I make audio recordings of classic (i.e., mostly 19th-century) novels and release them free as mp3 files onto the Internet. Here's an article on the topic.
What a concept! And you can do it, too, through a volunteer organization called LIBRIVOX.
How do you do it? Using open source recording software (I like Audacity) and a simple USB mic (I use a Snowball), we LibriVox-ateers record books published in the USA before 1923 (and therefore out of copyright). Initially, I record and edit the texts as .wav files, and then export them as .mp3 files. A proof listener checks for mistakes, and the resulting works are posted at the LibriVox and archive.org websites for all to download to their iPod or listen on line using Quicktime.
Over the last 7 years I've recorded over 20 complete books -- that's about 170 hours of listening time.
How much do you charge? LibriVox is a volunteer effort. No one gets paid and no one makes any money out of it, although you can donate to keep the servers running via archive.org.
Is anyone listening? Well, yes. The iTunes app of my Treasure Island was downloaded 145,000 times in its first two years. In December 2013 the same recording reached 1,000,000 downloads on archive.org. Altogether, my audiobooks are downloaded about 30,000 times each month. That's over 2,500,000 times as of January 2015! Now, if I only had a dollar for each of those...
In a particularly weird er... happening, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan improvised an 8-hour set to my version of Siddhartha. And here it is.
At this link you will find a list of all my recordings or click on any of the links below and go straight to the audiobook.
Some thoughts about "The Jew" in literature. Reading 19th and early 20th-century novels for LibriVox has brought me face to face with historic attitudes toward Jews. And it's not very pretty.
As an anthropologist I know that, at the time, ethnicity and phenotype (aka "race") were widely considered genetic qualities. To be called "white" (as in, "you're a real white man") was the highest compliment to one's character and integrity. Jews, of course, were not white. The Jew's shrewdness was always selfish. Resentful of his marginal status in society, he was clannish and self-serving with that debased cunning form of cleverness. The Jew could cast off his ancestral religion but could not help but retain his in-born proclivities.
For fiction writers the Jew was a useful tool. The very word summoned up a raft of stereotyped images. When a minor character in The 39 Steps raves about an international Jewish conspiracy, author John Buchan knew that his readers in 1915 were comfortable with the image. It was an easy way to establish atmosphere. On the flip side, George Eliot's Daniel Deronda (1876) and Benjamin Farjeon's Aaron Cohen (1895) almost float above the ground in their excess of virtue. The result of the latter was a series of novels by, for example, Israel Zangwill and Amy Levy who wanted to depict Anglo-Jewish life warts and all. This was not popular with the conservative establishment, which condemned Levy's Ruben Sachs (1888) as a shanda fur die goyim.
In contrast to these thoroughly Anglicized authors were the Eastern European-born Jews who wrote in Yiddish about life in the Pale of Settlement. Sholem-Aleichem's 1921 stories Jewish Children (Yuddish Kinder) is full of funny, sometimes deeply disturbing tales of a tight-knit, highly controlled society that is a sure antidote to latter-day sentimentality about life in the shtetl.
OK, genug with the editorializing... here are the recordings:
THE BIG BOW MYSTERY by Israel Zangwill
A man is horribly murdered in his bedroom, the door locked and bolted on the inside. Yet the seemingly unsolvable case has one sublimely simple solution that is revealed in a shocking denouement.
THE KING OF SCHNORRERS by Israel Zangwill
Hilarious story of Manasseh da Costa, a schnorrer (a professional beggar) who lives on the charitable contributions of the Jews of late 18th-century London.
KIM by Rudyard Kipling
A fabulous adventure story set in India during the former British Empire. Taking time off from his role as the traveling companion of an aged Tibetan lama, Kim is trained as a spy, matches wits with various evildoers, and wins out in the end.
TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson
When young Jim Hawkins finds a map to pirates’ gold he starts on an adventure that takes him from his English village to a desert island with the murderous Black Dog, half-mad Ben Gunn, and (of course) Long John Silver. Arr Jim lad!
THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS by Lewis Carroll
The sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” finds Alice back in Wonderland and a pawn in a surreal chess game. This weird and wonderful book includes the poem 'Jabberwocky,' a talking pudding, and that immortal line 'Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today.'
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame
The classic story of how Rat, Mole, and the other river-bankers saved Toad from his excesses. This book has it all: excitement, sentiment, destruction of private property (plenty of that), paganism, and a happy ending.
REUBEN SACHS: A SKETCH by Amy Levy
Repelled by contemporary literature's anti-Semitic stereotypes as well as the occasional idealized Jewish paragon (e.g., Daniel Deronda), Amy Levy wrote what she felt to be an honest, warts-and-all account of middle class Jewish life in late-19th century London.
JEWISH CHILDREN - יידיש קינדער Yudishe Kinder - by Sholem Aleichem
Although written from a child's perspective, this is not a book for kids but a series of funny, poignant, and sometimes disturbing stories of life in an 1890s Russian-Jewish village.
SIDDHARTHA by Herman Hesse
Siddhartha is one of the great philosophical novels. Profoundly insightful, it is also a beautifully written story that begins as Siddhartha, son of an Indian Brahman, leaves his family and begins a lifelong journey towards Enlightenment.
THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS by John Buchan
Great adventure story. Richard Hannay is caught up in a web of secret codes, spies, and murder on the eve of WWI. This exciting tale was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film of the same name.
TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES by Thomas Hardy
One of the greatest English tragic novels, TESS is the story of a “pure woman” who is victimized both by conventional morality and its antithesis.
JIMBO by Algernon Blackwood
Unsettling story of a boy's strange experiences in an unoccupied house where he meets Fear itself...
MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE SIERRA by John Muir
The journal of wilderness-lover John Muir who spent the summer of 1869 herding sheep in the high Sierra Nevada.
MR MIDSHIPMAN EASY by Capt. Frank Marryat
The exciting adventures of an 18th-century midshipman in the British navy.
THE BLUE LAGOON by H. De Vere Stacpoole
Two shipwrecked children grow up on a desert island. This beautiful story of innocent love was published in 1908.
YIDDISH TALES - יידיש מעשה Yudishe Mayses - translated from Yiddish by Helena Frank
48 stories of Jewish life in eastern Europe and Russia written by several authors including I.L. Perez, Sholem Asch, and Sholem Aleichem. Originally published in 1912.
THE HISTORY OF MR. POLLY by H.G. Wells
Feeling bored and trapped in his conventional life, Mr. Polly makes a U-turn and changes everything.
NONSENSE SONGS, STORIES, BOTANY, & ALPHABETS by Edward Lear.
A short selection of nonsense poems, songs, cookery, and stories, including the "Owl and the Pussycat" and the "Four Little Children Who Went Round the World."
THE JEWISH STATE (DER JUDENSTAAT - מדינת היהודים) by Theodor Herzl, translated from German by Sylvie d' Avigdor.
A critical statement in the history of the State of Israel.
CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO by Israel Zangwill
Life in London's Jewish East End during the 19th century.
KARI THE ELEPHANT by Dhan Gopal Mukergji
The adventures of an Indian boy and his beloved elephant.
CALIFORNIA COAST TRAILS by J. Smeaton Chase (I'm still working on this one)
In 1911, decades before California's coast Highway 1 was built, an Englishman rode his faithful horse 2000 miles from the San Gabriel River to the Klamath. On the way he is courteously received at isolated ranches, has many quiet adventures, and is generally amazed by the beauty of our coast. A classic early California travelog.