As many readers of this blog will have received a Kindle for Christmas I thought I should share my list of the free ebooks that I recommend stocking up on.
Online journalism and multimedia ebooks
Starting with more general books, Mark Briggs‘s book Journalism 2.0 (PDF*) is a few years old but still provides a good overview of online journalism to have by your side. Mindy McAdams‘s 42-page Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency (PDF) adds some more on that front, and Adam Westbrook‘s Ideas on Digital Storytelling and Publishing (PDF) provides a larger focus on narrative, editing and other elements.
After the first version of this post, MA Online Journalism student Franzi Baehrle suggested this free book on DSLR Cinematography, as well as Adam Westbrook on multimedia production (PDF). And Guy Degen recommends the free ebook on news and documentary filmmaking from ImageJunkies.com.
The Participatory Documentary Cookbook [PDF] is another free resource on using social media in documentaries.
The Traffic Factories is an ebook that explores how a number of prominent US news organisations use metrics, and Chartbeat’s role in that. You can download it in mobi, PDF or epub format here.
Ebooks about computer assisted reporting and data journalism
The Society of Professional Journalists‘s Digital Media Handbook Part 1 (PDF) and Part 2 cover more multimedia, but also provide a pot-pourri of extra bits and pieces including computer assisted reporting (CAR).
For more on CAR, the first edition of Philip Meyer‘s classic The New Precision Journalism is available in full online, although you’ll have to download each chapter in Word format and email it to your Kindle for conversion. It’s worth it: 20 years on, his advice is still excellent.
Another CAR book – When Nerds and Words Collide (scanned PDF) – gives a similarly surprisingly timeless view from 1999, with contributions from Meyer, Nils Mulvad, Nora Paul, Brant Houston, Sarah Cohen and Stephen Doig among others.
Bringing things up to date is the Data Journalism Handbook, now in its second edition. The first edition (also in Spanish, French and Russian) is also worth reading, with Cohen, Doig and Meyer contributing again, alongside new practitioners James Ball, Simon Rogers, Mirko Lorenz, Lorenz Matzat, Mark Lee Hunter, Aron Pilhofer, and Chris Taggart (and yours truly). You’ll have to download each chapter separately, or you can pay for a single-download ebook or physical version.
Jonathan Stray has written The Curious Journalist’s Guide to Data, which covers dealing with quantities in reporting, analysis and communication.
And the Centre for Investigative Journalism have this free ebook on data journalism (PDF) by Elena Egawhary and Cynthia O’Murchu.
For a walkthrough on using some data techniques in the health field, this ebook on reporting health gives some excellent advice. Although it uses US data which is rather more accessible and structured than in most other countries, the principles are illustrative for readers anywhere.
On Being A Data Skeptic provides a brief exploration of pitfalls to avoid in working with data more broadly. Exploring Data Science introduces text mining and analytics among other things. And the Electronic Statistics Textbook delves deeper into statistics.
If you want to explore statistics or programming further, Think Stats (via Adrian Short) covers both, while The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions is a useful introduction to how programming can be used in gathering information – it’s free if you choose a zero price, but you can also pay whatever you want.
On visualisation, Data+Design collects the expertise of over 50 designers and covers everything from preparing and cleaning the data to considerations such as colour and chart type. For mapping specifically there’s Mapping, Society, and Technology by Steven Manson.
Then there’s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 from a book by Alberto Cairo (from a free course at the Knight Center). And Scott Murray has made his ebook on the visualisation library D3 Interactive Data Visualisation for the Web available online for free.
On advanced search, Murray Dick‘s handbook on advanced search (PDF) is free on the CIJ website; the rather more lengthy Untangling The Web: A Guide to Internet Research is a whopping 643-page document released by the US National Security Agency following an FOIA request (thanks Neurobonkers). Sadly it’s scanned so you won’t be able to convert this to another format.
Community management ebooks
Jono Bacon‘s The Art of Community (PDF), comes in at over 360 pages and is a thorough exploration – told largely through his own experiences – of an area that too few journalists understand.
A useful complement to these is Yochai Benkler‘s landmark book on how networked individuals operate, The Wealth of Networks, which is available to download in full or part online from his page at Harvard University’s Berkman Center. And each chapter of Dan Gillmor’s We The Media is available in PDF format on O’Reilly’s site.
More recently, New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet (PDF) is a free ebook from the University of Gottingen with a collection of chapters covering practices such as consumer co-creation, trust management in online communities, and “coordination and motivation of consumer contribution”. And the Tow Center’s Guide to Crowdsourcing Gitbook provides some useful guidance on that.
