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College textbook prices skyrocketed by over 1,000% from the 1970s to recent 2010s. And it’s no secret that students struggle to keep up with the crazy prices.
According to a 2018 study by Morning Consult, 85% of students claimed that saving enough money for textbooks is a significant financial stressor. Textbook expenses can set students back hundreds of dollars.
While we can’t do much about the prices, we can help students by compiling the best list of how to get free print and digital college textbooks.
- Most free college textbooks are available in digital format. Students can access these textbooks from LibreTexts, OpenStax, Internet Archive, Open Textbook Library, ScholarWorks, Project Gutenberg, Bookboon, Digital Book Index, Saylor Academy, Manybooks.com, and Bibliomania at zero expense.
- Digital books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Students can use print college textbooks by paying a visit to the campus library. Alternatively, with a tad of searching and asking around, students can get free print textbooks from the College Library, OpenEd, or Bookswap.
- Students can also consider using sites like MIT OpenCourseWare to access open educational resources and courses.
Here’s How To Get Free College Textbooks
College tuition and living expenses are expensive enough, and while textbooks aren’t a primary expense, the sums add up quickly. According to the Education Data Initiative, in 2021, students will spend an average of $1,240.00 on course material per year (an average of $450 to $625 per semester).
We’ve decided to help students avoid these exorbitant costs by providing an extensive list of where to find college textbooks for free. Unfortunately, however, most of these textbooks are primarily digital versions.
Attention all students: your homework is done for you on this round. You can simply scroll and redirect yourself to these sites to find free or dirt-cheap college textbooks.
Here are the 15 best sites and ways to get college textbooks for free.
LibreTexts is a non-profit online educational website. The site’s mission is to unite students and faculties to reduce the financial burdens on students.
As a result, LibreTexts developed an easy-to-use platform to offer open educational resources to students. The website has served over 200 million students, helping them save thousands of dollars.
LibreTexts currently has 398 textbooks freely available for students to access. These textbooks cover 12 subjects, including Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, and more.
OpenStax is an innovative education initiative of Rice University, a non-profit charitable corporation. This handy website gives college students 100% free access to college books.
They partner with education resource companies and philanthropic organizations to improve educational access for everyone.
OpenStax strives to develop and improve courseware while publishing a range of openly licensed textbooks.
OpenStax provides textbooks that are all high-quality and meet the standard scope and sequence of existing courses. In addition, the texts are peer-reviewed by educators, ensuring the books align with current course curriculums.
Most of OpenStax’s textbooks are freely available online and cost very little for a printed version. In addition, OpenStax includes several subject areas like business, pre-calculus, science, social sciences, history, and humanities.
3. Internet Archive
Internet Archive is a non-profit library featuring millions of free books, movies, music, and software.
Students can use this easy-to-use website to download free college textbooks in pdf format.
Internet Archive includes almost all college subject areas. However, the books published before 1926 are ready to download, whereas modern books can only be borrowed using their Open Library site.
4. Open Textbook Library
The Open Textbook Library is an innovative website that works with the Open Education Network to improve higher education.
The Open Textbook Library offers close to 1,000 free college textbooks to students. In addition, the textbook is available at no cost for download, reviewing, editing, and distribution.
The textbook is all licensed and published by authors for students to freely use and alter.
Students can find textbooks for the following subjects: Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Business, Law, Humanities, Journalism, Computer Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Media Studies & Communications.
Each textbook includes a rating system provided by other users, narrowing down the best book for you.
ScholarWorks is a service provided by Grand Valley State University Libraries. The service includes a wide variety of online college textbooks that students can access.
Students can use the textbooks online or download them in pdf format to access them offline. Simply search for textbooks by mentioning the repositories, including the title, author, keywords, or citation info.
6. Project Gutenberg
Michael Hart created Project Gutenberg back in 1971. The project was one of the first online libraries featuring free electronic books.
Project Gutenberg offers the world’s great literature books and a wide range of downloadable college textbooks, publications, and educational texts. In addition, many of these texts are available as audiobooks and in numerous languages.
Students can download these books in pdf, EPUB, or MOBI format at no cost.
Students can access these free textbooks using their phones, iPad, or laptops without special apps.
Bookboon is another site that provides college students with free textbooks. In addition, Bookboon offers skill and personal development programs besides only supplying free textbooks. However, Bookboon is only free for 30 days after students have to pay an affordable monthly subscription fee to download the textbooks.
The programs include writing skills, stress management, career development, interview skills, and internship advice.
Most of these books are written by the world’s top university professors. The topics cover areas including Economics, Business, Statistics, Engineering, and IT.
8. Digital Book Index
Digital Book Index is a helpful website where college students can access over 140,000 free university textbooks, texts, and documents in pdf format.
