How to Find Public Domain Books Online

13 sources for free, public domain books

Need some new reading material? Public domain books, which are free to download and are no longer under copyright, are a great way to explore everything from classic novels to computer manuals. Here are 13 sources for free books or e-books in the public domain that you can download or read in a browser.

Most of these sites also make their content offerings available to download for a wide variety of e-book readers, such as a Kindle or a Nook.

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Screenshot of Authorama website where you can download public domain books
What We Like
  • Alphabetized list of books.

  • Includes modern texts and speech transcripts.

What We Don't Like
  • Selection is rather limited.

  • Few books by authors outside Europe and the U.S.

  • Search tool is too simple.

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

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Screenshot of the LibriVox website, where you can download public domain books
What We Like
  • Listen before you download.

  • Record and share audiobooks.

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, and then those chapters are placed online for readers to download for free.

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

Screenshot of a public domain book on Google Books
What We Like
  • Powered by the largest search engine.

  • Mobile app optimized for e-readers.

  • Searches the book text, too.

What We Don't Like
  • Must search; can't just browse for free books.

Google Books has a nice selection of public domain eBooks mostly in the classical literature genre. Search Google Books or use the main Google search engine to find all manner of public domain books. Just be sure to filter by Free Google eBooks.

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

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Project Gutenberg

Screenshot of Project Gutenberg
What We Like
  • Includes thousands of non-English books.

  • Easy to browse alphabetically and by subject.

What We Don't Like
  • Search feature has a learning curve.

Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest sources for public domain books on the web. More than 60,000 books are available in many different formats (PC, Kindle, Sony reader, etc.). It has one of the widest selections you'll find of freely available books on the web.

There's a handy Top 100 page if you're not sure where to start.

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Screenshot of free public domain books at feedbooks
What We Like
  • Download in the popular EPUB format.

  • Offers obscure science fiction.

  • Several categories to look through.

What We Don't Like
  • Mostly European and American literature.

  • Browsing interface is 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, up-and-coming authors. In addition, if you've been itching to publish a book, Feedbooks is a good source to get the word out.

A mobile website and mobile app is available if you want to read from your phone or tablet.

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Internet Archive

Screenshot of the eBooks and Texts page at
What We Like
  • Very thorough search filter.

  • Borrow newer books for free.

What We Don't Like
  • Challenging to navigate; interface is overwhelming.

  • Mostly 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, and there are over 28 million results for eBooks and texts, so be sure to check back often for new reading material.

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Screenshot of Manybooks
What We Like
  • Attractive and easy to browse.

  • Huge collection of genres.

  • Read online or download.

What We Don't Like
  • Books may be inappropriate for some.

  • Small selection of non-English books.

  • Must log in to download.

ManyBooks offers more than 50,000 free public domain books for download. The site is organized so you can find books as easily as possible. Filter by Authors, Titles, Genres, and Recent Additions. This is one of the most user-friendly sites on the web for finding and downloading free books.

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Screenshot of the LoudLit website where you can download public domain books
What We Like
  • Powerful readings of classic poems and short stories.

  • A great resource for English teachers.

What We Don't Like
  • Small collection compared to similar sites.

  • Very bare-bones home page.

  • Can't download the whole book at once.

Similar to LibriVox, LoudLit partners 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

Screenshot of the Online Library of Liberty website
What We Like
  • Material you won't find anywhere else.

  • A treasure trove of political history.

  • Several format options when downloading.

What We Don't Like
  • Selection has a narrow focus.

  • An unabashed political agenda.

The Online Library of Liberty offers readers "individual liberty, limited constitutional government, free markets, and peace," all in the public domain and free for download. Categories include history, economics, art, law, religion, and more.

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Read Print

Screenshot of the Read Print website showing free book categories
What We Like
  • Create a profile and communicate with other readers.

  • Well-organized database of famous quotes.

  • Read online in your browser.

What We Don't Like
  • Focus on popular British literature.

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

Books, essays, poems, and stories are all available at Read Print, with an advanced search feature that lets you find books, quotes, authors, and groups. This site was named one of Time Magazine's 50 best websites.

After choosing a category, such as fiction, you can sort the results by popularity to find the most-read books. You can also see the site's top five authors and get a list of all of their public domain books.

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Classic Literature Library

Screenshot of the Classic Literature website
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 public domain book website 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 (CCEL)

Christian Classics Ethereal Library website home page
What We Like
  • Excellent resource for seminary students.

  • Includes biblical commentary you won't find elsewhere.

What We Don't Like
  • Narrow focus.

Read classic Christian writings from hundreds of years of church history. You'll find everything from research materials to Bible studies. There are also 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 where you can download public domain books
What We Like
  • Great tool for learning software development.

  • Wide selection of out-of-print books.

What We Don't Like
  • Selection is limited to a single broad topic.

  • Very few 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.

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