If you have an mp3 player, you can listen to some of the great works of literature using a Web- based service called LibriVox.

AP Photo/Gary C. Knapp

For many, if not most of us, it's almost a given that we feel we should read more. And not just more celebrity gossip columns, but rather more good books, more true literature, more of the classic examples of great and inspired writing.

But honestly, with the exception of college English majors and their academe-ensconced professors, who has time for all that?

As it turns out, if you have an mp3 player, you have time to take in many of the great works of literature. Since 2005, a Web-based service called LibriVox has been painstakingly reading and recording some of the great literary classics.

Hugh McGuire, a Montreal-based writer, got the idea for LibriVox out of personal need. "I was looking for an audio version of The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad and I found that I couldn't find one that was freely available on the Internet so I thought, well, maybe that will be the start," McGuire told an interviewer in 2005 [source: The Writing Show].

Using a worldwide, volunteer army of readers, recorders and proof-listeners, LibriVox has seen geometric growth since its inception. Oh yeah, and while you might expect to pay several bucks for an audio book from a bookstore, LibriVox's offerings are entirely free.

However, there's one notable limitation to the LibriVox catalog: To avoid copyright infringement hassles, all of the works are ones that have entered into the public domain. That simply means that because of the age of the books or the authors' release of legal rights, the works are free for all to use in whatever way they wish. For most of the works in the LibriVox collection, public domain means they're "classic" works published many decades ago.

What would possess anyone to undertake such an ambitious pursuit, let alone do it for free?