Friday, January 30, 2009

Recording The Good Book

One of my favorite pastimes is recording ancient books. I wrote about this before here, here, and here. A band of merry volunteers called Librivox is making audio books of every public domain bit of writing on the planet and making them available for free. This basically means everything written before 1923, although there are some works created since then that we can do, too.

We're mostly amateurs but that doesn't prevent many of the recordings from being rather well done. And even where they're not up to professional standards, listening to Wuthering Heights read by people who don't sound like TV announcers has a charm all its own.

Seminary educated as I am, I often gravitate toward religious works -- things like Paradise Lost and Orthodoxy. A little over a year ago a bunch of us decided to take on something really big: the entire Old Testament.

Because we wanted to do a modern translation we pretty much had only one choice: The very accurate but somewhat awkwardly worded World English Bible (or WEB as it's known). It was translated long after 1923, but the author purposely released it directly into the Public Domain so anybody could use it with no restrictions. There are other versions of the New Testament available (I'm doing one solo right now, in fact) but when it came to the Old Testament it was either the WEB or the venerable old King James Version with it's "thee's" and "thou's." And somebody is already working their way through that one anyway.

It was a bit of a struggle but we slogged on through. I recorded several sections of Samuel (I and II), the last half of Isaiah, and 2 sections of the prophet Jeremiah's book. And now, as of last Friday, it's been released to the world. There's a WEB New Testament recording too that was finished some time ago. To my great regret I didn't get to participate in that one.

To me the cool thing is this: If you go down to your local Bible store and buy a recording of the Scriptures, you'll plunk down between $70 and $90 bucks. Of course, some of those are full-blown productions with music, sound effects, and performances by Denzel Washington and Marisa Tomei. Ours is just the simple human voice reading the word of God. But now, if you have an Internet connection, you can have it for free.

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