How to Find Public Domain Books Online

15 sources for free, public domain books

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Need some new reading material? Public domain books and ebooks (books that are absolutely free to download and are no longer under copyright) are a great way to find fantastic books, from classics to romance to computer manuals. Here are 16 sources for free books or ebooks in the public domain you can quickly and easily download to your PC to read right in your Web browser. Most of these sites also make their content offerings available to download for a wide variety of e-readers (such as a Kindle or a Nook) as well. 

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Authorama

Authorama

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What We Like

  • All books are alphabetized on a single page.

  • Includes modern texts including transcripts of speeches.

What We Don't Like

  • Selection is rather limited.

  • Has few books by authors outside of Europe and the U.S.

Authorama offers a wide variety of books from a great selection of authors, anyone from Hans Christian Anderson to Mary Shelley. If you're looking for the classics this is a good place to start. 

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Librivox

Screenshot of the LibriVox website
Screenshot, LibriVox.

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What We Like

  • You can listen to samples before you download.

  • Readers can record their own audiobooks to share.

What We Don't Like

  • No alphabetized list of books.

  • Limited to pre-1930s texts.

Audiobooks are a great way to get your reading in especially if you're in your car a lot, and Librivox looks to fill that need with hundreds of freely available audiobooks. Volunteers sign up to read chapters of public domain books, then those chapters are placed online for readers to download for free.

Tip

Be sure to look for the Librivox app to add to your mobile device so you can listen to all of your favorites on the go. 

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Google Books

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What We Like

  • Powered by the biggest search engine in the world.

  • Offers a mobile app optimized for e-readers.

What We Don't Like

  • Mobile app lacks support for bookmarks and personalization options.

From Google Books comes a nice selection of public domain ebooks mostly in the classical literature genre, but you can also search Google Books or using the main Google search engine to find all manner of public domain ebooks.

There are a number of different searches you can plug into Google to help with your search. Use the following suggestions. You can append whatever subject you're looking for either in front of or following the phrase in quotes, e.g., boating laws "public domain"

Quotes should be used around these phrases in order to bring back accurate results.

  • "public domain"
  • "this document is in the public domain"
  • "this text is in the public domain"
  • "this information is in the public domain"
  • "this page is in the public domain"
  • site:.edu "not copyrighted"
  • site:.edu "public domain"
  • site:.gov "not copyrighted"
  • site:.gov "public domain"
  • site:.org "not copyrighted"
  • site:.org "public domain"

You can also use Google Scholar to find public domain works. In Google Scholar, click the hamburger menu in the upper left corner and select Advanced Search, and in the Date/Return articles published between field, type in 1923 in the second date box, which will return public domain works. Again, be sure to double check each piece of content to make sure that it does indeed fall under public domain.

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Project Gutenberg

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What We Like

  • Includes thousands of non-English books.

  • Very easy to browse books alphabetically and by subject.

What We Don't Like

  • The website itself supports only English, French and German.

  • The search feature comes with a learning curve.

Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest sources for public domain books on the Web. Over 32,000 books available at the time of this writing, in many different formats (PC, Kindle, Sony reader, etc.). One of the widest selections you'll find of freely available books on the web. 

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Feedbooks

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What We Like

  • Sends books directly to your tablet, phone, or e-reader.

  • Offers a lot of obscure science fiction.

What We Don't Like

  • Limited mostly to European and American literature.

  • Interface for browsing books is a little confusing at first.

Feedbooks offers free public domain books, as well as original works from authors uploading their books to the site, which is a great way to discover new reading from authors who aren't necessarily in the spotlight as yet. In addition, if you've been itching to publish a book, Feedbooks is a good source to get the word out as well. 

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Internet Archive

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What We Like

  • Very thorough search filter.

  • You can borrow newer books for free.

What We Don't Like

  • Navigating the website can be challenging due to the overwhelming UI.

  • Mostly geared toward academic and educational texts.

The Internet Archive is an amazing resource for public domain books, with sub-collections such as American Libraries, Children's Library, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. More collections are added on a regular basis, so be sure to check back often for new reading material. 

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ManyBooks

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What We Like

  • Attractive homepage that's easy to browse.

  • Includes a blog full of book suggestions.

What We Don't Like

  • Includes books that are inappropriate for young readers.

  • Small selection of non-English books.

ManyBooks offers more than 28,000 free public domain books for download. The site is organized so you can books as easily as possible: by Authors, by Titles, by Genres, by New Titles. This is one of the most user-friendly sites on the web for finding and downloading free books. 

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LoudLit

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Screenshot, LoudLit.org.

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What We Like

  • Includes powerful readings of classic poems and short stories.

  • A great resource for English teachers.

What We Don't Like

  • Small collection compared to Librivox.

  • Very bare bones homepage.

Similar to Librivox, LoudLit partners up great literature found in the public domain with high quality audio recordings, both available for download right to your PC or e-reader. 

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Online Library of Liberty

Online Library of Liberty

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What We Like

  • Houses compilations of material you won't find anywhere else.

  • It's a treasure trove for political history nerds.

What We Don't Like

  • Selection of texts have a narrow focus.

  • The website has an unabashed political agenda.

The Online Library of Liberty offers readers "individual liberty, limited constitutional government, and the free market," all in the public domain and free for download.

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Questia

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What We Like

  • A great resource for students and writers.

  • Has its own browser-friendly e-reader.

What We Don't Like

  • Access to journals and magazines requires a paid subscription.

  • The e-reader has distracting advertisements.

Questia offers books, journal articles, magazines, and newspaper articles, all in the humanities and social sciences. Questia is especially useful for anyone needing scholarly resources, since all the materials are reviewed by collection librarians.

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ReadPrint

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What We Like

  • You can create your own profile and communicate with other readers.

  • Includes a well organized database of famous quotes.

What We Don't Like

  • Mostly focused on popular British literature.

  • The "groups" social feature doesn't always work.

Books, essays, poems, stories; all available at ReadPrint, along with 8000 other books by 3500 authors.

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World Public Library

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What We Like

  • Includes recordings found on Librivox and elsewhere.

  • Well designed homepage.

What We Don't Like

  • You have to create an account.

  • All of the features might be overwhelming if you're just looking for old books.

While the World Public Library site, a database of over 400,000 works, is not free, you can access the Sound of Literary Works page gratis. Each of these classic literature and poetry performances Audiobooks free to download.

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Classic Literature Library

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What We Like

  • Partners with Project Gutenburg.

  • Impressive author biographies and bibliographies.

What We Don't Like

  • Site is cluttered with ads.

  • Only features British and American authors.

This site is extremely well organized into collections: Classic American Literature, Classic Italian Literature, the complete works of William Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Fairy Tales and Children's Literature, and lots more.

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Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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What We Like

  • Excellent resource for seminary students.

  • Includes biblical commentary you won't find elsewhere.

What We Don't Like

  • Narrow focus.

  • Tons of ads.

Read classic Christian writings from hundreds of years of church history. You'll find everything from research materials to Bible studies on this site. The site also has MP3 versions of some books, as well as PDF, ePub, and PNG formatted publications.

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O'Reilly Open Books Project

Screenshot of the O'Reilly Open Books website
Screenshot, O'Reilly.

What We Like

  • Great tool for learning software developers.

  • Wide selection of out-of-print books.

What We Don't Like

  • Selection is limited to a single broad topic.

  • Very view texts in languages other than English.

Technical audiobooks are available from the O'Reilly Open Books Project, mostly focusing on programming languages and computer operating systems. O'Reilly makes these books available for a variety of reasons, including historical relevance and general education. The publisher is also proud to be part of the Creative Commons community.