Ten Great Free e-Books for Innovators

I hope that everyone is having a great holiday season. Whenever I make a new friend, one of the first things I usually do is buy them a book. I’m not exactly sure why – probably because I really value ideas & books, and I want to share them with people that I like. So for all my digital friends here, I thought that since it’s the holidays, I would give you links to a great set of books that are all downloadable for free.

Books to help with Business Model Innovation

One of things that creates opportunities for business model innovation is change in the environment – particularly in technology that creates platforms. The obvious platform technology driving change these days is the internet. I know that tech books tend to age poorly, but there are two that came out at the end of the 90s that I think are still essential reading.

New Rules for the New Economy by Kevin Kelly: This book does a great job of identifying key generic issues about the internet. Kelly was writing about the the technology drivers towards free pricing back in 1997, as well as the importance of managing your business as a network, and even a good description of how fitness landscapes can help you build strategy. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

The Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searles and David Weinberger: Takes a bit more of a marketing angle than New Rules, based around 95 theses for doing business effectively on the web. It starts with ‘Markets are conversations’ and builds from there.

There are some more recent books that also help us figure out how to deal with the changes wrought by the web.

The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler: A more theoretical look at the network economy. Benkler talks about the impact that the web has on the economics of production and innovation, and then looks at the how this is leading to changes in politics and culture.

Networks, Crowds & Markets: Reasoning About a Highly Connected World by David Easley and Jon Kleinberg: Economic value is created through networks. Benkler’s book lays out the case for this idea, and Easley and Kleinberg provide an excellent guide to actually analysing networks. This book is comprehensive and gives you an excellent grounding in social network analysis. The downloadable version is a pre-release copy, so I’m not sure how much longer it will be available.

The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain: An excellent book which contrasts what Zittrain calls the generative web, which enables builders to make new things, and the closed web of proprietary technologies. He describes the main ideas in the book in this very entertaining talk:

Intellectual Property

The Public Domain by James Boyle: Boyle follows on from some of Zittrain’s arguments to address how the current intellectual property regime is broken. Copywrite and patents were designed to encourage the sharing of new ideas, but they are often now being used to prevent the generation of ideas. Boyle talks about how to correct this perverse situation.

Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David Levine: Boyle’s approach is from the legal angle, and Boldrin & Levine look at the same issues from more of a game theoretic view. Both are worth reading.

Getting Ideas to Spread

Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin: Another classic, this time from Seth Godin. The basic thesis is that ideas that spread, win. Godin talks about a number of strategies that we can use to get our ideas to spread quickly and widely. (also check out Godin’s latest project What Matters Now)

Intertwingle by Judy Breck: I actually haven’t read this one yet, so I can’t tell you too much about it. But it has an endorsement from Howard Rheingold, her blog is excellent, and it looks pretty interesting, so I think it’s worth giving it a go.

I suppose there should be some Fiction too

Makers by Cory Doctorow: If you want some fiction about innovation, this is a good one to read. An entire sci-fi book about business model innovation – what could be better?

So there you have it – that ought to be enough to keep you out of trouble this holiday season. And hopefully these will give some great ideas to go out and execute in the new year. Enjoy! If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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12 thoughts on “Ten Great Free e-Books for Innovators

  1. Great post! Thought provoking. I downloaded and printed out Jonathan Zittrain’s future of the internet book. The Seth Godin’s book is not free. You may want to put a note to the effect.

  2. Thanks Mohan! The Future of the Internet is a terrific book. Godin’s book has an amazon pay link on the front page, but if you click on the link that says ‘get it’, there is a free pdf download available.

  3. Thanks Ken! If you’re like me the ‘to read’ stack is probably uncontrollably large, but I hope you get through a few over the weekend.