By: Ana Kabakova
The essential idea of the public domain is that anybody can access its materials. However, the wealth of text in the public domain remains inaccessible to the blind, dyslexic, and learning impaired. Despite the fact that many works in the public domain can be obtained freely on the Internet, there is a conflict of rights between the consumers and publishers concerning whether text-to-speech software infringes on e-book publishers' rights. Some free public domain e-books do not allow for text-to-speech access. The blind, dyslexic, and learning impaired need better options for accessibility.
Faced with this problem, Hugh McGuire founded LibriVox, a volunteer-driven project with the goal of recording audio versions of all the book available in the United States public domain. LibriVox uses the human voice to record books in the public domain and distributes the recording freely removing any obstacles regarding publisher rights or the need for costly software.
How does it work? The project is coordinated online through a web forum, run by volunteers. Anyone can volunteer, so long as they can record their assigned reading into mp3 format. The texts are obtained from Project Gutenberg and are hosted by the Internet Archive for free. This kind of open education resource minded action mirrors Global Text Project's own internship initiative, allowing undergraduate English students the opportunity to grow as editors while providing the world with free, Creative Commons licensed textbooks.
With over 4,000 works in 31 languages, there is a vast variety of recording available for people with a myriad of needs, from the blind, dyslexic, or learning impaired, to those wanting to broaden their literary horizons. With a spirit of “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain”, LibriVox is a critical organization for making the public domain truly accessible for all.
More info on public domain:
Public domain information http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter8/
A substantial part of the public domain consists of written works, ranging from religious literature to Shakespeare to Chekhov. These texts can be distributed freely through the Internet, though some publishers still dress them up and sell them as “classics editions”.
The Soundproof Book http://www.openebook.org/doc_library/informationaldocs/soundproof/soundproof.htm
Project Guenberg http://www.gutenberg.org
Internet Archive http://www.archive.org/
Ana Kabakova is a sophomore at the University of Georgia. She is working towards an double major in English and Russian and is on staff with the university newspaper, the Red and Black.