College is an exciting milestone to look forward to … until you find out the high cost of textbooks. I’ll never forget the chime of the register when the cashier took the entire stash of money I’d saved up waiting tables all summer. Some research says that on average, postsecondary students spend somewhere between $628 and $1,471 a year on books and other back-to-school supplies.
The average cost is between $80 and $150, but it can easily spike to $400. And the cost increases with each new edition. No, thank you. Fortunately, there are a few places you can find free college textbooks, potentially saving yourself thousands of dollars throughout your college education. There are even ways to score free college tuition or at least apply for scholarships.
Before we get into all of that, text HACKS to 57299 or download The Krazy Coupon Lady app for money-saving hacks on all of that other stuff you need for school, too.
33 Places to Find Free College Textbooks Online
College is already going to cost you an arm and a leg. Keep some money in your wallet and head to these 33 sites for free college textbooks.
1. Internet Archive
Internet Archive is a not-for-profit library that contains millions of e-books, software, music, and so much more — all for free. If you navigate to the Books categories (at the top of the page), you’ll see that they have all sorts of content to offer.
The simplest way to go about this is probably to search for the title of the book you need. Or you can search for the general topic or course of study. For instance, I searched “algebra” and found this gem:
Out of curiosity, I tracked it down on Amazon. If you want a new copy of this book, you’re going to pay at least $88, if not more. (It currently goes as high as $328! That hurts.)
When you’re ready to use the book, you can “borrow” it. It’ll be available either right in your browser or through a downloadable file. This site has tons of obscure and really old books. So if you need something random for one of your courses, you might have good luck here.
Bookboon has an entire section dedicated to providing free college textbooks for students. Don’t let the pricing page confuse you. They offer a free 30-day trial, but after that, monthly subscriptions range from $5.99 to $8.99 per month. However, when you go to sign up, you can select a “student” option that’s free forever.
Here’s the catch. You can get everything for free, but these books are written exclusively for Bookboon by college professors from the best universities in the world. So you’re not going to search for the exact college textbook you need and find it here. Instead, if you need, let’s say, an introduction to chemistry, you would search for something like “introduction to chemistry” and choose from their options.
As a comparison, I searched for something similar on Amazon and found this. If you want to buy it new, get ready to fork over at least $136.
3. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg holds over 70,000 free ebooks (in several languages) that you can download or read online, even on your Kindle. The site’s focus is on older works of literature that have an expired U.S. copyright. While these books don’t tend to be as pricey as textbooks, you’re still going to save money, which is a handy skill to have as a college student. Plus, they have some obscure books that I wasn’t even able to track down on Amazon. That means they’d probably be more expensive if you were able to find them elsewhere.
Save that money for your next few Starbucks runs when you need caffeine for the all-nighters you’re pulling.
4. Library Genesis
Library Genesis is one of the more popular sites to find free college textbooks and for a good reason. They carry textbooks on a wide variety of subjects. You’ll even find peer-reviewed journals, comics, magazines, and novels (although the main focus is academic texts).
Library Genesis is a little confusing because there are numerous links you can use to get to the site. If you scroll down on the home page, you’ll see them.
There’s actually a list of recommended sites to use, based on being pop-up safe.
This is what I’m working with.
From here, you just type a keyword, book title, or author among the non-fiction, science fiction, fiction, scientific articles, and magazines categories.
Mobilism is a forum where users can share content with each other. They have a section dedicated to books and have lots of options, including non-fiction, fiction, audiobooks, and collections. You can also find books based on your device (e.g., Windows, Android, iPhone). The Educational category is listed under the Non-Fiction Forum, and you’ll see a list of book titles and who posted it. Once you click on the book, there’s an overview, book cover, and download instructions.
To use the search function, you need to create a user account, which is free. What’s neat about this site is that you can also request a text that you can’t find. Mobilism is known for their healthy collection of magazine and journal articles, which can be especially helpful for college students doing research.
We think OpenStax is a great platform for students on a budget. The site is similar to Bookboon in that instead of making already-published books free and available to read, they publish their own college textbooks. Everything is written by subject matter experts, peer-reviewed, and is always high quality. Choose from areas like finance, marketing, economics, business law, U.S. history, among others.
So you’re not going to find the exact books you need for school, but you might find something close enough that gets the job done and saves you hundreds of dollars (if not more). Platforms like OpenStax and Bookboon have an advantage over forums like Mobilism: quality control. You know exactly what you’re getting.
Related: 32 Student Discounts That’ll Save You Big Bucks
BCcampus OpenEd is on a mission to remove barriers to accessing educational materials. They make college textbooks available for free and also give people the option to produce and publish their own. Bonus: There are also course materials for educators. I checked out one computer science book that they offer for free. To get it on Amazon, it’s about $25 for a new, hardcover edition.
Science students, listen up! BioRxiv is exactly what you need: it’s science-specific, with categories like immunology, pathology, and genetics. Additionally, they share tons of articles and papers. Note that the content is technically preprints, which means that they’re complete, but unpublished, manuscripts.
Bookshare has a library of over a million titles with unlimited access. They’re also incredibly inclusive, making it easy for people with reading barriers like dyslexia and blindness to customize their experience to suit their learning style.
This one is a gold mine. FreeBookSpot makes college textbooks that would otherwise cost an arm-and-a-leg totally free. For instance, Advanced Pharmaceutical and Herbal Nanoscience for Targeted Drug Delivery Systems Part II currently costs $65 on Amazon.
The website has a lengthy list of categories to choose from, some of which are really specific, like Arabic, cryptography, and environmental engineering. Everything is available with just a few clicks of your mouse.
LibreTexts has helped hundreds of millions of students and saved tens of millions of dollars. They also offer assistive technology to make their texts more accessible. Here’s the part you’re really going to love. While you can absolutely search for an individual book, LibreTexts also organizes content by campus or faculty.
This is another great one for science folks. IntechOpen carries thousands of books spanning subjects like health sciences, engineering, social sciences, and technology. The platform publishes their own content. If you have any questions about quality, chew on this: within a year of opening, they started working with NASA.
14. The Assayer
The Assayer is where college students go to read and review textbooks. This site is excellent for variety, as they have texts across topics like astronomy, military science, naval science, music, and the fine arts. When you click on a category, you’ll see the author’s name and the name of the book. In my experience, a lot of the links were broken and lead to other websites. It’s kind of a mixed bag, but definitely worth a look to save some cash. The best feature is the ability to download the PDF or view the book completely.
15. PDF Drive
PDF Drive is exactly what it sounds like. They’ve collected over 84 million ebooks that you can download for free. Additionally, they run no ads and place no limits on how much you can download, making for a seriously sweet user experience. I was able to quickly scope out The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions, which goes for about $50 on Amazon. Not today, Jeff Bezos.
More than 50,000 e-books, all of which are free? That’s what ManyBooks is all about. Bookmark this page for when you need something really specific, whether it’s music, African-American studies, philosophy, religion, or language.
Using the site can be a little overwhelming, so just navigate straight to the Academic and Text category and start your search there. Once you get to your book’s page, it’s smooth sailing. Here’s an example using Dream Psychology. Read a synopsis, find related titles you might also be interested in, and choose to read it online or download it to your computer.
Lyryx publishes their own textbooks, giving free access to everyone and anyone. They also say they’ve helped people save $17 million that would’ve otherwise been spent on traditional textbooks. This is a good platform if you need more standard books. For instance, if you check out their economics texts, you’ll find an introduction to economics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics.
OceanofPDF wants knowledge to be free, especially for developing countries where libraries are scarce and Amazon doesn’t deliver. They have over 300 textbooks to choose from, all of which you can easily download. You can also request a book if you notice that it’s missing.
20. Open Textbook Library
Open Textbook Library has a smaller collection (about 1,200 textbooks), but they’re committed to providing free and available learning resources for college students everywhere. You can browse across subjects like journalism, education, medicine, natural sciences, law, humanities, and engineering.
Related: Totally Free Stuff: Samples, Subscriptions & Free Trials
21. Cite Seer X
Cite Seer X contains more than 10 million documents, which means that you might have to do a little digging. They’re part of the Penn State School of Information Sciences and Technology. However, they have texts on just about anything. Note that their focus is literature in computer and information science.
22. Digital Book Index
This is a never-ending supply of online texts. You can either search your query or go to the Subjects page and choose from many options. They also make it easy to search by classic authors throughout time if your class calls for that.
23. Open Culture
Open Culture has both audiobooks and ebooks (about 800 of them) available, depending on your learning style. Find them across all genres, and download them for free to your device. If you’re looking for the classics, they carry a ton of fiction (in addition to religious texts).
ScholarWorks (from California State University) is different in that their focus isn’t on books. These are the types of resources you’ll have to choose from.
While you might not be able to replace your college textbooks, you can at least supplement them.
25. OER Commons
You’ll strike gold with OER Commons. The search functionality is a lifesaver, and you can get so specific with what you’re trying to find.
Want to get even more specific? Conduct an advanced search and specify parameters like media format and accessibility.
26. Online Mathematics Textbooks
This one doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but it does have 77 texts perfect for math students. Many of them come from professors and educational institutions. View the chapters in a PDF.
Browse from thousands of new authors in hundreds of categories across fiction and nonfiction. You need to become a member, and then you can download five books for free every month. If you click on Categories, you can go straight to the Textbooks section. From there, you can choose from business, world, law, math, engineering, computer sciences, and science.
Sci-Hub has more than 88 million research articles and books (with medicine being the biggest category), free for anyone and everyone to download and read. Research articles make up the bulk of these texts, but they can be a great supplement for students across various fields and disciplines of science.
29. PDF Grab
The beauty of PDF Grab is in its simplicity. Browse by subject or search the title or ISBN of the exact book you’re looking for.
30. E-Books Directory
With more than 10,000 free e-books across more than 700 categories, you might very well find the free college textbook you need on E-Books Directory. For easy navigation, they list all of the available categories on the home page.
At first glance, Saylor.org doesn’t seem to contain books (only courses and programs). But just head over to the Books page. If you scroll down, you can browse by category or look at the individual titles under each one.
32. Facebook Marketplace
Full disclosure: this is hit or miss, but you might get lucky. Head to Facebook Marketplace. I searched “textbooks” and then set the max price to $0.
Similar to Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp might be a little iffy. Once again, I searched “textbook” and set the max price to $0. Surprisingly, I’m finding some goodies like nursing books.