Backing up a bit: Creative Commons licenses are a way for creators of all kinds of media protected by copyright to allow others, within set parameters, to use their creations. By broadcasting the default authorization to share one’s work, the licenses facilitate the dissemination of creative materials faster, easier, and to more people than is allowed by the confines of automatically attached copyright laws. By offering a variety of conditions that can be imposed on the shared works, the licenses let authors retain broad control how their works may be used.
Forwarding a bit: some authors have licensed their books under a Creative Commons license, thus allowing others (me and you) to download and read their works for free. Free! Free is how I’m reading Abelson, Ledeen, and Lewis’s Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion, since it was blessedly licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License (the same license that this blog uses). Free is the $11.23 I’m not having to spend to buy the Kindle version of the same book. Free as in freedom (another book under a Creative Commons license), but also free as in free books — the honeyed sweetness that flows from the drip that is Free.
So where is this free/Creative Commons-licensed bookstore? The most consolidated source I was able to find is this list of books maintained by Creative Commons itself. Unfortunately, the CC list does not contain links by which one click and one can download the book in the format of one’s (or one’s e-reader’s) choosing. So probably the easiest thing to do is to do a Google search for the title that you’re interested in after you spot it in the list. For example, if you’re interested in any of the books Lawrence Lessig publishes under a Creative Commons license, then with a quick Google of his name, you can get to his personal website where the books are happily begging to be taken. Another place worth checking out is the SiSU site, which has a small number of titles but the big advantage of having them in every file format imaginable.
Or, if your reading habits happen to strangely coincide with mine, here’s a list of books, with links to the downloads, that I’ve freely acquired so far
- Lawrence Lessig: The Future of Ideas, Free Culture, and Codev2.
- James Boyle: The Public Domain, Bound by Law (a comics!)
- Yochai Benkler: The Wealth of Networks
- Jonathan Zittrain: The Future of the Internet
- Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity
If once you have gotten files for these books, they don’t happen to be the kind of file that your e-reader is most compatible with, check out Calibre, “the one stop solution to all your e-book needs”, or at least the needs to convert e-book file formats and manage your digital library. Have fun & do let me know if you come upon any treasure trove!
*: I hope you got the drift by this point, lest I feel compelled to expand on an increasingly off-color analogy.