When "On the media" interviewed the author I paused the podcast about half-way through and ordered the book--and even ordered it in print because I knew I wanted to be able to share it--something we can't do effectively with licensed content (eformat) As a librarian who is equal parts copyright geek and open access advocate this reads almost like a thriller. What never gets enough attention is the context of the American Enlightenment and its role, along that of James Madison, in the writing of Constitution and Bill of Rights but it was delightful to see the parallels between the brilliant, intense and socially awkward Webster and Swartz. I'm not sure if that was intentional or that a certain personality type is more likely to be a change-agent. If you're a copyright geek and an open access fan this might not contain a lot of new material but it's a great read. If you're only familiar with one part of the equation or, neither, it's a great read and a great introduction.
The compelling story of Aaron Swartz--the hacktivist who wanted to make public documents freely available as they should be. Justin is a great author who provides colorful detail regarding the circumstances of Aaron's death while being targeted by the US Government.
With The Idealist, Justin Peters manages to do the unthinkable: he transforms the history of American copyright into an intensely engaging – and even, at times, entertaining - read that springs forth from the page. I, like many in the aftermath of Aaron Swartz’s suicide, read the many online tributes and treatises on his life and untimely death, and what his radical actions in the name of making information freely and widely available represented, both to those who supported him in his quest and those who did not. (Peters’ own excellent piece, written for Slate in 2013, from which this book developed, stood out as the most well-researched and well-written of all those that I read.) However, it was not until I read The Idealist that I fully understood the historical context that framed and influenced Swartz and his journey, nor that I fully grasped that even now, nearly three years to the day after his death, we as a country are no closer to addressing the many questions and institutional deficiencies that contributed to it.
Brilliantly written and expertly researched, The Idealist is more than a biography, and more than a history. It does what all great nonfiction should: it challenges us to look at issues both central to our daily lives and greater than ourselves, and consider their impact on those who came before and those who will come after us.