Where to Find Free Textbooks

Lifehacker just ran a new feature today "Five Best Places to Buy Cheap Textbooks." Cheap is good, no doubt. But free is even better. So we figured why not take the wraps off of a new Open Culture collection: 100+ Free Textbooks: A Meta Collection.

This new and growing collection pulls together an assortment of free textbooks available online. The list is mostly slanted toward science and math (that's what is out there), and the texts are almost entirely written by college professors or qualified high school teachers. In some instances, these texts were originally published in book format, and now the authors have decided to publish them online. In other cases, authors joining the "open textbook" movement (see Flat World Knowledge, CK-12Curriki, etc.) have published their works for the first time in electronic format, often under a Creative Commons license. We will update the list continually. But if you see good texts missing, please feel free to ping us. You can access 100+ Free Textbooks: A Meta Collection here, and please forward the link to any young students or lifelong learners who might benefit...

P.S. This collection will always appear in the top navigation of the web site. Just look for "Textbooks" in the top nav bar.

3 Year Old Recites Poem, “Litany,” by Billy Collins

Three year olds can wreak havoc on a home, and the precocious ones can recite poetry too. Here we have a toddler reciting Billy Collins' poem "Litany" (find text here) and also some lines from Lord Alfred Tennyson (while dressed as Superman, of course). It's good fun, right up there with actor Bill Murray reading Collins poetry at a construction site in New York City...

via Neatorama

Leon Trotsky: Love, Death and Exile in Mexico

Leon Trotsky, one of the fathers of the Russian Revolution, second only to to Lenin, was assassinated in Mexico 70 years ago today (August 21, 1940). During the early years of the Revolution, Trotsky headed up foreign affairs for Russia and founded the Red Army. Following Lenin's death (1924), he looked primed to take control of the revolutionary state. But Stalin had other thoughts about the matter, and, before too long, Trotsky found himself in exile again. Previous exiles took him to Siberia, Kazakhstan, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and the United States. This time, he went to France, Norway, Turkey (see the film Vanessa Redgrave narrates on his stint in Istanbul) and later Mexico (1936), where he lived with painter Diego Rivera and his wife/fellow painter, Frida Kahlo. Eventually, Kahlo and Trotsky would have a famous affair.

Above, we have some grainy footage of Trotsky from his Mexico years. The footage dates back to 1937, and it shows Trotsky, speaking in broken English, giving thanks to Mexico for providing sanctuary and defending himself against the show trials that Stalin orchestrated back in Russia. Trotsky was sentenced to death in absentia. Three years later, he would be assassinated by an undercover agent while still living in Mexico. YouTube has more on the assassination here. A big thanks goes to Mike S. for unearthing this great little cluster of videos.

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Download George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 as Free Audio Books

via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Writing in The Guardian in years past, Christopher Hitchens revisited Animal Farm, George Orwell's "dystopian allegorical novella" that took aim at the corruption of the Soviet Union and its totalitarian rule. Published in 1945, the short book appears on the Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century, and Time Magazine's own honors list. But, as Hitchens reminds us, Animal Farm was almost never published. The manuscript barely survived the Nazi bombing of London during World War II, and then initially TS Eliot (an important editor at Faber & Faber) and other publishers rejected the book. It eventually came to see the light of day, but, 65 years later, Animal Farm still can't be legally read in China, Burma and North Korea, or across large parts of the Islamic world. But, no matter where you come from, you can listen to Animal Farm for free. That's right, I said it – free. The Internet Archive offers free access to audio versions of Animal Farm and Orwell's other major classic, 1984. Both texts appear in our collection of Free Audio Books, and you can download them directly from the Internet Archive here (Animal Farm) and here (1984), or stream them below:

Animal Farm


The text versions of these classics also appear in our collection of Free eBooks.

Finally, if you're interested in downloading a free audio book from Audible.com (pretty much any book you want), you can get more details here.

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Bill Gates: Solving the World’s Problems Through Technology

Last week, we showed you a clip of Bill Gates speaking at the recent Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe. Our comments concentrated on a shorter segment where Gates talks about the coming transformation of education – about how the internet will start displacing the traditional university within five years. That clip figures into a larger talk, now fully available online, called "Reinventing Capitalism: How to Jumpstart What the Marketplace Can't" (48 minutes). And it puts Gates' views on education (not to mention his overall philanthropic work) into a larger context. What's generally on display here is his limitless faith that science and technology can solve the world's problems. It's an approach that makes perfect sense for ridding the world of malaria. But it's potentially a double-edge sword for education. You can watch the full talk above, or view it here. (His full comments on education & technology come around the 21 minute mark, and again later on.) You can also learn more about what Gates is reading, watching and listening to on his website.

Get 250 Free Courses Online or Learn 37 Languages for Free!

Stanford Online Writing Courses (Fall)

A quick fyi: Stanford Continuing Studies opened up registration this Monday for its fall lineup of online writing courses. Offered in partnership with the Stanford Creative Writing Program (one of the most distinguished writing programs in the country), these online courses give beginning and advanced writers, no matter where they live, the chance to refine their craft with gifted writing instructors.

Classes will start in late September. And many of these classes fill quickly. To get more information on these writing courses, click here, or separately check out this FAQ.

Caveat emptor: These classes are NOT free, and I helped set them up. So while I wholeheartedly believe in these courses, you can take my views with a proverbial grain of salt.


Good Capitalist Karma: Zizek Animated

Slavoj Zizek, one of today's most influential philosophers/theorists, spoke earlier this year at the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA). And now RSA has posted the video online with their patented animated treatment. Like other recent RSA speakers, Zizek makes modern capitalism his focus. This time, we see how contemporary capitalism has essentially reworked Max Weber's Protestant Ethic, or that strange relationship between money making and personal redemption. Zizek's critique isn't utterly damning. (No one will run to the barricades.) Nor do I think he intends it to be. But the observations hold a certain amount of interest, especially when placed alongside Barbara Ehrenreich and David Harvey's related RSA talks.

You can find the full 30 minute lecture (sans cartoons) here, or download the video as an mp4 here.

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