For social media management, Bitly offers a number of free ebooks aimed more at the marketing side of things but still of use to publishers and journalists. How to Optimize Your Social Media Strategy is the broadest.
Staying savvy in the information war
My own ebook Model for the 21st Century Newsroom Redux explores how newsrooms have changed, and is available as a free download on Leanpub.
The Verification Handbook is a welcome reference which aims to provide “the tools, techniques and step-by-step guidelines for how to deal with user-generated content (UGC) during emergencies.” A second Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting is also now available.
On web security Information Security for Journalists is available in a range of formats; and the second edition of Security Engineering is available for free online. Susan E. McGregor’s Digital Security For Journalists is available as a GitBook.
On privacy and security you should also check out Blown To Bits, which is available as a whole book or chapter by chapter here.
If you’re reporting on health issues – or ever expect to deal with a press release from a health company – Testing Treatments (PDF) is well worth a read, providing an insight into how medicines and treatments are tested, and popular misconceptions to avoid. It’s littered with examples from reporting on health in the media, and well written. And if you need persuading why you should care, read this post (all of it) by Dr Petra Boynton on what happens when journalists fail to scrutinise press releases from health companies.
More broadly on the subject of keeping your wits about you, Dan Gillmor‘s latest book on media literacy, Mediactive, is published under a Creative Commons licence as a PDF. And The American Copy Editors Society has published a 50-page ebook on attribution and plagiarism which includes social media and other emerging platforms. The Ethical Journalism Initiative also has a free ebook on ethics.
Ebooks on culture, copyright and code
Lawrence Lessig has written quite a few books about law and how it relates to the media when content becomes digitised, as well as code more generally. Most of his work is available online for free download, including The Future of Ideas (PDF), Code 2.0 (PDF), Remix, and Free Culture.
Cory Doctorow writes well about the same field. Content, a collection of his articles and essays, is available as a free download in various formats, as well as an Italian version. His novels explore similar issues: Little Brother (surveillance) and Makers (3D printing) are well worth reading.
Matt Mason‘s book on how media culture is changed by “pirates” gives you a choice: you can download The Pirate’s Dilemma for whatever price you choose to pay, including nothing.
Brian Winston‘s Media, Technology and Society is free to download on Monoskop. A key history of new media technologies from the telegraph to the internet, it may be over a decade old but the histories in it do keep repeating…
Mark Lee Hunter has written 2 great free ebooks which strip away the mystique that surrounds investigative journalism and persuades so many journalists that it’s something ‘other people do’.
The first, Story-Based Inquiry (PDF), is an extremely useful guide to organising and focusing an investigation, demonstrating that investigative journalism is more about being systematic than about meeting strangers in underground car parks.
The second, The Global Casebook (PDF), is brilliant: a collection of investigative journalism – but with added commentary by each journalist explaining their methods and techniques. Where Story-Based Inquiry provides an over-arching framework; The Global Casebook demonstrates how different approaches can work for different stories and contexts.
He’s also worked with Luuk Sengers to produce Nine Steps from Idea to Story (PDF), which puts the story-based method into step-by-step form.
For more tips on investigative journalism the Investigative Journalism Manual (you’ll have to download each chapter separately) provides guidance from an African perspective which still applies whatever country you practise journalism.
And if you’re particularly interested in corruption you may also want to download Paul Radu‘s 50-page ebook Follow The Money: A Digital Guide for Tracking Corruption (PDF).
The Global Investigative Journalism Network list 50 guides on their page on investigative journalism manuals. They vary in size and cost, with many being free.
The CPJ have also published the Journalist Security Guide, a free ebook for anyone who needs to protect sources or work in dangerous environments. Scroll down to the bottom to find links to PDF, Kindle, ePub and iPad versions.
Related subjects: design, programming
17 18 so many books I’m losing count, but if you want to explore design or programming there are dozens more out there. In particular, How to Think Like a Computer Scientistis a HTML ebook, but the Kindle deals with HTML pages too. Also in HTML is Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Methods for Hackers (more statistics), and Digital Foundations: Introduction to Media Design (h/t Jon Hickman).
Have I missed anything?
Those are just the books that spring to mind or that I’ve previously bookmarked. Are there others I’ve missed?
*Some commenters have suggested I should point out that these are mostly PDFs, which some people don’t like. You can, however, convert a PDF to Kindle’s own mobi format by emailing it to your Kindle email address with ‘convert’ as the subject line (via Leonie in the comments). Christian Payne also recommends the free tool calibre for converting PDFs into the more Kindle-friendly .mobi and other formats.
Alternatively, if you change the orientation to landscape the original PDF can be read with formatting and images intact.