Journeys over, and into, the earth

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed for a Wired article about LibriVox. I don't know if that article is going to run in the magazine or not, but I thought about LibriVox a lot today while out on a long bike ride1 during which I listened to the first 28 chapters of the LibriVox recording of Jules Verne's A Journey to the Interior of the Earth2.

The Wired writer, Michael Erard, asked me why I like LibriVox, given that the recordings are of a quality that a commercial outfit such as Audible could fairly characterize as amateurish. It was a great question, and one I hadn't really considered. I realized that part of what I cherish is that these recordings aren't commercial products. They're pure expressions of a love of literature, and a desire to share that love.

Michael then made an observation that I think is exactly right. LibriVox, he suggested, taps a deep well of emotion. For those of us who were read to as children, and who have in turn read to our own children, there's just something special about reading aloud.

This past winter, while tramping through the snow, Gordon Mackenzie, Kristen McQuillen, Jean O'Sullivan, and Miette brought one of my childhood memories to life: Jack London's Call of the Wild. I would never have made time to revisit that book if it meant carving out a couple of hours of reading time. But on a winter hike it was the perfect companion.

Today's summer bike ride was, likewise, the perfect time to revisit Jules Verne's wonderful geological fantasy. The readers who've taken me through chapter 27 are Vinny Bove, Mark Bradford, Hugh McGuire, Kristin Luoma, Mur Lafferty, Paul S. Jenkins, Alex Foster, and Kristen McQuillen. Thanks everyone! You made my four-hour lake tour so much more fun than it was the last time.

1 I continue to use Gmaps Pedometer to chart my rides. But truth be told, I prefer the quality of the maps in Yahoo's new map service and in MSN Virtual Earth Windows Live Local. In principle it should be possible to port behaviors, like Gmaps Pedometer, from one of these mapping services to any other. In practice that's easier said than done. Still, I'd love to see a proof-of-concept map-based application done AJAX-style, but for an abstract interface that's implemented variously for Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

2 I always thought the title was Journey to the Center of the Earth, and apparently that is the more common variant. However, the Project Gutenberg version of the tale uses the less common one, and LibriVox has close ties with Project Gutenberg. Given that the title of the original version, in French, seems to have been Voyage au Centre de la Terre, I wonder how the variant title arose?

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