16 Best Ways to Get Free Textbooks

Textbooks online can help cut college costs

College is a fantastic way to gain knowledge and valuable skills but in many countries, going to university is extremely expensive. Textbooks can make the bill go even higher. Fortunately, free textbooks help cut down on that cost.

Fortunately, many digital versions of textbooks and other class materials can be found online for free! Sometimes the content can be viewed in your browser like any other page on the web but some textbooks are available for download in PDF format.

People holding up documents to the cloud
Lifewire / Jiaqi Zhou

Free textbooks aren't reserved just for students enrolled in an official college class, either. You could be part of an online college course or learning on your own, too.

No matter how you're enriching your knowledge, college-level textbooks are a great way to do it.

While many college classes and professors are completely fine with students downloading materials for their classes, we suggest checking the class syllabus for a list of approved materials to make sure that what you download is compatible with your class.

These websites were selected because they have free textbooks. There are other websites that specialize in free audiobooks and free eBooks.

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Google PDF textbook search query
What We Like
  • Searches more than one website at once.

  • Very effective at finding any free textbook.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited range of file types are supported.

Google should be the first place you go to find free textbooks online. Using a search engine like this one will scour the whole web for textbook PDFs.

However, instead of a general search, you'll want to take advantage of Google's filetype command. Enter filetype:pdf followed by the name of the book you're looking for, making sure to use quotes around the whole title.

Here's an example:

filetype:pdf "history of anthropology"

If you don't have luck with the book's title, try the author (again, surrounded in quotes) with or without the title. You might also mix up the file extension and use PPT or DOC; you never know what format the textbook might be in.

Google Scholar is another search engine from Google that you should try along with a Google search. It's a great place to find all sorts of academic-oriented content.

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Free textbooks at Bookboon
What We Like
  • Over 1,000 free textbooks.

  • Website is extremely easy to use.

  • Several categories to browse through.

What We Don't Like
  • Access to more textbooks requires a paid membership.

  • There are a few advertisements.

Bookboon should definitely be your second method of finding free textbooks online. There are hundreds upon hundreds of books, they're all 100 percent free, and each of them are available as a PDF and can be read in your browser.

When you're viewing a textbook's download page, you'll see a star rating from other users and similar textbooks you might like.

Some of the categories of free textbooks here include economics and finance, marketing and law, IT and programming, accounting, statistics and mathematics, and engineering.

Some business eBooks and the ability to stop all the ads, is available with a business account. There's a 30-day trial if you want to see what that's like.

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Free textbooks at OpenStax
What We Like
  • Textbooks over several subjects.

  • View online or download the textbook PDF.

  • Read free textbooks from their mobile app.

What We Don't Like
  • No search function.

OpenStax, a service offered by Rice University, provides access to high-quality textbooks in categories that include humanities, business, essentials, and math.

You don't need a user account to access these textbooks, so just pick a subject, find the textbook you want to use for free, and then choose how you want to get it (online, through the app, or as a PDF).

This project was initially kicked off for college students by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Open Culture

Open Culture free textbooks page
What We Like
  • Hundreds of free textbook download links.

  • Most links are to the PDF file (no further searching required).

  • Textbooks are categorized by subject.

What We Don't Like
  • All textbooks are located on different, external sites that might not be reliable.

  • It's unlikely you'll find the exact book you need.

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 and management to computer science and physics.

All links are to external sites, so while the list itself is sometimes updated with new books, the final download pages might be broken and the textbooks missing.

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Free textbooks at MERLOT
What We Like
  • Find free textbooks on multiple sites at once.

  • Tons of filtering and sorting options to narrow down the results.

  • Sign up for alerts when new textbooks are added.

What We Don't Like
  • Textbooks are stored on other sites, so they might end up as redirects or dead links.

Search for free textbooks here by title, ISBN, or author. There are thousands of books to pick from and they're all totally and completely free.

However, what makes MERLOT different from most of these other free textbook websites is that it's more a textbook search engine. It indexes books from other sites and provides links to them.

To find only the free textbooks here instead of other things like tests, animations, or tutorials, be sure to select Open (Access) Textbook from the filtering menu. Some of the subjects you can filter by include social sciences, workforce deployment, education, business, arts, and science and technology.

Within any category of free textbooks, you can copy the RSS feed link and use it in your RSS reader to get alerts when new books are added to MERLOT's site.

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MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseware website
What We Like
  • Includes a page with only online textbooks.

  • Supports advanced search commands.

  • Has a 'PDF only' filter for easy filtering.

What We Don't Like
  • Includes PDF textbooks only for specific classes at MIT.

MIT has offered OpenCourseWare (OCW) for several years now, and along with these free classes come free college textbooks.

Feel free to search for the textbook you're after, or you can browse the online textbooks by department or education level.

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Open Textbook Library

Free textbooks at Open Textbook Library
What We Like
  • Hundreds of free textbooks.

  • Textbooks cover common subjects.

  • User account not required.

What We Don't Like
  • Very basic search tool.

