Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
A lot of free ebooks (hackershelf.com)
249 points by ghosthamlet on Mar 27, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Some things I need to clarify:

1. The site was never meant to be purely for programming books. It says "free books for the intellectually curious" for a reason :) 2. Non free books are not allowed. That's where the flagging feature comes in. All those were added today, with the best of intentions, I'm sure - and I'm truly grateful to whoever did - but they have to go. Sorry people.

Most of these books are neither free nor have anything to do with programming.

I didn't submit the link (I'm the developer), so it may not be obvious, but the site was never at any point meant to be purely for tech books. As for the non-free stuff, all of that was added today while I was at work. I'm already culling those submissions. Thanks.

Yo, developer guy, it would be nice if there was some curation involved; some, if not most, of these books are not free. Perhaps allow the community to also remove books that don't fit the guidelines or report them for just not being free? Otherwise, this is going in my bat-belt. Totally awesome idea.

There's already a "Flag book for abuse" link for each item.

Don't mean to hijack the thread, but there is another great resource for this (in spanish, though) with a very high amount of ebooks:

Open libra: http://www.etnassoft.com/biblioteca/?search_term=&books_... (I took the liberty to pre-filter the link with "programming books in english", since there are a lot of them in spanish on this site)

Why the hell is "The God Delusion" in the mix? That is not a programming book, it's a social commentary about religion.

One could argue that it ties to Artificial Intelligence, and how ideas get into our heads. But yes, I had the same reaction.

most important thesis ever? or he was an Alien?

A lot of these aren't actually free. It doesn't say that on the website either, but it would be nice if you could filter by free books.

Submission guidelines say, 'only link to free (as in beer) books'. No one is reading the submission guidelines...

Right. Nothing on the main page or Submit page mentions free books; the guidelines are hidden in the “about” link in the footer (http://hackershelf.com/about.html). Because of that, I’ve seen a certain poor misguided user submit 30 non-free books, complete with cover art, that are going to have to be deleted eventually. All we can do for now is flag non-free books until the site owner deletes them or creates a separate section of the site for them.

It's a bit of a bait and switch.

It's not. It's pretty explicitly stated in the guidelines what sorts of books are allowed. I have a day job, I don't sit and watch submissions all day. I manually review them every evening to cull non-free books. All commercial titles you'll find on the site were added today. I personally don't see any ambiguity in the word "free". If you find anything displeasing, you can make my work easier by flagging it. Thanks.

Consider adding a "New" section, or sorting the New books to the end of the list, so Knights of New can flag bad submissions, while casual browsers can avoid the bad experience.

At the submissions levels you (usually) get, you could even review all submissions before they are published.

Hey. I'm the developer behind the site. You could submit those if you'd like. That's where the "community" bit comes in :)

Feat suggestion: would be nice if you allowed for a TOC to be attached to book description, to ease a quick glance over the contents. Occurred to me when browsing http://hackershelf.com/book/344/speeding-through-haskell/ - as the target link has no TOC, if someone took care to provide a TOC on the Shelf, I'd know better what to expect.

After more browsing, the topics list at http://hackershelf.com/topics/ looks like it could take some more care: probably case insenitiveness, maybe fix the strange duplication of letter topics (or does it have some hidden purpose?), maybe put a list of quicklinks to letter-sections on top.

Just some feedback from a random Internet guy ;) the site does a very good first impression!

Thanks :) The TOC sounds like a great idea, obvious in hindsight. The case sensitivity of the topics is just a reflection of my laziness, I should have taken care of that a long time ago. Hope you keep finding the site useful.

The curation here is pretty poor. Most of the books are not free and many have nothing to do with programming (or even technology in general!)[0]

[0] http://hackershelf.com/book/386/the-god-delusion/

It's not, and has never been, purely for technical books. The non-free submissions always happen when the site goes viral every few months, which is inevitable with any crowdsourced collection. Already working on removing those. You can flag a submission that goes against the guidelines. Thanks for the pointers.

This one is brilliant: Mathematics for Computer Science.


It is getting to the point where the only advantages to 'real' books left are: 1. they can be autographed (thank you Mr. Knuth and Mr. Brodie) and 2. they make really good insulation during winters...

E-books are still an inferior technology to physical books in some ways. I can't, for example, draw a diagram in the margins of an E-book. I can write notes and highlight, but it basically stops there.

With Amazon (not sure about other providers), there's a risk of remote wipe. E-books are often not really yours, and DRM makes that doubly true. The risk of loss with e-books is significantly higher than with physical books.

