We’re releasing the files for O’Reilly’s Open Government book

A #PDFtribute to Aaron Swartz.

I’ve read many eloquent eulogies from people who knew Aaron Swartz better than I did, but he was also a Foo and contributor to Open Government. So, we’re doing our part at O’Reilly Media to honor Aaron by posting the Open Government book files for free for anyone to download, read and share.

The files are posted on the O’Reilly Media GitHub account as PDF, Mobi, and EPUB files for now. There is a movement on the Internet (#PDFtribute) to memorialize Aaron by posting research and other material for the world to access, and we’re glad to be able to do this.

You can find the book here: github.com/oreillymedia/open_government

Daniel Lathrop, my co-editor on Open Government, says “I think this is an important way to remember Aaron and everything he has done for the world.” We at O’Reilly echo Daniel’s sentiment.

  • Robert Dunham

    Cool. I suppose you’d have been real pleased if he had “Opened up” all content on Safari Books Online, like he tried to do with JSTOR.

    • Aaron didn’t actually release the JSTOR downloads. He did some research on the downloaded corpus.

      If someone did the same for Safari, I might well have been intrigued and asked for a copy of the research.

      It’s true that if Aaron had actually released all the bulk-downloaded data, in despite of the copyright owner’s wishes, he would have been doing something I wouldn’t approve of.

      If you look at my history on the subject, I am all about finding the right balance between open and closed. E.g. when bookshare.org asked for copies of my company’s books for scanning, I said, “Why don’t we just send you the files?” Now almost all publishers do that.

      • Robert Dunham

        Thanks for your response, Tim.

        From what I’ve been able to learn, Aaron Swartz never clarified what he planned to do with the downloaded articles. But his previous brush with the law, when he uploaded 18 million patent documents to a cloud service, suggests that he didn’t have a research project in mind. In any case, he didn’t have time to do very much with the JSTOR articles, having been caught in the act.

        If you were aware of Swartz’s actual intentions, or if you’re privy to some research he did on the JSTOR corpus, I hope you’ll write about it in the future.

        By the way, JSTOR does make its corpus readily available for text-mining and similar research. Aaron Swartz could have availed himself of this instead of playing tricks with Mac addresses and Python scripts.

        I mean no disrespect to Aaron Swartz, of whom I wasn’t aware until his death, or to Safari Books Online, which I’ve subscribed to for many years. And it certainly looks like the prosecutors (and MIT?) were extremely over-zealous. But I think it’s unfortunate that so many people find Aaron Swartz entirely blameless for his actions.

        • Aaron was an idealist who pursued a course of action that was unwise, and he probably should have faced some sort of sanction for it.

          What he shouldn’t have faced is the equivalent of an Intellectual death sentence.

          Felony conviction? No international travel or career prospects.

          Computer crime conviction? Access to computers forbidden or severely curtailed for years after release.

          Oh, and lets not forget how the youngsters are treated inside…

          Aaron was a smart guy – he saw that the prosecutors were going to end him, and he left on his terms.

    • Agamemnon

      Also, you’re comparing apples to oranges. MIT’s network, which aaronsw connected the now infamous laptop to, is notorious for being wide open. Anyone can walk off the street and jack in. Also, JSTOR’s archive on MIT’s network doesn’t offer any sort of challenge to access. So, with that having been said, you could walk in to MIT, connect to their network and voila, welcome to free, unlimited JSTOR access. (cf. http://www.thepublicdomain.org/2013/01/18/the-prosecution-of-aaron-a-response-to-orin-kerr/).

      On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that Safari’s network is anything but open. I would be nigh on surprised if there were anything less than physical, software and hardware security in that network. While someone of aaronsw’s talent and intellect could manage their way into their network and set up something similar, it would not be easy. Further, it would not accomplish the same goal aaronsw was trying to accomplish. Aarsonsw’s goal was to free works that had been paid for with public (taxpayer) money. Can he accomplish that goal by invading Safari? No.

      • Robert Dunham

        Thanks for the response.

        Are you suggesting that Aaron Swartz was entitled to abuse JSTOR because it was easy? I hope you’re never on the jury in a case where I’m the victim. Of course, that’s apples and oranges, isn’t it?

        We don’t know what Swartz’s goals were in the JSTOR case, because he never made it clear. According to Tim O’Reilly, the goal wasn’t to “free” the works; that would not have been very laudable.

        • Agamemnon

          Asked and answered.

  • Nicobigsby

    Good Guy Tim O’Reilly.

  • Hi
    What if I want to translate parts of the book to Hebrew?

  • Manoj Ranaweera

    Hi Laurel

    As further to my post on Quora on 14th Jan, we just setup “Tribute to Aaron Swartz” at http://www.edocr.com/organisation/tribute-aaron-swartz which could be used to host all the documents tagged with #pdftribute

    The way this would work is that each copyright owner needs to create a FREE account and upload the documents s/he is making available free. Then these accounts will be connected to the above Page, and all the documents will then be available from one source to be read and share free forever.

    This is our little contribution to what Aaron stood for.

    I hope O’Reilly would be the first to act.

    Many thanks

  • Sebastian Molls

    Thanks, that´s so awesome! I need this book for a paper but couldn´t access it via my university´s network :-)