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January 21, 2019 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Wanted: recommendations of public-domain audiobooks for a family member in assisted living.

Family member (female, elderly) is in assisted living. For reasons I won't get into here, she can't take advantage of opportunities for social interaction that are nominally available to her. Likewise precluded from reading or using a keyboard, but NOT from using a remote control, provided buttons are large enough. I've acquired an MP3 player with a remote, which has no sound files yet.

Seeking recommendations of books in the public domain, and 'prominent' enough to have been recorded into audio files by one or other of the volunteer projects out there (I'm using this, which you can search, but there are others)-- books which you would recommend as enjoyable/thought-provoking/otherwise worth reading, or listening to in this case. (I don't have much specific information about her taste in reading material; aim general.) Also, if you know a really engrossing audiobook which isn't public domain, feel free to post it as well (but mark it as not-public-domain).

Also seeking: -any constructive criticism about this project before I ship it -suggestions on how to artificially make a button "easier" to press -any comments/concerns.
posted by queen anne's remorse to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help you with the public domain thing, but if you're a member of audible, you can get many classics for under a buck. For instance, the complete novels of Jane Austen (77 hours) is 66 cents.

And if you scroll down on that page you'll see "People also bought" and see a series of others: complete Mark Twain, Count of Monte Cristo, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Don Quioxte, etc. All priced the same.
posted by dobbs at 4:19 PM on January 21, 2019

suggestions on how to artificially make a button "easier" to press

This might be helpful if you want adapt the button a bit for someone with limited dexterity/strength, or who is perhaps lying down all the time, not able to crane head up to look at the remote, or is otherwise visually impaired:

A self-stick rubber bumper pad, of the sort you would put on the back of a cupboard door, can be attached to the button in question.

This makes the button easy to find, particularly if the remote is a "flat" design without upraised buttons. I'd imagine it would make it slightly easier to press as well? We use them on remotes and appliances in our house (my husband is blind).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:34 PM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I get my audio books from my local (and from a non-local) library for free. I don't know how to transfer to a different device, but we got a smart phone at a yardsale and just use the wifi to load the program and the books.
posted by 445supermag at 5:31 PM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Non-public domain - You can transfer Overdrive MP3 audiobooks from your library onto an MP3 player. IIRC on a dumb MP3 player, the files stay on the device until it connects to the Overdrive app again. If you never connect it to a computer again, the MP3 player has no way of knowing when the audiobooks are due. (It's been a while since I've done this, you should make sure this is still the case before handing over the MP3 player.)

Also, it sounds like your plan is to load it up and send it somewhere. Does the MP3 player have expandable memory? If you won't have physical access to it, you could send updates on an SD card and have a staff member help your relative swap them out.
posted by yeahlikethat at 5:47 PM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

suggestions on how to artificially make a button "easier" to press

If her voice is clear enough that the speech to text will work (and she'll use it), you could eliminate buttons entirely by using a Google Home based device and syncing files to the music collection (you can have something like 50,000 tracks for free). This would also allow you to add new content remotely.
posted by Candleman at 5:55 PM on January 21, 2019

No specific titles, but you might use old bestseller lists to find authors that may have books now in the public domain that are more likely to be accessible and decently written. The earlier the more likely to have PD books of course. Here are lists of the bestsellers and some Book-of-the Month Club selections from the 1920s (with other 20th century decades linked at the left (pretty sure these are US lists)) that have at least some authors with audiobooks on LibriVox, although not always the bestsellers themselves. Random ones I checked from the 20s with titles on LV - Edna Ferber, L.M. Montgomery (most of the Green Gables titles), Booth Tarkington, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair.
posted by ClingClang at 6:32 PM on January 21, 2019

I've enjoyed the audio versions of Sherlock Holmes stories at Gutenberg.org.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:33 PM on January 21, 2019

Oh, and this is in addition to what you're asking, but I've also gotten a lot out of the recordings of old radio shows at The Internet Archive. My favorite was "The Saint" starting Vincent Price, with the Jack Benny show a close second.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:36 PM on January 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

Some software allows you to remember your place in a file if you stop playing — which comes in handy if the audiobook isn’t broken up into many small segments.

If you are computer-savvy, the youtube-dl command can be used to extract the audio from YT videos into an MP3 file.

I glued a scrap of sandpaper to the Off button of my alarm clock so I can find it in the dark; you might consider that as a variation on mandolin conspiracy’s suggestion, above, to affix a rubber bumper to the button.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:16 AM on January 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Children's classics can be very pleasant listening - browsing librivox, I see Anne of Green Gables, lots of Louisa May Alcott, and the Secret Garden and other Frances Hodgson Burnett.

If your relative has any kind of medical or physical reason preventing her from reading print books and is in the United States, you may also be able to get her set up with talking books from the National Library Service to the Blind. They have their own devices and software that are designed for accessibility, and a broad catalog of current titles. Eligibility is open both to people with visual impairments, and people who can't read books due to physical limitations or learning disabilities.
posted by songs about trains at 10:23 AM on January 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding old time radio! You can download many popular mystery series, comedies and adaptations of classic works from Archive.org or purchase low cost versions on CD where the audio has been cleaned up. There are OTR streaming stations available on TuneIn for free, but sometimes the quality is crackly.
posted by Calzephyr at 11:11 AM on January 22, 2019

FYI: The One-Button Audiobook Player. I'm not this technical, but perhaps either you are or someone would be willing to donate their time, if it's enough of a plus. Also here. Also, some linkage for free audiobooks in MP3 format.
posted by WCityMike at 12:10 PM on January 22, 2019

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