E-books for the taking

Regular readers know I’m both a strong believer in giving away free electronic books and articles under open licensing and posting links to other free book resources as I find them. This week I was looking for a source of free e-books with nice formatting to try out one of the print on demand services and I came up with the Linux Documentation Project Guides site. I’ve been to and used the LDP site before but only for the much shorter HOWTOs. The guides section of the site contains a number of free full length refernce books in a variety of formats.

Another tool I came across that’s helpful in working with ebooks is the open source GutenMark software. As you probably already know Project Gutenberg makes public domain books freely available on the internet. If you haven’t used PG what you may not know is the majority of these are formatted only as ASCII text with hard line breaks making them quite unpleasant and difficult to read. The GutenMark software makes a best effort to make them into more readable word wrapped HTML files which can then be imported into a word processor and further refined if you so choose. Hopefully people will spend a bit of time cleaning up some of the more popular books and create versions suitable for offline prinitng and reading. I’m working on such a version of John Dewey’s Democracy and Education.

Also, if you’re not aware the Google books project has been scanning public domain books at libraries and posting the images in PDF format online. Unfortunatly, they are watermarking the files and have somewhat restrictive licensising attached to downloading them. What you may not have heard is that Microsoft, Yahoo, the Univeristy of California and several Canadian libraries are undertaking similar projects but are working with the Internet Archive Texts project which have different terms depending on who sponsered the digitization of the book. It is unfortuante that some of these sponsors (usually only the corporate ones and not the libraries) are attaching terms of use to public domain books, but it is at least somewhat nice that they are being made available at all.

In other free ebook news O’Reilly will be publishing the updated Using Samba, 3rd Edition book in January. Hopefully it will be released under the same type of free license as the previous two editions. This updated reference guide will be greatly appreciated by the SAMBA community which has made significant strides in the recent versions of their software.

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