At its worst a free audiobook can sound like a teenager reading aloud in high school English class. At its best it can offer excellent sound quality and skilled narration infused with a passion for the text. In between is a world of competent readings, sometimes spiced with affected accents, mumbled words and distant car horns and reflecting all manner of literary interpretations.
All three services rely on Project Gutenberg, the online repository of works in the public domain, for texts. Listeners often can choose from several recordings of the same work; LibriVox, for example, offers three readings of the Gettysburg Address. Among the most recorded authors are Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Jack London, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, William Shakespeare and Lucy Maud Montgomery.