How to Find and Download Public Domain Books From Google

An immense collection of literature is available free online

Google Books is a massive library of scanned books and magazines stored in a Google database. Users can search Google Books to find, preview, read, borrow, buy, or download a published work. If you want to find Google public domain books or explore any of Google Books' vast library of resources, here's how.

Google Books used to be known as Google Book Search or Google Print.

Books line an aisle in a library, depicting Google Books Libraries
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

About Google Books

Published works come to Google Books in several ways. Publishers that are part of Google's Partner Program provide some books, while others have been scanned by Google as part of its Library Project.

Google Books' search function is powerful. When you enter a keyword or phrase to search, Google searches books' content as well as titles and other metadata. This way, it's easy to search for snippets, passages, and even quotes.

If a book is in the public domain or otherwise has specific permissions, you can download it for free. Other books offer a digital preview with options for buying or even borrowing the work. Some previews are quite extensive, while others show only citations, depending on Google's relationship with the publisher.

Here's a look at how to search for and download a public domain title, and an example of how to find out more about a book you want to purchase or borrow.

Google Books has a new interface, promising more powerful search functions and other features. If you prefer, Google lets you switch to its Google Books Classic interface.

Search for and Download a Public Domain Book

If you'd like to build a library of freely available and downloadable public domain books, Google has more than 10 million free books available. Google Books also has a My Library feature where you can store and browse books you purchase or download.

  1. Navigate to Google Books in a web browser.

    Navigate to Google Books in a web browser.
  2. Enter a search term, such as a title, author, ISBN, or keywords, and then select Search (magnifying glass).

    Enter a search term in Google Books
  3. Google will return a page of search results. Select Tools from the top menu.

    Tools highlighted on the Google Books search results page

    Some of the books in the search results aren't public domain books or may not be the book you're searching for. Be sure to read the description that appears with each of the books in the search results list for more details.

  4. Select Any Books.

    Select Any Books from the Google Books search results page

    Optionally, select Any time to filter results by publication time, or Any document to sort by document type.

  5. Select Free Google eBooks from the drop-down menu to narrow your search results to free e-books.

    Select Free Google eBooks from the drop-down menu
  6. Select a free e-book offering.

    Select a free e-book offering, 12 years a Slave highlighted
  7. The book's digital preview will display. Select the X from the top-right to close out of this screen.

    Select the X from the top-right to close out of the Google Books preview screen
  8. The book's informational page will display. Select Read for free to read the book online.

    Select Read for free to read the book online.
  9. Select Download PDF to download a PDF copy of the book.

    Select Download PDF to download a PDF copy of the book.
  10. When the PDF appears, select the Download icon from the top right.

    When the PDF appears, select the Download icon from the top right.
  11. Back on the main page, select Add to my library to add this book to your Google Books digital library.

    select Add to my library to add this book to your Google Books digital library.
  12. Select one or more categories, and then select Done.

    Select one or more Google Books My Library categories, and then select Done.
  13. On your Google Books home page, access your library at any time by selecting My Library.

    Access your Google Books library at any time by selecting My Library.
  14. Use the search feature at the top to continue searching for more books,

    Use the search feature at the top to continue searching for more books,

How to Find and Buy or Borrow a Book on Google Books

Google Books also makes it easy to buy or borrow books that aren't freely available for download.

  1. Enter a search term, such as a title, author, ISBN, or keywords, and then select Search (magnifying glass).

    Enter a search term in Google Books' search box
  2. Select the book you're looking for from the search results.

    Select the book you're looking for from the search results.
  3. View the book's preview, and then select the X from the top right to go to the book's information page.

    View the book's preview, and then select the X from the top right to go to the book's information page.
  4. Select Get the book.

    Select Get the book.
  5. Under Buy Digital and Buy Print, view purchase options for the book.

    Under Buy Digital and Buy Print, view purchase options for the book.

    After you purchase a digital copy of the book, you can add it to My Library.

  6. Under Borrow, find libraries where you can borrow an e-book version of the book.

    Under Borrow, find libraries where you can borrow an e-book version of the book.