16 Best Ways to Get Free Textbooks

Find free textbooks online to help cut college costs

Whether you're studying at a major university, taking online college courses, or just learning on your own, there are tons of ways to find free textbooks online. Some books can be viewed in your browser while other are available for download in PDF format.

Most of these websites specialize in free textbooks. There are also other websites that offer free audiobooks and free eBooks.

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First Stop for Free Books: Google

Google PDF textbook search query
What We Like
  • Search multiple websites 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 Google 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. For example:

filetype:pdf "history of anthropology"

If you don't have luck with the book's title, try the author (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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Biggest Selection of Textbooks: Bookboon

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 available for download as PDFs, or you can read them directly 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 option to block ads are available with a business account. There's a 30-day trial if you want to see what that's like.

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Best Mobile App for Free Textbooks: OpenStax

Free textbooks at OpenStax
What We Like
  • View online or download the textbook PDF.

  • Read free textbooks from the OpenStax 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. This project was initially kicked off for college students by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 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).

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Links to Free Textbooks: 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 external sites that might not be reliable.

  • Finding the exact book you need can be challenging.

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 download pages might be broken and the textbooks missing.

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Search Engine for Textbooks: MERLOT

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.

You can search for free textbooks on MERLOT by title, ISBN, or author. There are thousands of books to pick from, and they're all completely free. However, what makes MERLOT different from most of these other free textbook websites is that it's more like 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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Free Books for Free Classes: MIT OpenCourseWare

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

  • Supports advanced search commands.

  • Convenient "PDF only" filter.

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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Free Textbook Finder: 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.

  • All books are hosted on external sites.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed and free textbooks are available at Open Textbook Library. This site is more of a search engine for textbooks since all the links point to other sites, but it's still very useful for finding free textbook PDFs. 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 must click to reach the actual download page. There's also sometimes an option for reading the textbook online.

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Easy-to-Browse eBooks: BCcampus OpenEd

Free textbooks at BCcampus OpenEd
What We Like
  • More categories than most free textbook sites.

  • Excellent site layout.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited search filters.

The goal of BCcampus 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 are also available in editable document formats such as ODT.

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By Students, For Students: 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.

  • The search tool isn't very helpful.

Run by students, Textbook Revolution offers tons 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. If you can't find the book you want for free, there's also an option to search the web for the cheapest prices on textbooks.

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Free Math Books: 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.

  • Fewer books than other websites.

Professors from the Georgia Institute of Technology have compiled an impressive list of online math textbooks covering everything from calculus to mathematical biology. There are dozens of free titles here that are all listed on a single page, making them super easy to sift through.

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The Wikipedia of Textbooks: Wikibooks

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

  • Run by the same company as Wikipedia.

  • Some textbooks are PDFs.

  • Anyone can add annotations or edits to online books.

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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Free Books for Every Grade Level: 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, and each subject is divided into three grade levels (primary, secondary, post-secondary).

Choose Textbook from the side of the page to filter out all the other kinds of content you can find here, which includes lectures, 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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Free Books About Freedom: Online Library of Liberty

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

  • Download textbooks in a few different file formats.

  • Several ways to browse the textbooks.

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

The Online Library of Liberty has over 1,700 free textbooks pertaining to the subjects of 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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Free K-12 Textbooks: Curriki

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

  • Extensive filtering option.

What We Don't Like
  • Must create a free account 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, technology, and math. There are books for all grade levels including K-12 and college. Curriki also has textbooks for special education and professional development. There's also a lot of other helpful educational content, so be sure to select the Textbook filter option to see only the free books.

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Free Public Domain Books: Project Gutenberg

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

  • You can read the textbook online if you want.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited selection of school textbooks.

  • Most of the books are very old.

Project Gutenberg offers a wide selection of over 60,000 texts. Many are eBooks in the public domain, but there are also free textbooks. There isn't a page dedicated to just online textbooks, so the best way to find free textbooks on this site is through the search tool. If you're taking a classical literature class, there's a good chance you can find all of the required reading at Project Gutenberg.

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Free Books Message Boards: Reddit User Submissions

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

  • Request help from other students looking for free books.

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. It's common for users to share links to free textbooks and websites where free books can be downloaded.

Not all of the links are valid because some older ones have been taken down. If this is the case, you can reply to the thread and ask for an updated link, or start a new topic requesting help finding a book.

More Ways to Get Free and Cheap Textbooks

Here are some more websites where you can find textbooks for free or cheap: