If you read the about page, you’ll note that I acknowledge AKMA’s project to get a collection of volunteers to read Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture as the prime inspiration for LibriVox. I heard about AKMA’s project just as I was discovering podcasting, and as Omedia.org was launched (providing free server space for Creative Commons works, using the infrastructure of the Internet Archive, which now hosts LibriVox media files).
Anyway, I saw the world change: media broadcasting was about to be freed to the people.
I spent the next few months thinking about audio, free culture, free server space, literature, and the distributed model used in Free/Open Source Software development. And then I read The Professor and the Madman, about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionaray, considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of Arts & Letters (in English at least). The curious thing was that the citations in the OED were submitted largely by volunteers. Yes, the Free Software movement has a history, and Open Source is not so much a new idea, as an old one.
Next: I downloaded and listened to a number of chapters of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, read by Jan of Urban Art Adventures … but she hadn’t finished reading the book! How long would I have to wait?
And I had an idea: LibriVox.
The last key to the puzzle was the unspeakably wonderful work that Gutenberg.org has done for the past many years, quietly building up the biggest library of free, public domain, ebooks in the world – a collection that now numbers an astounding 50,000 titles.
And so, from AKMA’s little project, with some twists and turns, was born LibriVox.
In any case, I was touched to read AKMA’s recent post about LibriVox, not only because he says nice things about the project, but because it demonstrates the vibrant power of the internet, the perhaps-over-hyped web2.0, and the communications it allows and encourages. Ideas have always been exchanged of course, but what’s new is the speed with which it can be done now, the ease with which we can take one idea from here, another from there, and a few more, and then build a space where hundreds — how long before it’s thousands? — of people will read together to provide something of lasting value to the world.