Wuthering Heights. And they were all downloadable to my iPod! So, with the dual desire to both expand my mind and contract my waistline, I downloaded The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and started walking. Aside from the possible danger to public safety constituted by distracted perambulation, it has worked out well. I am marginally more fit, and my knowledge of the classics has been pleasantly increased.

There are a number of ways to enjoy the audio banquet Librivox offers. Their website provides a fairly comprehensive list of methodology including direct download, iTunes and access to various apps. I use the audiobooks.com app that I found on iTunes and it has worked well for me despite the minor annoyance of a slower than optimal download. To be fair, this is probably not Audiobooks.com’s fault. Librivox warns that books “may take awhile to download”, so it may be an inevitable issue with file size rather than a programming problem.

Now, a note of caution: Most of the readers have excellent diction and storytelling ability; however, on occasion I have found one with verbal ticks so annoying that I ended up deleting the book before finishing the first chapter. Happily, with the Audibooks app, the problem is easily avoided by using the preview feature in the selection menu. Also, there are so many texts to choose from that finding another presents no difficulty.

The world of public domain literature offers a vast selection of titles to choose from and Librivox is bent on providing access to us all. I humbly encourage you to join them either by listening, volunteering or both.

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