Amateur Audio Books Catch Fire on the Web

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Audio books available for downloading or podcasting are gaining a wider audience.

Audio books available for downloading or podcasting are gaining a wider audience. hide caption

toggle caption

Literature fans looking for something beyond Oprah Winfrey's book club are discovering a new kind of club on the Internet — Web sites that offer audio versions of books, voiced by fans instead of professional voice actors.

Like many other Web-based phenomena, the popularity of the amateur audiobooks has led to an odd type of fame for some of the people behind those voices.

Kara Shallenberg, a stay-at-home mom in Oceanside, Calif., has voiced more than 100 chapters of books for a site called Librivox. Another volunteer from Oklahoma, R. Francis Smith, voices chapters from Bram Stoker's Dracula, some Grimm Brothers fairy tales, even the entire New Testament.

In addition to bringing new fans to literary classics, sites like Librivox can also bring new authors to reading audiences. Publishing companies may not want to release older or more obscure book titles in traditional audiobook format because of the financial risk.

With fan-created book podcasts, money isn't the point — most of the titles are already in the public domain, and it doesn't matter if five people or five million end up tuning in.

Other sites feature writers who see podcasting as a way to attract new audiences. "As both sites become more popular, writers and publishers may discover it's all good for book business," says Jardin. "And book fans may discover a lot more to like."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from