As a college student, you have a few different options when it comes to acquiring textbooks. You can buy them, of course, either new or used from the campus bookstore, online retailers, or local bookstores. You could also rent them, though this option is often more expensive than buying in the long run.
College is expensive enough without having to shell out hundreds of dollars for textbooks every semester. And sometimes, college publishing feels like a racket, with new editions coming out every few years regardless of whether the information is actually new.
The money you save on textbooks can be put towards other expenses like rent, food, and socializing. All very important in your developing years. Not everyone can afford to splurge thousands on textbooks every semester.
If you’re looking to save some money (and who isn’t?), check out these great sites for free college textbooks.
Are Free College Textbooks Websites Legit?
Can you legally download any college textbook on the internet for free? This is the burning question.
The answer is yes and no. Some of the websites are totally legitimate, while others might be a little iffy. It’s important to vet any website you’re thinking about using, especially when it comes to downloading files.
The problem here is twofold:
- You risk downloading malware
- You might be downloading copyrighted material
The bad news is that sometimes it’s hard to figure out which websites are legit and which aren’t.
The good news is that there are plenty of websites that offer free college textbooks that are 100% legitimate and safe.
If you download copyrighted textbooks you are breaking the law, so we suggest avoiding it unless you’re in a desperate situation. And even then, try to find a legitimate way to acquire the textbook.
7 Legal Sites to Download Free College Textbooks
Now that we’ve gotten the legal disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at some websites where you can download free college textbooks. You’ll find them in a variety of formats, including PDFs, DOC files, and ePubs.
OpenStax is a nonprofit organization that provides free college textbooks. The books are available in both PDF and HTML formats.
It offers a plethora of eBooks in 8 different categories, ranging from Math to the Humanities to Social Sciences. The books are peer-reviewed and written by experts in the field. They’re excellent quality and can be a great resource, especially for students who want to supplement their course material.
But there are 2 big weaknesses with using OpenStax:
- Your professors might want a specific textbook that usually isn’t on there
- The textbooks on OpenStax are usually introductory textbooks, finding advanced course material there is improbable.
Now, whether or not OpenStax will work for you depends on lots of factors. Is your course professor strictly referring to their textbook of choice? Or are they open to other resources? If it’s the latter, then OpenStax is a great option for you.
OpenStax also offers high school textbooks, in case you know someone who needs them.
The Open Textbook Library is a project of the non-profit group the University of Minnesota. Like OpenStax, it offers free college textbooks in PDF and HTML formats.
Specifically, its textbooks are distributed with a Creative Commons license, which means that they can be freely downloaded, printed, and distributed.
The Open Textbook Library boasts over 1000 titles in more than 20 subject areas. The books are all peer-reviewed by scholars and professionals in the field. In fact, about 60% of them have been reviewed by the faculty professors at UNM.
Unlike OpenStax, the Open Textbook Library offers a wider range of advanced course material. So if you’re looking for something beyond an introductory textbook, this is a great option.
LibreTexts comes with an ambitious tag – ‘free the textbook’. And it lives up to its name. LibreTexts is a massive open (and free) digital platform for educational resources. It’s used by over 500 institutions worldwide.
LibreTexts is a project out of UC Davis that was started in 2012. It’s similar to OpenStax and the Open Textbook Library, but it has a few key differences.
For one, LibreTexts offers its textbooks in multiple formats: PDF, HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and Kindle. This makes it a great option for students who prefer to read their textbooks on a Kindle or another eReader.
LibreTexts also offers a wider range of subjects than both OpenStax and the Open Textbook Library. In addition to the standard college subjects, you can also find textbooks on topics like nursing, engineering, and environmental science.
Finally, LibreTexts has a partnership with Chegg, which means that you can get printed copies of the textbooks shipped to your door. Of course, this costs money (usually around $60 per book), but it’s still a nice option to have.
The resources on LibreTexts are created and curated by students, faculty, librarians, and subject experts from around the world.
The E-Books directory is a little different than the other sites on this list. Rather than hosting the books themselves, it links to over 100,000 free eBooks from around the internet. You’ll most likely end up on the other websites on this list after a few searches.
The directory is searchable by subject, title, and author.
You can also browse the books by category. The categories range from computer science to business to literature to engineering.
The E-Books directory is a great option if you’re looking for a specific book that you can’t find on one of the other sites.
Editor’s note: take also a look at sciencebooksonline. It’s another e-books search engine that focuses on scientific topics like physics, math, and computer science.
The Saylor Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to making education more affordable and accessible.
One of the ways they do this is by offering free college textbooks. The textbooks are all released under a Creative Commons license, which means they’re free to download, print, and distribute.
The Saylor Foundation has over 200 textbooks in a wide range of subjects. You can find everything from accounting to history to sociology.
In addition to the free textbooks, the Saylor Foundation also offers a variety of other resources, like course materials, lectures, and exams.
The best part about the Saylor Academy is that you can use their materials to earn college credit. The Saylor Foundation has partnered with a number of colleges and universities that will give you credit for taking their courses.
So if you’re looking for free college textbooks and the option to earn college credit, the Saylor Academy is a great option.
OpenEd is a little different from the other sites on this list. Rather than being a repository for free textbooks, it’s a search engine for open educational resources.
This means that you can use OpenEd to find textbook-like materials on just about any topic. The resources are all available under a Creative Commons license, which means they ‘re free to download, print, and distribute.
OpenEd has a wide range of resources, including videos, games, quizzes, and assessments. You can use these resources to supplement your existing textbook or create your own custom course.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution than just a textbook, OpenEd is a great option.
If you can’t find the textbook you’re looking for on one of the other sites, there’s always Reddit.
The Textbook Request subreddit is a great place to find free textbooks. Just make a post asking for the textbook you’re looking for and someone will usually come through with a link.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find the textbook you’re looking for, but it’s worth a shot.
And there’s no guarantee you’ll be provided with a legal copy of the book you’re looking for. But if you’re willing to take that risk, Reddit is a great place to find free textbooks.
Library Genesis is a little different than the other sites on this list. Rather than being a repository for free textbooks, it’s a search engine for pirated eBooks.
This means that you can use Library Genesis to find just about any book that’s ever been published. The books are all available in many formats, and you can always convert them if necessary.
The biggest pro of libgen is its incredible database. If you’re looking for a specific book and you don’t mind breaking the law, Library Genesis you can’t find a book on one of the other sites, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
The downside is that, since the books are pirated, they’re technically illegal to download and distribute.
So if you’re looking for a specific book and you don’t mind breaking the law, Library Genesis is a great option.
Warning: most of the material you’ll find on library genesis is illegal. Use the website at your own risk. But it’s such a complete resource that’s widely used that not including it would be a disservice.
Alternatives to Free Online Textbooks
There is something special about holding a book in your hand. A feeling that can’t be replicated by reading a PDF on your computer.
But books are expensive. If you’re looking for an alternative to free online textbooks, there are a few options.
First, you can try renting textbooks from a site like Amazon or Chegg. This can be a great way to save money on textbook costs – provided it makes sense to do so. Let’s say you can get by just fine without the course’s textbook, but absolutely need it for the final exam. Renting the book for a week or 2 would be ideal then, rather than buying it.
Another option is to buy used textbooks. Local used bookstores are great in this regard. Alternatively, you can look on websites like eBay or AbeBooks, as well as your local area on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. This is a great way to get the physical book without having to pay full price.
You can always try your luck with the library. Libraries usually have a pretty good selection of textbooks – although they might not have the latest edition.
Finally, you can try to get your textbook for free from your professor. Many professors are willing to give away their old editions if you just ask.
So if you’re looking for alternatives to free online textbooks, there are a few options. You can try renting, buying used, or checking out the library.
The cost of living is rising, and the cost of education is rising along with it. Textbooks are a big part of that cost. But there are ways to save money on textbooks. By using one of the sites on this list, you can get free access to college textbooks.
There are also alternatives to free online textbooks. You can try renting, buying used, or checking out the library.
The best site for free college textbooks depends on your needs. If you’re looking for a wide range of resources, OpenEd is a great option. If you need a specific book that’s not available anywhere else, try Library Genesis.
No matter what route you choose, there are ways to save money on textbooks. And that’s a good thing.