It’s not every day that you’ll find a good new book to read and discover that it’s free. The internet’s filled with more text than anyone could possibly read in their lifetimes. Yet books—typically paid books, in hard covers or Kindle editions—still are one of the best ways to go deep on a topic, to learn its ins and outs.
For tech topics, one of the most respected publishers of such books is O’Reilly Media. Started as a technical writing consulting firm in 1978, it’s today known for its books about technology adorned with woodcut illustrations of often rare animals. Most of those books are heavy, expensive tomes. A handful, though, are free.
Here are the best free O’Reilly eBooks—and the places where you can find more.
Finding Free O’Reilly Media Books
In the world of coding, free is not such a rare thing. Open source licenses permeate the industry, fueling some of the world’s most detailed collaborations across companies and underpinning the devices each of us use each day. So perhaps it’s not surprising that O’Reilly Media, one of the largest coding book publishers, would embrace free books as they have.
Go to oreilly.com/free, and you’ll find each of the free books currently being promoted. Most are free samples or shorter whitepaper-style guides to new technology and trends. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find full books that are free, some open books with creative commons licenses, others only for free online reading, and more that are simply out of print and now offered for free. There are some dated books—including a Linux networking guide from 2000—along with some gems that would make a great addition to any library.
Free Coding Books
Whether you’re a beginning developer or a seasoned coder looking to add a new skill, there are old and new O’Reilly books for you. The O’Reilly Open Book site isn’t regularly updated, so many of the newest offerings you’ll find directly on the author’s own site.
Here are the best we found based on Amazon popularity, ratings, and publication year as technical books can become quickly outdated. Want more? Try poking around Google for
creative commons and
O'Reilly—you might be surprised what you find.
- R for Data Science (published 2016, 4.5 stars on Amazon): an in-depth guide to the R programming language for transforming and modeling data, one Zapier data scientist Chris Peters recommends highly.
- Elasticsearch: The Definitive Guide (published 2015, 4 stars on Amazon): learn how to build your own enterprise search engine to find your team’s data.
- Clojure Cookbook (published 2015, 4 stars on Amazon): learn from community contributed, real-world examples of coding in this lisp-derived language.
- RESTful Web Services (published 2007, 4 stars on Amazon): the original book about RESTful web design, it’s an intro to building RESTful APIs—the underpinning of many Zapier integrations.
- Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing (2004, 4 stars on Amazon): a guide to the different free and open source licensing options, to help you choose the best for your projects once you’re done coding them.
Media and Internet Culture Books
If you’re looking for something to read in the evenings, a bit of lighter reading about the history and influence of tech, O’Reilly has you covered with free books there too.
- The Cathedral & the Bazaar (published 2001, 4.5 stars on Amazon): one of the most widely read books in this list, you’ll learn about the open source revolution and how its collaborative, volunteer development process shaped the tech world today.
- We the Media (published 2008, 4.5 stars on Amazon): learn how the internet and mobile devices have shaped grassroots journalism, from an early vantage point that hints at how much ubiquitous internet would change our world of today.
- Free as in Freedom (published 2002, 4 stars on Amazon): a biography of Richard Stallman, the patron saint of open source software.
- OpenSources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (published 1999, 4 stars on Amazon): get insight on the open source movement’s beginnings from a number of its influencers, including Linux inventor Linux Tovalds and O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly.
- The Whole Internet User’s Guide & Catalog (published 1994, 4.5 stars on Amazon): the first free book from O’Reilly, this was the original guide to the internet published right before Windows 95 and Internet Explorer introduced so much of the world to the web.
Other O’Reilly Books for Free Online Reading
Creative Commons and open source O’Reilly books are free forever. Even if their original site goes down, you can legally share a copy since they’re licensed to be free.
That’s not the only type of free book O’Reilly offers, though. On their Atlas site, you’ll find a wide range of other books that you can read online for free. They’re copyrighted, though, so you’ll need to buy a copy to download them—but you can learn all you want from the free online edition. Some of the best include:
- Mastering Bitcoin (published 2015, 4.5 stars on Amazon): focused on the cryptocurrency that took the world by storm, this book is a technical reference for bitcoin and the blockchain and can help you build your next bitchain powered tool.
- Git Pocket Guide (published 2013, 4.5 stars on Amazon): make sure you remember everything about the most popular way to store code changes and collaborate on development.
- Mining the Social Web (published 2013, 4.5 stars on Amazon): find out how to mine data from Twitter, Facebook, GitHub, and more, and find trends in it.
- Learning Java (published 2013, 3.5 stars on Amazon): Java is still one of the most popular programming languages, and this book guides you through Java 6 and 7 along with details on using web APIs with Java.
- HTML5 for Publishers (published 2011, 3.5 stars on Amazon): learn how to make your site act more like an app with HTML5’s canvas, geolocation, audio/video tools, and more, then tie it into your books via HTML5 inside ePub.
- App Savvy (published 2010, 4.5 stars on Amazon): from a book published right after the launch of the iPad, learn how to build apps that people will love—and perhaps see what worked and didn’t based on those apps’ track records today.
Looking for more free eBooks? Here are some other great resources:
- For classic, out-of-copyright books, there’s no better place than Project Gutenberg. It offers over 53,000 free eBooks—none that will teach you how to build the next new app, but plenty that will teach you about humanity and the history of the world.
- Want more tech books? Microsoft Press offers hundreds of free eBooks about Windows 10, Office 365, SQL Server, Windows Server 2016, and more.
- Looking for help with your business apps? Zapier’s Learning Center offers 10 books—and counting—about everything from project management to forms and surveys, customer support to email marketing.