The site includes textbooks for the following subjects: Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Law, Religion, Medicine, and more. You can search the available books by typing in the title, author, publisher, or university.
9. Saylor Academy
Saylor Academy is a non-profit organization that started in 2008, offering open education to students.
The students’ academy features a repository of free-to-use textbooks for various subjects, including Accounting, General Business, Social Sciences, Law, Science, Mathematics, and Communications.
Saylor Academy also includes texts and books for less traditional study fields like social media, social speaking, and online marketing.
Saylor Academy encourages users to share feedback and rate the textbooks to improve suggestions to new users.
You can download most of the textbooks in pdf, EPUB, or Microsoft Word formats.
Manybooks.net is an online website that aspires to provide free textbooks through an extensive library of PDF textbooks.
The website features over 29,000 e-books and can be accessed using your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or similar e-readers. In addition, the books are available in various languages.
Students can browse through the genres to find a wide range of books. The site is completely free and offers open access to all.
Bibliomania is an online site that students can use to access academic texts and textbooks for free.
Bibliomania also features a study section for schools, college students, and their tutors. This study section includes study guides, summaries, commentaries, and discussions of educational texts written by graduates from Oxford and Cambridge University.
Bibliomania has thousands of books from classic authors like Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe. These books always come in handy for Literature students.
Bibliomania also has a Discussion area that you can click on at the bottom of a book page to ask questions to fellow readers or post opinions.
You will have to register for an account to access the study guides. However, registering at Bibliomania is straightforward and at zero cost.
OpenEd functions slightly differently from other repository websites offering free textbooks. Instead, the site serves as a search engine with open educational resources, including free courses, videos, articles, assessments, and study material.
OpenEd is an excellent option for students seeking a more comprehensive solution to a textbook.
Students can safely use OpenEd to access textbook-like material on business, health, psychology, education, languages, sciences, maths, politics, law, and more.
All OpenEd’s resources are available under a Creative Commons license, making them free to download, print, and distribute.
13. Your College Library
Students can visit their college or varsity library to access hard copy textbooks for free. The campus library should offer most (if not all) of the books required in your course.
Most campus libraries allow in-library use. However, many libraries lend their textbooks to students for home use for a limited period. So, we recommend being the early bird and getting to the library as soon as the semester starts to get your hands on catching the limited number of textbooks.
14. Book Swap
College students can swap books to access textbooks for free.
Students can connect with peers through word of mouth or through social networking systems like PaperBack Swap and Facebook. Students can also organize a book swap to get rid of textbooks they no longer use and to access the ones they’ll need in the upcoming semester.
We recommend joining as many student groups as possible on Facebook, especially the groups related to your field of study.
If you use PaperBack Swap, you can simply list the textbooks you’d like to swap with the community members. Then, once someone requests the book, you can choose from over 25,000 available books.
The only related cost is posting the book to another member. But you won’t have to pay for the boos you receive.
You can purchase, sell, or swap textbooks between peers to avoid purchasing overpriced, new textbooks.
15. MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT OpenCourseWare is an innovative site that has created new opportunities for students and educators since 2001.
Whether you’re a student, teacher, or a curious individual, MIT OpenCourseWare offers an open collection of educational material to create a world of inclusive education for all.
The resources include thousands of MIT courses and dynamic media, including video lectures, podcasts, and interactive assessments.
You can use MIT OpenCourseWare to expand your knowledge or to teach others. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t offer credits or certifications to its users. However, all their material is free, and they do not require signup free.
Enjoy setting your own pace with MIT OpenCourseWare, as there aren’t any start or end dates. You can also download files for later use and reuse the information if you cite MIT OpenCourseWare as the source.
Here are several frequently asked questions regarding how students can get free college textbooks. We trust that these questions will bring clarity to all students.
Can College Students Rent Textbooks?
Students can rent textbooks from the Amazon Textbook Rental Store. Renting textbooks is ideal for students that only plan to use these books for the semester. Fortunately, you can change your mind and extend your rental period.
Can Students Get Free Textbooks On Reddit?
Reddit is a community network that students can use to find free textbooks.
Students can simply create a post on Reddit asking for the required textbooks. In most cases, another Reddit user will reply with the needed link to access the textbook.
However, note that Reddit doesn’t guarantee that the copy of the textbook is legal. You’ll have to double-check if the author provides access.
Is It Legal And Safe To Download PDF Textbooks?
It’s illegal to download free pdf textbooks and books if the website provides pirated content. However, if the author and publishing house provides the necessary copyright permission, you are allowed to access and distribute online copies of the work.
Then, some e-books can contain malicious software and viruses that can harm your computer or iPad. Therefore, only use trusted websites when searching for free textbooks.