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The Naxos Spoken Word Library – 24/7

By Nicolas Soames

1 February 2010

Most people listen to our (wonderful!) Naxos AudioBooks recordings on CD. And an increasing number, especially in the US and the UK, prefer to download them from our site (or from others) – as you will see on any title’s page, we offer both options on almost all our recordings…

Naxos Spoken Word Library

The Naxos Spoken Word Library

But there is another way to listen, especially if you are a real fan of classic literature and our recordings in particular: listen online!

The Naxos Spoken Word Library is the only (as far as I know) comprehensive spoken word streaming service for recordings of classic literature in the world. Go there, and you will find all our recordings – Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy, Proust and the rest read by our carefully chosen actors – available 24/7. Once you subscribe to the site, you simply log in, choose a title, and listen.

Without throwing modesty to the wind, it is a remarkable and unique resource. In a similar way to the Naxos Music Library, which is the world’s premier classical-music streaming resource, it offers the chance to listen to all our titles for one subscription payment per year.

There is also the added bonus, in many cases, of the script. In all possible circumstances – when the title is out of copyright or is a Naxos AudioBooks original text – you can read as well as listen. This is of particular interest, of course, to those for whom English is a second (or third!) language; but it is also of use to those who would like to get to know the classics more closely.

We get an increasing number of requests for texts because of the testing nature of the content. Only last week, for example, one English listener asked for the e-texts for Benedict Flynn’s translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy which we were happy to provide because of his special circumstances. It is totally engaging to listen to Heathcote Williams reading the Inferno – an experience you will never forget.

Naxos Spoken Word Library

Disc and track listings

But there is no denying that with his many classical and contemporary (14th-century) allusions, Dante is difficult or at the very least challenging! And it really helps to have the script (and, in this case, not only the script but Flynn’s very helpful notes that go with it).

This applies equally to James Joyce’s Ulysses!

A subscriber to would have all available material automatically.

This site has been going for some years now, but it has recently been upgraded. Last week a new, key function was added: a bookmarking facility. So you can listen to William Hootkins’s astounding performance of Moby-Dick or the recording of Peter Whitfield’s excellent History of English Poetry and, when you need to take a break, bookmark it at the track point and come back to it later.

This makes it a truly useful resource for personal listening, for study or for sheer entertainment.

You want to hear how Jabberwocky sounds in the hands of an English classical actor?

Just go and listen!

You want to hear the final words of Socrates addressing his accusers in Ancient Athens?

Just go and listen!

You want to hear just one short story by Maupassant – say Old Boniface’s Crime?

Just go and listen!

You want to hear Mistress Wadman seducing Uncle Toby in Tristram Shandy? – you have a choice of either John Moffatt (in the abridged recording) or Anton Lesser (in the unabridged recording).

Naxos Spoken Word Library

Streaming audio player and script

Just go and listen! – to John Moffatt (in the abridged recording) or Anton Lesser (in the unabridged recording)!… You can listen to both and compare!

You can do this any time of the day or night.

So please visit

Many audiobooks are only enjoyed once and not revisited. We only want to listen once to a thriller or most contemporary titles, even non-fiction. The classics are different. I know from the many letters and emails we get (and please keep writing to let us know what you like, what you don’t like, what you want!) that people listen again and again to their favourite readers. It may be Sean Barrett reading Dickens, or David Timson reading Sherlock Holmes or Sean Bean reading King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, or Geoffrey Palmer reading Kipling’s Just So Stories.

These are books which we would all expect to read again and again – and it is the same with listening! So it is always good to have the classics on CD or in MP3 form which can be listened to when away from the computer, in a different room, when walking or on the train, or in the car.

But the Naxos Spoken Word Library is a very useful new medium for audiobook lovers!

Incidentally, the Spoken Word Library site has been constructed and maintained by the Naxos AudioBooks parent company, Naxos, the classical music company founded by Klaus Heymann and is part of its important contribution to Western culture on the web.

Nicolas Soames

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