Reading & Audio Books

My Reading Evolution

I love to read. When I was in first grade, I was delighted to discover that my elementary school had a room (albeit a small one) filled with books. By the time I was in third grade, I began to wonder what I would do after I’d read all the books in the school library. One of the books I’d checked out, which was a child’s introduction to geology, began with the sentence “Every rock tells a story.” I read on, thinking I could learn how to find an unlimited supply of stories by exploring playgrounds, picnic parks, and even my own back yard. I discovered that the stories in rocks are not the same as stories in books, but my childhood interest in rock collecting began with the enchantment of that first sentence. After I confided my book anxiety to my mother, she took me to the local public library. She also told me there was a much larger library downtown, but even this did not contain all the books in the world. So I progressed from worrying about running out of books, to worrying about getting books back to the library by their due date.

I’ve since learned that overdue library books are one of the smaller failures one is likely to experience in life. I pay the occasional fine with a smile, for I do cherish my library cards: I have one for my county library system, one for a university library, and one to use when I visit my family in Ohio. Nowadays, in addition to being a source of printed books and other physical media, many libraries also provide database access and Internet connectivity.

As technology has changed the nature of libraries, it has also changed my relationship with reading and literature. There’s not much time for reading during a busy day, but I carry an MP3 player that lets me listen to audio books as I work out at the gym, shop for groceries, wait in lines, and take care of household chores. In addition, I have a smartphone that lets me read ebooks while traveling by airplane, riding the bus, waiting for appointments, and lying awake in bed.


My favorite source for audio books is LibraVox.  Here I find many of the classics, available for download free of charge.  As the LibriVox website states:  “LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and publish the audio files on the Internet.  Our goal is to record all the books in the public domain.”  If you enjoy listening to audio books, check out LibriVox!  If you’ve never listened to an audio book, you can download something from LibriVox and give it a try. 

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg has digitized over 30,000 books whose copyright has expired in the United States.  This includes a great many classics.  Those who live in the USA, may freely download these books, which are offered in formats that can be read on a variety of portable devices, as well as on a computer.  As the Project Gutenberg website states:  “No fee or registration is required, but if you find Project Gutenberg useful, we kindly ask you to donate a small amount so we can buy and digitize more books. Other ways to help include digitizing more books, recording audio books, or reporting errors.”

Kindle Classics

For reading ebooks, I use free the Free Kindle Reading Apps provided by Amazon.  With a Kindle App, I not only can read ebooks from Project Gutenberg, but also can also read a large number of free classic books that Amazon makes available in Kindle format.  In addition, I can purchase many current books in Kindle format, which gives me instant access at a somewhat lower price than I’d pay for a physical book.  Although I prefer physical books in some cases, in other cases I prefer the ability Kindle gives me to make electronic annotations and save my place, and then access the book across multiple devices (e.g. desktop computer, notebook computer, Droid X) with my customization automatically kept in sync.  If you want to read Kindle Classics, you will need an Amazon account in addition to a Kindle Reading App.  However, it doesn’t cost anything to register for an Amazon account.