Info-philanthropy: a small cost for a big benefit

As part of the Government 2.0 Taskforce in 2009 I coined the term ‘info-philanthropy’ though someone may have coined it before me and the Taskforce proposed that it qualify as a head of philanthropy. I don’t think any changes have been made, but there’s reasonable scope to include it under the existing arrangements.

In any event, I’ve been doing a bit of work with the Paul Ramsay Foundation on philanthropy’s response to the crisis. As usual, my own mind goes towards using the crisis to try to innovate in ways that survive long after the crisis. In any event, this is a small thing which is to identify one useful thing people can do with their time sitting at home.

I’m a fan of Libri-vox – but more or less on principle. It’s a surprise that it’s not a lot better than it is. Most of the recordings are a good deal worse than the professional recordings on Audible. You might expect that, and in the early days of peer-to-peer production, you’d be in company. But with the appropriate adjustments in expectations, Wikipedia is better than Britannica and Linux is better than its professional competitors. I see no reason why there shouldn’t be retired actors, and non-retired actors seeking a name for themselves, teachers and just normies recording books with the best being promoted through the ranks so that with popular books like Middlemarch and Crime and Punishment there are really great recordings available.

But alas it is not so. Anyway, I gained insight as to why when I enrolled in Librivox myself with the intention of recording a few chapters of R. G. Collingwood’s Religion and Philosophy, which isn’t available, or chapters of books that I’d like to read by Alfred North Whitehead that are likewise not available. Then I got the email recorded over the fold.

As you can see, it’s a miracle of user-unfriendliness. So that’s something that could be attended to in the crisis. A simpler set of instructions and a service to take prospective narrators sitting out there in the suburbs through what steps remain necessary. And an engagement with retirement villages and aged care facilities everywhere to get those who might like to do this kind of thing doing it.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill during another, more serious crisis, it’s hard to think of a resource that might be provided by so few that could do so much for so many. 

Hi Nicholas,

Welcome to Librivox!

If you have questions, please post in the “Need Help” forum:

And now, here’s your “welcome” email filled with helpful links! There’s a lot to read, but it’s important.  You can always get help on the forum if anything here is confusing.


Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself! I have activated your forum account; you should be able to log in now.

If you speak a foreign language, have a look at:

You may like to introduce yourself to the community in the “introduce yourself” forum:

An overview of how Librivox works can be found here:

There are numerous ways to volunteer here. An important one is proof-listening, which consists of checking someone’s recording for errors. If you’d like to give that a try, you can find lots of information here:

If you wish to try your hand at recording, the place to start is the Newbie Guide to Recording:, which tells you how to set up your computer to record.

We urge you to make a “1 Minute Test” for review before you start actively recording. This is NOT an audition, but a way to check to make sure all your technical settings are correct, your volume loud enough, etc. You will find the information for the 1-Minute Test Recording here: The instructions also tell you how to upload your test and then post in the Listeners and Editors Wanted forum so someone can give you feedback on it.

One of our volunteers has created a number of videos that you might find helpful to learn more about the workings of Librivox. You can find a listing of those here:

Also to point out to professional (or aspiring) Voice Over artists, all our recordings are put back into the public domain which means sometimes they are sold on ebay, etc. Have a look at this page which describes our Public Domain policy:

We hope you have fun!


Librivox Admin Team]


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Harry Clarke
Harry Clarke
3 years ago

I have used LibriVox for years and listened to more than 100 novels. I find audio recordings of non-fiction difficult to follow – always having to stop to ponder. Some of the recordings are very good, some are weaker – male readers doing a falsetto sometimes grates.

It is easy to download novels onto a USB (and to keep a copy in iTunes) but if people in retirement villages cannot do so then maybe a staff member can do it for them. It takes a few minutes for the download but is a fairly mechanical procedure.

Harry Clarke
Harry Clarke
3 years ago

Sorry, but I have not kept a record of narrators. I like the Trollope stories on LibraVox but that was despite the quality of the narration rather than because of it. The other source of audiobooks I use is supplied by Book Depository in the Classic Collections series. These are cheap ($9-$12 delivered post free) and you don’t have to pay a monthly sub. I’ve listened to most of the Joseph Conrad novels, most of the Lawrence, Melville, George Elliot, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen etc. One bizarre effort that I greatly enjoyed was Samuel Beckett’s, Molloy – I have only listened to the first of the trilogy. Another favorite is Conrad’s Victory – I think his best novel and the narration fantastic though I forget the narrator.

Every year (not 2020!) I drive from Melbourne to Port Douglas – around 3,000kms in 3-4 days. I normally get through about 3 audiobooks on the trip each way.

Simon Molloy
Simon Molloy
3 years ago

I’m a fan of LibraVox too. I’m also an amateur sound engineer. ‘Good’ recordings are at the intersection of ‘voice talent’ and recording engineering skills. It’s harder then you think. This is why the professional recordings are, on average so much better.