Hundreds more peer-reviewed and free textbooks are available at Open Textbook Library. This site is more of a textbook finder since all the links point to other sites, but it's still very useful for finding a free textbook PDF.

Some of the subjects include law, medicine, management, linguistics, biology, psychology, applied mathematics, and history.

When you land on the textbook's download page, you're given a table of contents and other details about the book. There's a PDF button you need to click to reach the actual download page (which won't be on the Open Textbook Library website). There's also sometimes a button for reading the textbook online.

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BCcampus OpenEd

Free textbooks at BCcampus OpenEd

BCcampus' goal is to "support the post-secondary institutions of British Columbia as they adopt, adapt, and evolve their teaching and learning practices to create a better experience for students." One way they do that is by providing free textbooks.

You'll be happy to learn that there's a remarkable number of subjects you can flip through here, including communication and writing, health and medical, math and stats, language learning, trades, and several others.

Some of these free textbooks can be read online and others are downloadable as EPUB, MOBI, and PDF textbooks. They're also available in editable document formats such as ODT.

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Textbook Revolution

Textbook Revolution website
What We Like
  • Ad-free website.

  • Some textbooks are viewable online (no download required).

What We Don't Like
  • Far too many dead links.

  • Search tool is too simple; not very helpful.

Run by students, Textbook Revolution offers lots of free books. You can browse for textbooks by subject or license (such as public domain). There's also a barebones search tool.

Some of the free textbook subjects include sociology, world history, chemistry, biology, and ESL.

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Online Mathematics Textbooks

Online Mathematics Textbooks website
What We Like
  • Every textbook is free.

  • Each book PDF is organized by chapter and clearly states the contents.

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks a search tool (though, everything is on one page anyway).

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

There are dozens of free textbooks here that are all listed on a single page, making them super easy to sift through.

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Wikibooks textbook categories
What We Like
  • Huge range of subjects.

  • A project from the same company that runs Wikipedia (so anyone can edit the books here).

  • Some textbooks are PDFs.

What We Don't Like
  • Books can change over time because they're open for editing.

  • Most textbooks must be read online.

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

This free textbook website is run by its visitors, much like Wikipedia. This means that some books are only partially finished. On each subject's page, you'll see which books are completed and which ones still require some work.

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OER Commons

OER Commons website
What We Like
  • Super detailed descriptions of the textbooks.

  • You can view all the books online.

  • Lots of helpful filtering options.

What We Don't Like
  • Might run into non-textbook materials like audio or video.

Open Educational Resources (OER) is a digital public library that offers a variety of free textbooks to anyone and everyone. There are over 10 subjects areas you can look through, as well as three grade levels (primary, secondary, post-secondary) to browse only those types of textbooks.

Choose Textbook from the side of the page to filter out all the other kinds of content you can find here, which includes lectures, siluations, guides, games, full courses, and case studies.

Each download page provides a link to view the textbook online in your browser.

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Online Library of Liberty

Online Library of Liberty website
What We Like
  • No user account is required to get these free books.

  • Download textbooks in a few different file formats.

  • Several ways to browse the textbooks.

What We Don't Like
  • Some textbooks are clearly scans that aren't as easy to read.

The Online Library of Liberty has over 1,700 free textbooks regarding individual liberty and free markets. You can browse for the books by title, author, time period, and idea.

This website lets you download PDF textbooks, or you can choose the HTML option to read the textbooks online.

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Curriki website
What We Like
  • Range of textbooks meant for K-12 students.

  • Filtering option to find just the textbooks among the other kinds of content.

What We Don't Like
  • Must log in (it's free) to download textbooks.

  • Some download links don't work.

Curriki offers a fantastic array of free textbooks in categories like health, language arts, world languages, tech ED, and math. You can also find free textbooks online by grade level, including K-12 and college and beyond; special education and professional development are options, too.

There are lots of filtering options you can pick from, but be sure to select Textbook to find only the free books on this site and not photographs, slides, etc.

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Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg free eBooks page
What We Like
  • Several download options.

  • You can read the textbook online if you want.

What We Don't Like
  • Most of the free books aren't of the school textbook variety.

Project Gutenberg offers a wide selection of over 60,000 texts. Many are eBooks in the public domain, but there are also free textbooks.

The best way to find free textbooks on this site is through the search tool because there isn't a page dedicated to just online textbooks.

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Reddit User Submissions

Reddit textbooks submitted by users
What We Like
  • Updates frequently with new submissions.

What We Don't Like
  • Many older links no longer work.

  • Some links might not be legitimate (i.e., they could violate copyrights).

Reddit is a great platform for sharing content, and you can use it to find free textbooks online, too. Other users submit where they've found a free textbook or which websites are best for downloading textbooks.

Not all the links are valid all the time because some older ones have been taken down, but since it's run by the users, finding textbooks through Reddit can be helpful if the other sources above weren't enough.

Other Free and Cheap Textbooks

Here are some more ways to get a textbook free or cheap: