With that in mind, we suggest that you should resort to free textbook options and get your hands on everything you can find. Sounds good?
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of reputable online resources that offer free educational materials — 10 thoroughly selected and checked websites where you can find textbooks at no cost. Out of numerous websites, we’ve weeded out the ones that are either outdated, or irrelevant, or seemingly helpful, or are simply lacking in some important way, and now, we are ready to share the ones you can completely rely on in your studies.
These websites want to make access to education easier and more affordable by offering their materials under an open license. They also provide them in a variety of formats from PDFs to eBooks, which makes the learning process more convenient, especially now, when studying from home has become our new reality. So let’s get started.
1. Saylor Academy
|Materials:||over 100 free courses transferrable to over 30 partner schools + online marketing, social media, and public speaking courses|
|Course example:||Art History|
Saylor Academy is technically not just a textbook resource. The website provides free online courses. There are two options for students: they can take a Saylor Direct College Credit or get free Certificates of Completion if they don’t need credits. The list of the universities that accept credit transfers can be found on this website page: Saylor Direct credit courses.
The courses are self-paced; there is no need to finish the assignments by a certain time. Also, the materials are available online, mostly in the Resources section. The Academy also offers the Bookshelf page with numerous learning materials, which are now available as HTML versions (each book is based on its own repository at Saylor Academy’s GitHub account) and is also accessible as a PDF file (see in the archived section).
There are courses and materials for students of absolutely different majors. The website does help students lighten their financial burden and benefit from transferring their credits.
|Materials:||over 1,000 college and university textbooks|
|Subjects:||STEM and Business courses|
|Book example:||Engineering Thermodynamics|
Bookboon is a great place to browse for free textbooks if you are a business major student or are taking several STEM subjects. Originally founded in Denmark in 1988 and transformed into a full-scale eBook publishing company in 2005, Bookboon has become the largest source of textbooks online over the years. Students do love it—you can literally download the books for free. All books are short and concise; the content is written by professors and experts.
Where is the catch, you’d ask? Since the books are free, you can only choose the resources the website provides; you won’t be able to get just any book you need by title or author. Besides, to be able to keep this business running and provide this free option to everyone who doesn’t want a subscription, the company adds ads to the books:
This is an example from Concise Hydrology by Prof. Dawei Han. The ads appear on every third centerfold or so, but they are more or less relevant to the book’s topic and, therefore, are not that irritating. A bit of advertising is definitely something that one can tolerate to get a good book for free, right?
|Materials:||over 1,000 college and univer 2 books for college and high-school courses|
|Subjects:||Math, Science, Social Sciences, Business, Humanities, etc.|
|Book example:||Engineer Introduction to Sociology 2e|
OpenStax offers textbooks for students of colleges and high schools. Deeply loved by many students, this non-profit digital learning platform and publisher of free textbooks was founded in 2011 by Rice University. It offers a range of peer-reviewed texts from the top universities in the U.S.
Subjects covered include Math (e.g., Algebra, Calculus, Statistics), Science (e.g., Physics, Chemistry, Biology), Social Sciences (e.g., Sociology, American Government), Humanities (e.g., History), Business and so much more. The initiative is planning to add textbooks on data sciences, nursing, and liberal arts in the nearest future as well.
OpenStax digital textbooks are offered in PDF and ePub format; they can also be read online. You have two sign-up options: as a student and as an instructor. In the latter case, you can access additional materials (all books have references to other resources) that you can use in class. For instance, verified instructors can access answer guides and PowerPoint slides with images from the book. The platform also offers OpenStax Tutor—a homework helper for students who need extra help. It also provides an option to order print copies of their books.
OpenStax is an educational initiative; its mission is to “improve educational access and learning for everyone,” and they seem to be accomplishing it quite successfully so far. Thanks to the activity of OpenStax and similar initiatives that bring positive disruption to the textbook industry, the so-called “textbook bubble” seems to be deflating little by little.
4. Project Gutenberg
|Materials:||over 60,000 free eBooks|
|Subjects:||Arts and Humanities|
|Book example:||Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge|
Project Gutenberg is an online library of free eBooks and the first resource ever that started providing free eBooks in 1971. Exactly. At that time, no one even had heard of the Internet. Unbelievable! Founded by Michael Hart, the library thrives and helps millions of art and humanities students to succeed in their studies.
Books in the library are mostly popular classics that are offered in a variety of formats—HTML, ePub (with or without images), Kindle (with or without images), plain Text UTF-8, and others. Some books are available in foreign languages.
To find what you need on Project Gutenberg, search the library by author, title, subject, language, or book type. Apart from the classical library, you can also browse through the Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press, where contemporary authors share their works with readers.
