iTunes U Introduces Free eBooks: Download Shakespeare’s Complete Works

Perhaps you’re accustomed to downloading free lectures and courses on iTunes U. Now, you have a new option. Last week, Apple began introducing free eBooks to its media collection. And, to kick things off, they’re giving users access to 18 free textbooks sponsored by Connexions (a Rice University project); a series of 100 ebooks produced by the Open University, and then, courtesy of Oxford University, the complete collection of Shakespeare’s plays from the First Folio of 1623.  You can download all of these texts in the open ePub format. And if you have an iPad (or an iPhone with a copy of iBooks), they easily sync to the device, and make for a great reading experience. But you’re not necessarily limited to using the iPad. I was able to read the texts in ebook readers created by Stanza and Barnes & Noble (the maker of the new color Nook). And, using this free online service and then following these general directions, I easily converted the ePub files to Amazon’s .mobi format and uploaded them to my Kindle. The bottom line? You can expect iTunes U to become a handy resource for free ebooks as the service matures – one best suited to the iPad, but certainly not limited to it. And, speaking of the iPad, you should give this story a read. “IPad Opens World to a Disabled Boy.” It’s a great way to start the week…

Note: If you want a simple html version of Shakespeare’s collected works, don’t miss MIT’s invaluable web site.

FYI. You can find more free eBooks in our ever-growing collection, 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

“A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf

Published first in 1921, then again in 1944, Virginia Woolf’s short story, “A Haunted House,” runs a mere 692 words – which makes it a Halloween treat that is short and sweet. We give you an appropriately somber reading of Woolf’s story above, with the accompanying text here. Or you can find an mp3 version in our collection of Free Audio Books. H/T to Mike, and enjoy the day.

The Milky Way over Texas

This 45 second timelapse video of the “Galactic Center of the Milky Way” rising over Texas Star Party (2009) just gets more spectacular as it rolls along. William Castleman created this sequence using a Canon EOS-5D, with exposures at 20 and 40 second intervals. This complements nicely Stéphane Guisard’s panoramic view of the Milky Way taken from the Atacama desert in Chile. See the The Milky Way in 360 Degrees here.

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Introduction to Computer Science & Programming: Free Courses

Nowadays, any well-rounded student must learn to master reading, writing and math. And then add something new to the mix: learning to code. If you didn’t learn to program software in school, not to worry. Free materials abound on the web, and we have made them easy to find. Above, you can start watching the first lecture of an MIT course (Introduction to Computer Science and Programming) that assumes no special knowledge of programming, and it sets out to teach you to think like a computer scientist. (Find the full set of lectures on YouTube, iTunes and MIT’s website.) Or alternatively, you can spend time with another course – Intensive Introduction to Computer Science Using C, PHP, and JavaScript – taught by David Malan at Harvard Extension. (Get it in multiple formats here.) And then don’t forget that Stanford University offers several introductory courses, all found under the Stanford Engineering Everywhere umbrella.

Once you have a good foundation in place, you can move in a variety of directions. Within our collection of Free Online Courses, we have listed 27 computer science courses where you can learn all about operating systems, computer graphics, artificial intelligence, building web sites, designing iPhone apps and beyond. The courses are all free. They’re available 24/7 on the web. You can get going any time…

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Take Stanford Computer Science Courses This Fall: Free Worldwide

So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities?

So if you want the full case against getting a PhD in the humanities, here you go. Every argument the disillusioned academic can possibly make now packed into one semi-comic video. If you’re in the humanities, the litany of complaints, whether fair or not, will hardly be unfamiliar to you.

Now on a more serious note … Towards the end, the video references SUNY Albany’s recent decision to shutter its French, Italian, classics, Russian and theater programs. That event that triggered a much-discussed series of articles by Stanley Fish in The New York Times. If you’re looking for something that operates on a slightly higher intellectual plane, you might want to spend some time with “The Crisis of the Humanities Officially Arrives: Part 1 and Part 2.” Also don’t miss some of the reader comments. They bring a lot to the discussion. Thanks Jason for sending our way…

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The Illustrated Guide to the PhD

Open Culture Goes Mobile: Your Feedback Requested

A quick note for our readers: This week, we soft launched a new mobile web site for Open Culture – one designed to give our readers the ability to access Open Culture content with far greater ease on their smartphones. If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, Android phone (or any phone with an advanced web browser), you should be able to read our posts, watch videos, and listen to audio much more cleanly, no matter where you are. Simply pick up your phone, visit any page on, and you will see what I mean.

This mobile site is still in “beta.” So if you experience any problems, or have any feedback, please send it our way. We want your input. And, if you don’t prefer the mobile site, you can always turn it off. Just scroll to the bottom of the mobile page and click “Switch to Standard View.”

Finally, as you can imagine, this project required some time and expense. If you can comfortably afford it, please consider making a donation via PayPal to support this initiative and others like it. And if you can’t swing it, that’s a-okay. Maybe just tell a friend about the site (or about our Free iPhone app) and otherwise enjoy the ride.

Thanks for any feedback you might have, and hope you enjoy the mobile version of Open Culture.

Stephen Fry Gets Animated about Language

For a brief time in 2008, Stephen Fry, the popular British author, writer and comedian, produced a series of podcasts – called “Podgrams” – that drew on his writings, speeches and collective thoughts. (Find them on RSS and iTunes here). During one particular episode, Fry meditated on language (the English language & his own language) and a little on Barthes, Chomsky, Pinker and even Eddie Izzard. Then Matthew Rogers took that meditation and ran with it, producing a “kinetic typography animation” that artfully illustrates a six minute segment of the longer talk. Watch it above, and if you’re captivated by what Fry has to say, don’t miss his popular video, What I Wish I Had Known When I Was 18.

The Best American Science Writing 2010: Free Essays

Jerome Groopman, the New Yorker staff writer and Harvard med school prof, has edited The Best American Science Writing 2010 – a new collection that brings together “the most crucial, thought-provoking, and engaging science writing” during the past 12 months. The 368 page book runs $10.19 online. But before you run out and buy it, let me say this: you can read many of the collected essays online for free. The Truth About Grit by Jonah Lehrer; My Genome, My Self by Steven Pinker; Are We Still Evolving? by Kathleen McAuliffe – they’re among 16 essays available online, and they’re all included in a handy list pulled together by Metafilter. Meanwhile, if you want to read these essays later on (when you have some time to delve into longer articles) give Instapaper a try. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a great way to read texts in a clean format on the iPad, iPhone, and Kindle.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.