Today I thought I might suggest a little bit of summer reading, now the good weather has finally arrived in the UK! Some are a little off the beaten track, with less explicit links to free software; all of them, in my opinion, will be of interest to anybody visiting this website. So, read the list, pay a visit to Amazon and grab the nearest bottle of sun cream!
Free Software, Free Society by Richard Stallman
The intersection of ethics, law, business and computer software is the subject of these essays and speeches by MacArthur Foundation Grant winner, Richard M. Stallman. This collection includes historical writings such as The GNU Manifesto, which defined and launched the activist Free Software Movement, along with new writings on hot topics in copyright, patent law, and the controversial issue of “trusted computing.”
I think of this book as essential reading for anybody with an interest in free software: it is informative and inspirational, helping you to understand both why free software is important and what threats it faces. Free Software, Free Society no doubt benefits from being an anthology, making it possible to dip in and out of, as some of the topics can be quite heavy going.
Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig
Lessig covers many of the ideas discussed in Free Software, Free Society–specifically from the section Copyright, Copyleft and Patents, but helps to broaden their appeal to a wider audience through his engaging style and use of relevant examples that will be familiar to anybody who's spent time on the internet.
Want to understand the value of the public domain? Want to understand why people all over the world are being sued by the entertainment industries? Want a vision of how things could, and should be? This book is definitely for you.
Free as in Freedom by Sam Williams
“Why would anybody want to part with so much information and yet appear to demand nothing in return?” is a quote from the preface of this Stallman biography. In answering this question the book covers many of the essential ideas of free software, albeit lacking the detail and rigour of Free Software, Free Society, while setting it in context.
The new context provided by this book makes it worth reading for anybody who already has some knowledge of free software, and the light treatment and entertaining presentation make it a great primer for anybody just discovering free software.
Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
This book, written in 1971, is a criticism of school as an institution. Illich first explains what is wrong with institutionalised schooling, and then goes on to explain new models that he believes would improve the situation. It is in these new models that the interest for readers of Free Software Magazine comes from, in particular the idea of “learning webs”. The similarities with the free software community are staggering, and Illich's treatment of these ideas helps to explain why the model is so successful.
Just a few of my favourites: drop a comment if there's any you'd like to see on the list!