Looking for your next book? Or are you an audiobook afficionado? You don’t need to wait for an Audible performance to listen to your favorite classics. The Project Gutenberg (PG) Open Audiobook Collection has made its debut, and now, you’ll find a wealth of audiobooks powered by Microsoft AI on various platforms! These AI audiobooks boast an audio version of public domain e-books. But before jumping into all the details, let’s step back a moment. Project Gutenberg has a 50 year history of volunteers digitizing texts.
What is Project Gutenberg (PG)?
Project Gutenberg offers free e-books. Their collection is over 70,000 strong, and includes the world’s great literature. It also includes books for which U.S. copyright has expired.
You may have missed the word “free” before, so let’s clarify that these e-books are without cost to you, and you can read these on a variety of devices. That’s because their books are in common formats, such as ePub, Amazon Kindle, and HTML. That’s right, HTML is the language of the web, and you can read books via your web browser.
Some PG links to get your started:
The Project Gutenberg (PG) Open Audiobook Collection
The website characterizes the Microsoft and PG collaboration in this way:
Project Gutenberg and Microsoft have worked together. They have created create thousands of free and open audiobooks. They used new neural text-to-speech technology and the large open-access collection of e-books.
This project aims to make literature more accessible to (audio)book-lovers everywhere. It seeks to democratize access to high quality audiobooks.(adapted from source)
The books are accessible via several audio sources, including:
You can browse the collection online, as well. Browsing the collection yields an alphabetical list of audiobooks.
A quick note about audio quality and its reception among listeners. Of course, you will want to judge the storytelling ability of AI voice.
Audio Quality of Project Gutenberg Audiobooks
Since PG relies upon Microsoft AI reading of texts, it’s worth taking a moment to assess the audio. For example, compare these acoustical renderings of a favorite text of mine:
- Audible: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
- LibreVox: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
- PGMI Open Audiobook Collection: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (AI generated)
Since Nick Offerman (e.g. Parks and Recreation, Last of Us) reads the Audible version, you’ll find the audio rich. Once you start listening to the sample Audible makes available, you may not want to stop. That aside, the AI version in the Open Audiobook Collection was quite good, smooth and full of youth. The story captivated me, and the AI reading did not get in the way. And, that is amazing given it’s Microsoft AI voice.
Bonus Tool: LibriVox Recordings (No AI Audiobooks Here)
Now that you know about Project Gutenberg, allow me to doff my hat to LibriVox .
Since August, 2005, LibroVox has offered free public domain audiobooks. LibriVox terms these readings of public domain texts “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” Real people read the texts and quality varies per the reader. Some are quite richly read with a convincing timber and resonating authenticity.
Unlike Chirp or Audible books that you have to pay for, LibriVox’ library of content is available at no cost and includes texts from Project Gutenberg. The famous Internet Archive hosts the audio files.
Some LibriVox recordings to enchant your ears:
Now that you’ve had a chance to learn more about Project Gutenberg, explore LibriVox. It’s time for the new!
AI-Powered, Open Audiobooks
Be sure to check out these AI-powered audiobooks in this Open Audiobook Collection by Project Gutenberg. And, explore the LibriVox recordings! Let us know what you think in the comments.
Featured Image Attribution: Screenshot by author: https://marhamilresearch4.blob.core.windows.net/gutenberg-public/Website/index.html