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"I'm either the anti-Tim, or the Peter Norton of Linux," says Bruce Perens, who's convinced a major book publisher to go open source for the first time, applying an open software license to their publications.

The first of Prentice Hall's initial series of seven Open Content-licensed books are already in the stores with the first two titles covering eCos, Linux development and a third on intrusion detection slated for March. All will be open and extensible electronic books: it's good manners, but not mandatory to inform the author of the changes under the terms of the license.

It's another triumph for the backroom diplomacy of Perens, who with Eben Moglen and Larry Rosen helped negotiate a workable royalty-free patent policy for the World Wide Web Consortium. Perens was wryly noting his own prominence on the books' jackets, which give him top billing, and the name - "Bruce Perens' Open Source Series" - and he added that he doesn't have a bone to pick with Tim O'Reilly.

These aren't the first books to be published under the OPL, both O'Reilly and Prentice have using this before, but it is the first series the set sail under the flag, and Perens hopes that the extensibility granted under the license - to allow a teacher to annotate and add to the book - will make the series a classroom staple. In time, each publication could become a mini-Wikipedia entry.

"In contrast to the recent DMCA stuff, here's a major publisher who's publishing an open eBook, a full price work, and we definitely intend to make money off it," he said.

It works like this. Prentice sells the paper version for several months until an electronic version is released. What happens next is entirely up to the community. The author retains the copyright and in the standard license, his name must be appear on the book's cover. Citations must be acknowledged, modifications must be identified, and derivative works must identify the original unmodified source document.

Perens is looking for authors for the next series. "I'd love to hear from open source developers themselves," he told us. "Prentice Hall has power to get the books into bookstore near you, not just on Amazon."

If you're tempted, mail Perens here.

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