If you are studying art and humanities, this platform is what you need. We doubt there is another place where you can find pretty much every classic English-language book out of copyright and in the public domain. Its design may seem a bit outdated, but as they say, “Don’t judge the book by its cover!”
5. Open Textbook Library
|Website:||Open Textbook Library|
|Materials:||969 open books for post-secondary education|
|Subjects:||Business, Computer Science, Education, Engineering, Humanities, Journalism, Media Studies & Communications, Law, Math, Medicine, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Student Success|
|Book example:||Ports and Waterways: Navigating the Changing World|
Open Textbook Library (OTL) was founded by David Ernst in 2012. The project was initially born as a part of the University of Minnesota to help all faculty members find open textbooks easily. OTL is technically a reference source that helps locate open books offered by various authors and publishers online. Nowadays, not all books in the library are published by the University of Minnesota; you can find books written and published by faculty members of different educational institutions. Users have permission to use these open textbooks under an open license.
The library’s materials are designated for post-secondary education specifically; therefore, you won’t find any popular classics or high-school textbooks here. If you need to have a book printed, it can also be arranged for a fee. A rating system that you can see on every book’s page is helpful if you need to understand which textbook is best for you.
6. Library Genesis
|Materials:||an infinite number|
|Book example:||Journal of Bridge Engineering|
Library Genesis has several names and appearances, but the meaning is the same: it’s a place where you can get books, articles, magazines, and whatnot for your studies. Also known as LibGen and Genesis Library, this online database of books is loved by the Reddit community as the place where you can get practically everything. It may seem somewhat complicated to use, but once you read this explanation, everything gets pretty clear.
You don’t need to create an account to use the resource. Just type in the title, the author, or the book’s ISBN in the search fields. If you know the information about the publisher or year, you can add it as well to refine your search. We recommend searching by ISBN, as it will increase your chances of finding the exact edition you need.
|Materials:||an infinite number|
|Book example:||Cable-Stayed Bridges: 40 Years of Experience Worldwide|
FreeBookSpot is another online database with an infinite number of books. It features a bit outdated design and can make you slightly mad with all the ads popping up here and there, but it is a free textbook download website that you will definitely find exceedingly useful. If you have classes where a syllabus is mostly based on published books instead of textbooks, this source is what you need.
Books and textbooks can be searched here by title, author, ISBN, and language. Once you type in the request, you will be redirected to the table of results, where the book cover is featured, a book description is given, and a link/a few links are provided for download. If the first link doesn’t work, try another one. The download links are a bit tricky and may lure you into buying a premium subscription, but this is just a marketing trick. Just wait for a free download to start (you’ll see the countdown at some point) and get your book!
|Materials:||5,500 peer-reviewed Open Access books|
|Subjects:||Physical Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Life Sciences, Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities|
|Book example:||Human Microbiome|
IntechOpen dates back to 2010, and according to the site, it used to be “a multidisciplinary Open Access publisher of books and journals covering the fields of Science, Technology, and Medicine.” Nowadays, they describe themselves as a place “where academia and industry create content with global impact” and are the world’s leading publisher of open access books. IntechOpen boasts of having 3.3 million visitors per month and 136,000 IntechOpen authors and academic editors. We can recommend it as a place to enrich your scientific knowledge.
9. Online Mathematics Textbooks
|Website:||Online Mathematics Textbooks|
|Subjects:||Math, STEM subjects|
|Book example:||A Course In Algebraic Number Theory|
This list is compiled by professor George Cain of the School of Mathematics, Georgia Institute of Technology, and if you’re studying math or any STEM subject, you may find it very helpful. There are 77 math-related books on the list. All book titles are accompanied by the names of the professors who either wrote the books or contributed to their creation. There are also some popular math textbooks. All materials are available in HTML format and are supposed to be read online.
|Materials:||works in 612 disciplines; 20,421 papers|
|Subjects:||Math, STEM subjects|
|Book example:||Linear Algebra and Applications: An Inquiry-Based Approach|
ScholarWorks is an open-access repository managed by the Grand Valley State University Library. It’s a place where works by GVSU scholars are maintained and showcased. The mission of the archive is to collect and preserve these works. This resource will be very useful if you’re a student of GVSU; however, any college student may access and use materials on ScholarWorks—it’s free. No account or student ID is required; you can download the materials directly from the website.
The archive offers textbooks, projects materials, master theses, dissertations, and articles. You can browse the collection by clicking on the Discipline Wheel and exploring the materials in 612 disciplines. Alternatively, you can search for a specific textbook or topic in the search field. The website even features an interactive map on the homepage where you can see how popular the resource is by the number of downloads.
We hope that this list of free textbook resources will help you in your studies. We can’t promise that you’ll be able to cover all your textbook needs by using these websites; that’d be wishful thinking. Yet, we are positive that you’ll definitely be able to find plenty of materials for your studies. Good luck!