When I was a kid I loved to scour my local library for books about computers. Whether because their computer-related offerings were thin or because I wasn’t very resourceful, though, the only one I ever found was The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier by Bruce Sterling. Released in 1992, the book documents the first interactions between the U.S. law-enforcement community and the phone phreaks and other renegades who were testing the legal and technological limits of the nascent internet.
The book was released under an unusual licensing setup: the rights to the printed book were owned by the publisher, Bantam Books, as usual, but Sterling maintained control over the digital version and released it online for free. “Since Bantam has seen fit to peaceably agree to this scheme of mine,” he writes in the digital version’s preface, “Bantam Books is not going to fuss about this. Provided you don’t try to sell the book, they are not going to bother you for what you do with the electronic copy of this book.”
Over the last week I’ve put together a new “edition” (for lack of a better word) of this ebook. I couldn’t find a copy online that had all the niceties I wanted, like italics and curly quotes, so I took this HTML-formatted version and started beautifying it.1 The result is hosted on GitHub and, thanks to the magic of Pandoc, available as HTML, EPUB, and Markdown. (If you’re up for tweaking the Makefile you can ask Pandoc for any of twenty other formats too.)
The book content itself is stored as HTML, a format which allows for semantically styled text and which has a huge ecosystem around it. Keeping the contents on GitHub means that it’s very easy for people to fix typos or change the CSS to their liking. I hope that this little bit of effort allows others to get the same enjoyment out of this book that I did!