The Digital Decade’s Definitive Reading List: Internet & Info-Tech Policy Books of the 2000s

by on December 29, 2009 · 63 comments

book stackSo, did the decade just end or do we have another year to go? Honestly, I’ve never understood when the cut-off is from one decade to the next. (My friend Larry Magid struggles with the same question in his recent column on “The Decade in Technology.”) Nonetheless, I’ve seen a lot of best-of-decade lists published recently, so I thought I would throw my own out there even though it is still a work in progress.

I have been attempting to compile the definitive bibliography for our digital decade—the definitive list of Internet policy books, that is. I started throwing this together two years ago when I was penning my list of “The Most Important Internet Policy Books of 2008” and continued to work on it as I was finishing up my 2009 installment as well. I grabbed every book off my shelf that dealt with the future of the Internet and the impact the Digital Revolution is having on our lives, culture, and economy and threw the title and a link onto this list. (I’m also using the list to help structure my thoughts for a forthcoming book of my own on Internet Optimists vs. Pessimists, something I’ve been writing a lot about here in recent years.)

Below you will find what I’ve got so far. There are around 80 90 books on the list. I’ve divided the list by year, but you may be wondering what determined the order the books appear in. In essence, I’ve listed what I feel are the 1 or 2 most important titles first and then just added others randomly. Eventually, I plan to post a “Most Important Internet Policy Books of the Decade” list outlining which titles I believe have been the most influential. I suspect I’ll name Benkler’s Wealth of Networks to the top slot followed closely by Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet, Lessig’s Free Culture, and Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail. Anyway, that’s for another day.

For now, I would just like to ask for reader suggestions regarding what other titles that should appear on this list. I will add titles as they come in. I want to stress, however, that I am trying to keep this list limited to books that have something to say about Internet policy (cyber-law, digital economics, information technology politics, etc).

I hope others find this useful.  And yes, I have read all* most of the books on this list!  As I’ve noted here before, I’m a bit of book nerd.  (*Now that I’ve received so many helpful additions to the list, there are some titles on the list I have not had a chance to read through yet).















UPDATE (Dec. 2010): If you believe 2010 should be included in this list, here’s a list of the major books from that year.

  • Adam Thierer

    Incidentally, even if I include the year 2000 in the decade, there aren't a lot of books from that year for this list. The only one I can think of right now is George Gilder's Telecosm.

  • Kevin Donovan

    I'm not sure I can think of any besides Geert Lovink, but it would be nice to find some (more) non-American authors for this list. Anyone know any?

  • Kent

    Digital Crossroads by Jon Nuechterlein and Phil Weiser is comprehensive and is quite helpful.

  • Kevin Donovan

    Also, how about a McChesney? Whether one agrees with him or not, his thinking is influential.

    I'd also include:

    – Heller's 'Gridlock Economy,' von Hippel's 'Democratizing Innovation,' Weber's 'Success of Open Source,' and Beckstrom & Bafram's 'The Starfish and the Spider.'

  • Adam Thierer

    Thanks Kent, I will add it. Not sure how I missed that one!

  • Adam Thierer

    Kevin.. Thanks for bringing up this point. I forgot to pre-emptively apologize in my introductory note above about the fact this list is so American-centric. I would welcome more suggestions about foreign works of importance. When I visited the Oxford Internet Institute a few months ago to participate in an event, I spent a solid hour in their library trying to find foreign titles I had missed. Sadly, I misplaced the list after I left!

  • Adam Thierer

    Kevin.. Thanks again for these ideas. Both McChesney and vonHippel are right on the margin of inclusion in this list. I had them both on originally but then pulled them off. Much of McChesney's was too myopically focused on “old media battles. And von Hippel's work, by contrast, seemed too “big picture” (more about broad-based innovation issues). But perhaps I should throw them on anyway. I just can't figure out where to draw the line with a list like this. Would welcome your advice.

    But you are right about “Starfish & Spider.” I will put that on there.

