Established August 2005
Location Worldwide (USA based)
Size over 10,000 free items (6 August 2016)
Access and use
Population served over 380,000,000 downloads (17 April 2015)
Members Worldwide volunteers
Other information
Budget $5,000 per annum
Director Directorless - community shared

LibriVox is a group of worldwide volunteers who read and record public domain texts creating free public domain audiobooks for download from their website and other digital library hosting sites on the internet. It was founded in 2005 by Hugh McGuire to provide "Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain"[1] and the LibriVox objective is "To make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet".[2]

On 6 August 2016, the project completed project number 10 000.[3][4] Most releases are in the English language, but many non-English works are also available. There are multiple affiliated projects that are providing additional content. LibriVox is closely affiliated with Project Gutenberg from where the project gets some of its texts, and the Internet Archive that hosts their offerings.


Hugh McGuire, founder of LibriVox
LibriVox works per month 2005—2011
Can the net harness a bunch of volunteers to help bring books in the public domain to life through podcasting?
Hugh McGuire

LibriVox was started in August 2005 by Montreal-based writer Hugh McGuire, who set up a blog, and posed the question.[5][6] The first recorded book[7] was The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.

The main features of the way LibriVox works have changed little since its inception, although the technology that supports it has been improved by the efforts of its volunteers with web-development skills.

LibriVox etymology

LibriVox is an invented word inspired by Latin words liber (book) in its genitive form libri and vox (voice), giving the meaning BookVoice (or voice of the book). The word was also coined because of other connotations (although not based on proper grammar) as liber also means child and free, independent, unrestricted. As the LibriVox forum says it: "We like to think LibriVox might be interpreted as 'child of the voice', and 'free voice'. Finally, the other link we like is 'library' so you could imagine it to mean Library of Voice."[8]

There has been no decision or consensus by LibriVox founders or the community of volunteers for a single pronunciation of LibriVox. It is accepted that any audible pronunciation is accurate.[9]

Organization and funding

LibriVox is a volunteer-run, free content, Public Domain project. It has no budget or legal personality. The development of projects is managed through an Internet forum, supported by an admin team, who also maintain a searchable catalogue database of completed works.

In early 2010, LibriVox ran a fundraising drive to raise $20,000 to cover hosting costs for the website of about $5,000/year and improve front- and backend usability.[10] The target was reached in 13 days, and so the fundraising ended and LibriVox suggested that supporters consider making donations to its affiliates and partners, Project Gutenberg [11] and the Internet Archive.[12]

Production process

Volunteers can choose new projects to start, either recording on their own or inviting others to join them, or they can contribute to projects that have been started by others. Once a volunteer has recorded his or her contribution, it is uploaded to the site, and proof-listened by members of the LibriVox community.

Finished audiobooks are available from the LibriVox website, and MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files are hosted separately by the Internet Archive. Recordings are also available through other means, such as iTunes, and, being free of copyright, they are frequently distributed independently of LibriVox on the Internet and otherwise.


LibriVox only records material that is in the public domain in the United States, and all LibriVox books are released with a public domain dedication. Because of copyright restrictions, LibriVox produces recordings of only a limited number of contemporary books. These have included, for example, the 9/11 Commission Report.

The LibriVox catalogue is varied. It contains much popular classic fiction, but also includes less predictable texts, such as Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and a recording of the first 500 digits of pi. The collection also features poetry, plays, religious texts (for example, English versions of the Koran and books from various translations of the Bible) and non-fiction of various kinds. In January 2009, the catalogue contained approximately 55 percent fiction and drama, 25 percent non-fiction and 20 percent poetry (calculated by numbers of recordings). By the end of 2015, the most downloaded item was a 2007 collaborative recording of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, downloaded a total of 2,799,175 times.[13] The most downloaded solo recording was Moby-Dick read by Stewart Wills which has been downloaded 2,451,276 times.[13]

Around 90 percent of the catalogue is recorded in English, but recordings exist in 31 languages altogether (as of February 2010). Chinese, French and German are the most popular languages other than English amongst volunteers, but recordings have also been made in languages including Urdu and Tagalog.


LibriVox has garnered significant interest, in particular from those interested in the promotion of volunteer-led content and alternative approaches to copyright ownership on the Internet.

It has received support from the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg. Mike Linksvayer, Vice-President of Creative Commons, has described it as "perhaps the most interesting collaborative culture project this side of Wikipedia".[14]

The project has also been featured in press around the world and has been recommended by the BBC's Click, MSNBC's The Today Show, Reason,[15] Wired,[16] the US PC Magazine and the UK Metro and Sunday Times[17] newspapers.


A frequent concern of listeners is the site's policy of allowing any recording to be published as long as it is basically understandable and faithful to the source text.[18] This means that some recordings are of lower audio fidelity; some feature background noises, non-native accents or other perceived imperfections in comparison to professionally recorded audiobooks.[19][20] While some listeners may object to those books with chapters read by multiple readers,[21] others find this to be a non-issue or even a feature.[22][23][24]

See also


  1. "LibriVox Author", LibriVox website. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  2. "Objective LibriVox", LibriVox website. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  3. "Another LibriVox Milestone: 10,000 projects!",, 6 August 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  4. "Offerings LibriVox", Archive website. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  5. McGuire, Hugh (9 August 2005). "Welcome to LibriVox". Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  6. McGuire, Hugh (February 12, 2007). "Clarity (blog entry)". Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  7. "The Secret Agent", Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  8. "What does LibriVox mean?", LibriVox forum, retrieved 29 September 2013.
  9. "Pronunciation of "LibriVox"", LibriVox wiki. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  10. "LibriVox Needs Your Help", LibriVox blog, 24 February 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  11. "Gutenberg Affiliates",, Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  12. " partners",, Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  13. 1 2 "Welcome to The LibriVox Free Audiobook Collection", The Internet Archive. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  14. Linksvayer, Mike (June 2, 2008). "LibriVox: 1500 public domain audio books (blog entry)". Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  15. "The Wealth of LibriVox",, Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  16. "The Web Will Read You a Story",, Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  17. "Public Domain Books, Ready for Your iPod",, Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  18. "Quality of Delivery?", Librivox forums. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  19. "The Return of the Native Audiobook (Librivox)", Review. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  20. "On the absence of ratings at LibriVox", Review 2 May 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  21. "Librivox - free audio books", Review. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  22. "Librivox (free audio books)", Review January 09, 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  23. "Librivox", Review October 1, 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  24. "My Favorite LibriVox Readers", Review 12 March 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
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