I'm not sure you can quantify the risk of loss with e-books being significantly higher than with physical books.

There are a lot of house fires, any one of them could destroy your book collection (even the smoke damage alone can make then unusable) - same with floods, vandalism, etc.

How many people have lost their e-book collection due to remote wipe? And if you're going to talk about the person who was wiped by Amazon, it's worth checking the conclusion of that story...

I was thinking more along the lines of accidental data loss than everyone having to worry about remote wipes all the time. I should've made that more clear.

Well, OTOH ever tried to type a word and click "find" in a physical book?

Technical references are (imo) best served as HTML, second best as E-books and the dead-tree variant is by far the worst.

Novels and other collector's items are different.

> With Amazon (not sure about other providers), there's a risk of remote wipe. E-books are often not really yours, and DRM makes that doubly true. The risk of loss with e-books is significantly higher than with physical books.

You can mostly fix this with Calibre though (with DRM at the moment at least, it could always change). As I said in another thread, when I connect my Kindle it downloads all my new books and strips the DRM. And my Calibre library gets backed up.

My back will tell you that is WAY better to carry the iPad mini than, say, the Picaxe book. My essential book collection not even fit in my backpack. Speaking about DRM I prefer noDRM publishers like O'Reilly, Pragmatic despite being a little more expensive. I avoid Amazon e-books. Also ePub is superior than the azw mobi format.

I'm not opposed to e-books at all. I just submit that they are not the death of physical books, and it would be a shame if they were.

I agree that the DRM issue definitely needs to be addressed, but I wouldn't say it's a flaw with electronic books so much as a flaw with the marketplace they are in.

Especially in this case, that limitation doesn't apply.

I definitely wish I could draw in my ebooks though, since some things can't be put into words.


  - it's nice to stare at something other than a screen
  - like the touch, feel and smell (?) of physical books
  - books carry some history, they age and change.. 
    (that coffee stain reminds me of my time as a student)

Physical books are much easier to quickly skim through, to jump to a random page (based on position rather than page number), I also find the search of most ebook readers (looking at the Kindle) to be rather bad.

However these are more due to the current tech around ebooks more than a fundamental property of them.

Richard Stallman, The Danger of Ebooks (pdf): http://stallman.org/articles/ebooks.pdf

This is much better than my half-baked response.

3. You don't need electricity to read them

My kindle goes two weeks of heavy use between charges. At some point, these things are just going to have solar cells on them.

Even though I rarely even used a classic paper book to read in the last years I still consider books to be more comfortable and less distracting. Furthermore as long as we don't resolve the issue of long term data storage books are going to continue to play an important role.

E-ink sort of addresses the 'distracting' part for me. I find it much more pleasant to read than from LCD. No direct light shining into the eyes, and the low frame rate is also an advantage here as it means no annoying animations and 'real time' distractions.

Problem with e-books is DRM. I have to put up with Amazon or Google Play books app which might not suit my needs. I can't export it. I can't share it with friends like a physical book.

Many ebooks (prag prog for example) are available without drm.

3. They have a more pleasant reading experience (arguably the most important part of a book) for many people. I just roll my eyes when I see these kinds of dismissive statements. Just being honest.

I object - they also make good monitor stands!

Thanks! I didn't see that there were more pages at first (Page 1 out of 16). It could be highlighter better.

Haven't had much time to work on it since last year. I'll look into this over the weekend. Thanks.

Thanks for assembling this wonderful collection! One more suggestion, though: Since many of the books don't have cover images, you actually have to mouse over the ":-(" images on the "shelf" page to locate a particular title. It would be nice to also have a simple textual list of all the titles on your shelf, sorted in alphabetical order.

Another useful feature might be an RSS feed that gets updated when a book is added.

I counted close to ten free books by Allen B. Downey [http://allendowney.com].

He publishes all of his books at: http://greenteapress.com/

+1 for seeing the word free so far and every book I've gone to click on is not free. Very frustrating.

Thanks for sharing this, Now this was a great link!

I want to recommend Eric S. Raymonds books for those that haven't read them.

+1 for Simon Singh's The Code Book as an engaging read, but it's by no means a programming book.

Cool! I like this a lot.

DOM Enlightenment sounds like a treasure. Cheers

Spam please delete this link, misleading the books are not free

Annoying, as the entries are user submitted.

The site should be more upfront about its intent.

There are still many free (beer) texts on there.

It was better this morning. It seems people are adding non-free e-books since the submission.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact