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How to Find Free Textbooks Online - Ten Sources

Save money and find your books on the Web instead!


Going to 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 books for nearly any class available. Here are ten 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.

1. Use Google

Google 'Updated' Concept Logo - flat colour mock-up
The Logo Smith/Flikr/CC BY 2.0
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, a great place to find all sorts of academic-oriented content. Check out these specific search tips for Google Scholar that will help you drill down to what you're looking for quickly.

2. Open Culture

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. This list will be updated on a regular basis.

3. MIT Open Courseware

MIT has offered free, open courseware for several years now, and along with these free classes comes free college text books. 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 is a lot of free content available here in a wide variety of subjects.

4. Textbook Revolution

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

5. Flat World Knowledge

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 Web browser.

6. Online Mathematics Textbooks

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

7. Wikibooks

Wikibooks offers a wide variety of free textbooks (over 2000 at the time of this writing), in subjects from computing to social sciences.

8. Free Digital Textbook Initiative

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.

9. Curriki

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

10. Scribd

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

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