One of the questions I often get from customers and people at events is: “Are there any free books about Open Source?” The answer is absolutely yes, and it makes sense to have free or open books about Open Source, but it’s not exactly the same as software. Unless a book is completely online, PDF or otherwise, there are (material, labor) costs associated with producing it, and don’t even bother to ask the publishers for free copies of physical books, other than promotional copies, they won’t do it, it costs too much.

Probably the most well-known location for Open Books is the O’Reilly and Associates OpenBook project page. Tim O’Reilly and his crew have posted some extremely useful and informative books for free, and they continue to add to the list over time.

A few highlights from the O’Reilly selection include:

  • The Cathedral and the Bazaar – Eric Raymond’s seminal work that arguably started the Open Source Movement, great explanation, very personal
  • Linux Network Administrator’s Guide – Excellent work that explains how networking is accomplished with Linux
  • Using Samba 2nd Ed. – An excellent explanation of what Samba is and how it works, formerly a print-only book, now available both ways
  • Unix Text Processing – This is an out of print book, and there are lots of others on the site too, great to keep a copy for reference, and easy too!

Next up is the Prentice Hall publishing house’s Bruce Perens Open Source Series, the Series home page provides a great overview of this very professional and helpful series. The Open Source Series books are available both online as a PDF and as a printed book for sale. I own several, it’s nice to have the physical book at times, like when I don’t have a device that I can read the PDF on.

A few highlights from the Bruce Perens Series include:
Open Source Security Tools: A Practical Guide to Security Applications – Very important in today’s desktop/server world, how it all works
Linux Patch Management: Keeping Linux Systems Up To Date – Excellent discussion of how patching is done, best practices etc.
The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition – Probably the definitive tome about Samba, from the folks who make it
Linux Quick Fix Notebook – Great howto and troubleshooting guide for Linux

A few other open books repositories include:

Free Tech Books – Great compilation site of free books on just about every topic you can imagine, the Linux section is impressive
WikiBooks – A wiki site that has an incredible number of books listed, almost more than you can ever read, the Computing section is very complete

Last but not least, the MIT folks have published Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software, which looks like a very good read for those who want to know more about how FLOSS works, what it is and how to take advantage of it.

Hope this is all helpful, I really like having the books in PDF form, it makes searching them very easy, particularly with the SLED Beagle search tool, now I can just type in what I want and open the PDF directly.