  • Adam Thierer

    Added for 2006: Daniel J. Solove, Marc Rotenberg & Paul M. Schwartz – “Privacy, Information and Technology”

  • Kevin Donovan

    I've long toyed with the idea of a website for “Top Books” on various subjects – as broad or narrow as desired – with submissions elicited from experts and via crowdsourcing. So, we could have Adam Thierer's Top 10 Info-Tech Books next to Lessig's next to a list created by user votes. Seems that something like that would be useful for deciding where to draw the line (since I, too, have no idea!).

  • johnjmart

    That Mark Helprin book was unreadable. All I remember was that he spent about half his time making fun of people who wore baseball hats. I was expecting a smart argument for stronger copyright protection. Didn't exactly get that.

    On the other end of the spectrum, the Neil Netanel book actually taught me a thing or two. Probably the best book on copyright I've read, and I've read a few (including a few on these lists).

  • Michael Masnick

    Good list. Some others worth checking out:

    “No Law” by Lange & Powell
    “The Future of Music” by Kusek and Leonhard
    “Venturesome Economy” by Bhide
    “Steal This Idea” by Perelman
    “Patent Crisis” by Lemley and Burk
    “Innovation for the 21st Century” by Carrier
    “IP & Theories of Justice” edited by Gosseries
    “Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations” by Warsh
    “Rebel Code” by Moody

    And I second the nominations for Netanel's book and Heller's book…

  • Adam Thierer

    Thanks Mike. I will try to add some of these. I've only seen a couple of them.

    (The Netanel book is already on the list, BTW).

  • Adam Thierer

    I like that idea! But I've been contacts some leading academics and cyberlaw experts both before and since I've posted this and asking if they've complied such a list, but so far no luck. I hope some of them do so.

    Another idea… I was thinking about contacting Ars or someone else to see if they'd want to do some sort of a poll to have people vote on the all the selections.

  • Kevin Donovan

    That'd be great. Part of me wants to split it up into sub-categories but it seems very tough to do, so perhaps just info-tech is best. (maybe some tagging option would work better)

    Another option for people to speak to might be bibliographers/librarians – I know Georgetown has staff that cover specific topics; they could have good ideas. Let me know Ars bites.

  • Kevin Donovan

    And at the risk of turning this into an all-encompassing wiki*, here are some other thoughts (some I've not read; some from Evgeny's post:…)

    – The Victorian Internet by Standage
    – The Myth of Digital Democracy by Hindman (deserved more attention, IMO)
    – Open Networks, Closed Regimes
    – Protocol by Galloway

    *Not that I'd be opposed to such a wiki…

  • Adam Thierer

    More good choices, Kevin! I would have put Victorian Internet on the list, but I believe that originally came out in 1999. Let me go back and double-check. It's a great book.

  • almanzor

    Kevin, Adam:
    Here's one:
    Pablo García Mexía. European Internet Law. Netbiblo (Coruña, Spain): 2009. Available (googleable) at
    The author is a William and Mary visiting professor, also a renowned lawyer in Spain.
    Best wishes!

  • kennediesmith

    I must say you did a fabulous job. Your effort of collecting the data and posting here is just too cool.
    Camping food

  • Jim Harper

    Digital Identity, by Phil Windley (2005)
    The New School of Information Security, by Adam Shostack and Andrew Stewart (2008)
    Secrets and Lies, by Bruce Schneier (2000)
    The Unwanted Gaze, by Jeffrey Rosen (2000)
    Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (2000)

  • manglewurzle01

    I have read couple of books from the list above and so i am
    interested in commenting on this topic. We can get some of
    this books for free on the internet and some can be downloaded
    and some are just read only.

  • manglewurzle01

    I have read couple of books from the list above and so i am
    interested in commenting on this topic. We can get some of
    this books for free on the internet and some can be downloaded
    and some are just read only.

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  • Tim Lee

    Adam, Benkler's book was published in hardcover in 2006. Your link is to the 2007 paperback edition, but I think it counts as a 2006 book.

  • Tim Lee

    Also, what about Harper's “Identity Crisis?”

  • Jim Harper

    I love that book! But I don't think it's info/tech policy.

    My next ID book will be!

  • Adam Thierer

    Thanks Tim, I will make that change.

