How to Find Free Textbooks Online

Textbooks, a globe, and a clock on shelves
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While college is a fantastic way to gain knowledge and valuable skills, it's understood that going to a university is expensive, and textbooks can make the bill go even higher. However, you don't have to break the bank to finance a good education; there are plenty of places on the web where you can find and download free online textbooks for nearly any class available.

Here are sources on the web you can use to find free content for many college classes, all freely available to either download and print offline or view online in your browser.

You don't have to necessarily be enrolled in an official college class to take advantage of these resources! If you are looking for opportunities to enrich your knowledge, this is a great way to do that. You can also enroll for free in a huge variety of college classes available from reputable universities all around the world. 

While many college classes and professors are completely fine with students downloading materials for their classes online, it's suggested that students check the class syllabus for approved materials ahead of time, and make sure that the content that is downloaded is compatible with class requirements. 

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Google

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The first place to start when looking for a textbook is Google, using the filetype command. Type in filetype:pdf, followed by the name of the book you're looking for in quotes. Here's an example:

filetype:pdf "history of anthropology"

If you don't have any luck with the book's title, try the author (again, surrounded by quotes), or, you can also look for another type of file: PowerPoint (ppt), Word (doc), etc. You'll also want to check Google Scholar, which is a great place to find all sorts of academic-oriented content. Being proficient in specific search techniques for Google while using Google Scholar will help you quickly drill down to exactly what you're looking for.

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Open Culture

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Open Culture, a fascinating repository of some of the best content on the web, has assembled an ongoing database of free texts ranging in subject from Biology to Physics. The list is updated on a regular basis.

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MIT Open Courseware

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MIT has offered free, open courseware for several years now, and along with these free classes come free college textbooks. You'll have to search for specific classes and/or titles of books on the site in order to find what you're looking for. Overall, there's a lot of free content available here on a wide variety of subjects.

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Textbook Revolution

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Run by students, Textbook Revolution offers free books organized by subject, license, course, collections, topic, and level. This site is easily searchable with a healthy amount of subject matter available.

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Flat World Knowledge

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Flat World Knowledge is an interesting site that offers college and university texts free of charge, mixed with other applicable resources that serve as supplements. All of the books are free to view online within your browser.

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Online Mathematics Textbooks

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Professors from the Georgia Institute of Technology have collated an impressive list of online mathematics texts, ranging from calculus to mathematical biology. 

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Wikibooks

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Wikibooks offers a wide variety of over 3,000 free textbooks in subjects from computing to social sciences. 

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Free Digital Textbook Initiative

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From the California Learning Resource Network, the Free Digital Textbook Initiative offers a good selection of free content materials suitable for both high school and college students.

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Curriki

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Curriki isn't just about free textbooks, although you can find those at the site. Curriki also offers a fantastic array of free educational resources, anything from science kits to novel studies. 

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Scribd

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Scribd is a huge database of user-contributed content. Sometimes you can get lucky and find full textbooks here; just type in the name of your book into the search field and hit Enter. For example, one simple search found a full, comprehensive text about quantum physics mechanics. 

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Project Gutenberg

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Project Gutenberg offers a wide selection of over 50,000 texts, with even more available through their partner websites. Browse through their categories, search for something specific, or take a look at their entire catalog.

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ManyBooks

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ManyBooks gives users the ability to search within a catalog of over 30,000 books, as well as genres, authors, publication dates, and more. 

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Online Library of Liberty

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 The Online Library of Liberty offers a wide variety of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. Over 1,700 individual titles are available here. 

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Amazon Textbooks

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 While not free, you can find some pretty amazing deals on college textbooks, far better than your campus bookstore, at Amazon

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Bookboon

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Bookboon offers a wide variety of free textbooks here. You will need to give your email address to this site in order to download anything and will receive a weekly update of new books and additions to the site. Premium access is also available for a fee. 

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GetFreeBooks

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 GetFreeBooks offers a wide variety of free ebooks with a good selection of categories, anywhere from marketing to short stories. 

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Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources

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The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources is simply laid out, giving users the ability to search within selected subject areas for free textbooks. 

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OpenStax

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OpenStax, a service offered by Rice University, offers access to high-quality textbooks for both K-12 and university students. This project was initially kicked off for college students by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Reddit User Submissions

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Reddit has a subreddit dedicated to sharing what textbooks any user might have (and is willing to share), as well as those looking for textbooks and needing help locating them online.