  • Adam Thierer

    Regardless of my personal feelings about Jim's book–I think it is outstanding, as I have pointed out here and in my past work–it perfectly defines the complexity of where to draw the line about “Internet & Information Technology” books. It certainly has some bearing on IT policy debates. In fact, I drew upon it when writing a couple of papers on why mandatory age verification for social networking sites was a misguided idea. But it's not clear that makes it a good fit for this list. Like other books on privacy and security (think Schnier's book), it is right on the borderline.

    Then again, I do have two of Solove's privacy-related books on the list. However, if you've read them, you know that he really gets into the online privacy debates in a way Harper doesn't in “Identity Crisis.”

    Having said all that, I think I will add Jim's book to the list anyway! I've already started allowing far too many copyright and patent-related books to make the cut (ex: Landes & Posner's “Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law” really doesn't belong on this list), so I might as well expand the pool of what qualifies from the privacy / identification side of things.

    Problem is, the more liberal I get about what can make the cut, the more unwieldy, and less useful, this list becomes. I just don't know where to draw these lines.

  • Kevin Donovan

    FWIW, I think bloating this list does not make it less useful. As someone who remembers trying to dive into this subject matter a few years ago, finding reliable, respected writing was difficult. Lists like this, even long, can definitely help people in that same position.

  • Dave Heineman

    I would like to mention “Pirates of the Digital Millennium” by John Gantz and Jack B. Rochester as an addition to the year 2005 list. I found it to be very readable and a very fair treatment of copyright. Especially good for people just getting into the subject.

  • Adam Thierer

    Thanks Dave, I will check it out!

  • Chris Marsden

    Great idea – and the list is looking good for North America. European and other works would really leaven the bias here – not that the North American works aren't the most groundbreaking (they generally are).
    Not just because I was editor, but how about 'Regulating the Global Information Society' (2000, Routledge), as much for the quality of US and European contributors and the classic Samuelson essay to finish.
    Also – where is 'Ruling the Root' by Milton Mueller? Hugely influential.
    As a reminder to history of standards: 'Inventing the Internet' by Janet Abbate (2000).

  • Chris Marsden

    Apologies – you put Mueller in 2004, when the hardback was 2002.
    For Castells, I might suggest his brief but very influential 'The Internet Galaxy' (2001) – not that many people read his great triple volume in the mid'90s, most used this instead…

  • Adam Thierer

    Thanks for flagging that mistake, Chris. And I will add the others. I apologize for failing to add your book originally. And I would love any additional suggestions you may have.

  • bethantuttle

    Not sure if they qualify as policy books, but Schneier's “Beyond Fear” and “Secrets and Lies” have a lot of very smart information for those who deal with privacy and security policies.

  • bethantuttle

    Not sure if they qualify as policy books, but Schneier's “Beyond Fear” and “Secrets and Lies” have a lot of very smart information for those who deal with privacy and security policies.

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  • Chris Marsden

    Have to admit I think that Lessig's original 'Code' (1999) towers over everything as book of the decade-ish – and influences almost everything – but maybe that's just my academic lawyerly bias. Delighted to see Debora Spar's work there – a great model for 'pragmatic optimists' – her 'Pirates, prophets and pioneers' (1991) just about sums just about sums up the cycle – followed by preachers and penal colonies of course…

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  • Christopher Parsons

    I'd suggest the following, as well:
    Denardis: Protocol Politics (about the governance issues surrounding IPv6)
    Strangelove: The Empire of the Mind – Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement
    Flichy: The Internet Imaginair
    Mayer-Schonberger: Delete – The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age
    Lovink: Dark Fibre – Tracking Digital Internet Culture
    Acquisti et al.: Digital Privacy – Theory, Technology, Practices
    Sunstein: Infotopia
    Chander et al.: Securing Privacy in the Internet Age
    Solove: The Digital Person

    I'd include Nissembaum's 'Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of social Life', given that she's doing pathbreaking work on understanding privacy (and offering tentative framework for dealing with privacy in a digital era).

  • Adam Thierer

    Thank you Christopher! Some excellent suggestions.

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    What I can say is very nice and helpful as well as informative post…really help me very much more!! Thanks..

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  • rashmi23w

    Out of all your suggestions will definitely vouch for Sunstein: Infotopia

  • Raid recovery

    Out of all your suggestions will definitely vouch for Sunstein: Infotopia

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