By Kelly Kilpatrick
Take a look around the Internet and you will find a huge number of books and texts available for absolutely no charge. Whether you are a student, professor, or just an avid reader, there is something out there for you. The following list of over 100 sources offers everything from ancient classic texts to children’s books to books you can hear on your iPod.
Since much classic literature is in the public domain, you will find plenty of books and texts available from ancient Greece all the way to classic 20th century American literature in this list of resources below.
- Read Print. This site offers thousands of classics from almost 100 authors ranging from Shakespeare to O. Henry to Virginia Woolf.
- Classic Reader. From drama to short stories to Dickens, you will find plenty of classics to download at this site.
- Page by Page Books. Browse alphabetically for titles from authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dostoevsky.
- Literary Resources on the Net. Hosted by Rutgers University, you can find any number of classic texts here categorized by category.
- Project Gutenberg. With texts from all around the world, you can browse by title, author, languages with more than 50 books available or languages with less than 50 books available.
- Internet Archive. Download a book from almost 443,000 available texts on this site. There is some overlap with Project Gutenberg on this site as it was their original host.
- Great Books Index. Browse by author or title to find text for several books from the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World.
- The Internet Classics Archive. Find major classics, including some Chinese and Persian texts, on this site hosted by MIT.
- The University of Adelaide Library. Find classics ranging from Homer in ca. 800 BC to George Orwell and others writing in the mid-20th century.
- Wiretap Gopher Library. There are certainly no frills on this site, but you can find The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Huckleberry Finn, and more. Select a category, scroll through the list to find an article, then save it to your computer.
- Elegant Solutions Software and Publishing Company, LLC. Select from 444 texts ranging from the US Constitution to A Journey to the Center of the Earth.
- Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts. Find over 14,000 plain texts of classic American and English literature as well as western philosophy.
- Renascence Editions. Find English language texts written between 1477 and 1799 at this site hosted by the University of Oregon. Scroll through the alphabetical listing to find texts by author.
- The Online Medieval & Classical Library. Select from ancient Latin, Spanish, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, French, German, Middle English, and Anglo Saxon texts all translated into English (except the Middle English texts).
- The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies. Find full texts for the scholar and layperson alike at this site. There are even textbooks downloadable for classroom use.
- Literature at SunSITE. This small collection of mostly classic American literature features authors such as Jane Austen, Frederick Douglass, and Stephen Crane.
- Renaissance Electronic Texts. This small collection of texts maintain the original spelling of the English Renaissance books and manuscripts from which they were transcribed.
The following sources have a decidedly academic bent to them, so no matter if you are working on a philosophy project or you are an English Professor, you will want to check out these sites.
- EServer.org. Hosted by the Iowa State University, this site offers a wide range of collections from literature to scholarly lectures to high tech.
- Bartleby.com. Reference books, fiction, non-fiction and poetry can all be found at this site with a very comprehensive library.
- Blupete. This Canadian lawyer has posted several texts or links to texts on his site that features history, law, essays, and biographies.
- Kelvin Smith Library eBooks. This listing ranges from links to full-text reference material to style guides to classic dramas. They also have an exclusive collection of early American and British books.
- bibliomania. From reference books to classic texts, you can find plenty here. This site is not currently being updated but offers a discussion group you can join if you want to do more than just read the books.
- Refdesk.com. Find over 40 encyclopedias on this list to learn about space exploration, psychology, television, and more.
- Open Book Project. Aimed at teachers and students, this site offers IT, philosophy, and random bits of academia.
- Wikibooks. Find free text books for arts, sciences, literature, law, and more at this site. Feel free to read these books, print them, or even use them in a classroom.
- BiblioVault. A "scholarly book repository," you can download from a collection of over 14,000 books published by academic and university presses.
- Humanities Text Initiative. Find texts ranging from the works of Emerson to public papers from U.S. presidents at this site hosted by the University of Michigan.
- The Beck Center for Electronic Collections. This collection of resources hosted by Emory University offers projects such as Women’s Genre Fiction, The Belfast Group, and the W.B. Yeats Collection, all of which provide downloadable texts pertaining to each topic.
- Carrie: An Electronic Library. Hosted by the University of Kansas, this online library offers several collections with focus mainly on history and social sciences.
- freetechbooks.com. This site offers free books, text books, and lecture notes for computer science, engineering, and computer programming students and professionals.
- 195 Free Online Programming Books. Despite it’s title, this post offers links to over 345 programming books available on the Internet.
- Programmingebooks.tk. This blog offers links to programming books. It is organized by categories or you can use the search tool to look for something specific.
Foreign Language Texts
If you want to read texts in their original language, the following list can help you out. Find texts in German, Irish, ancient Greek, and much more (and some even have texts in English, too).
- The European Library. Interested in reading Kierkegaard in his native Danish? Search this site for libraries throughout Europe, many of which contain downloadable texts.
- Bibliotheca Latina Intratext. Search this alphabetical list of ancient Latin authors for texts in Latin.
- ANNO–AustriaN Newspapers Online. Find historic newspapers from the late 18th century to mid 20th century at this site hosted by the Austrian National Library.
- CELT. Irish texts dating from the 11th century and coming into the modern age can be read here. Most of the texts are in Irish, with others in English, Latin, French, and Spanish.
- 19th Century German Stories. Access both the German and English versions of these German stories from authors such as Goethe and The Brothers Grimm.
- Fundamental Digital Library of Russian Literature & Folklore. You can get Russian literature from the 11th to 20th centuries here. This version of the website is in English, but the texts are all in Russian.
- Antologia (frammentaria) della Letturatura Italiana. Both classic and modern Italian literature and drama is located here.
- Hagiography Database. These ancient Greek texts focus on the genre of Byzantine literature focusing on writings about 8th to 10th century saints.
- Electronic Text Collections in Western European Literature. Select a language and receive links to many resources with online texts in that particular Western European language.
- Immanuel Kant. Read in German from this complete collection of Kant at this site hosted by the University of Bonn.
- The ARTFL Project. Find a number of French language dictionaries from the 17th to the 20th century. Most are available to all, but some are restricted from general use.
The following collections are so specific they really couldn’t have a category all their own. Browse this list to find online texts about such varied topics as Hans Christian Andersen, herbs, and 19th century travel guides to the Middle East.
- Hans Christian Andersen. Read about Andersen and his illustrators, then download one of his many fairy tales and stories available here.
- Voice of the Shuttle. Specializing in philosophy, download texts from this site that relate to the humanities. You will have to look through other resources as well to find the downloadable texts.
- Baen Free Library. Going beyond public domain, this site offers free texts of any books published by their company (with the author’s permission, of course). This publishing house specializes in Science Fiction.
- Henriette’s Herbal Homepage. Read full text versions of almost 40 classic herbal texts at this site.
- MedicalStudent.com. Find downloadable medical texts from almost 50 specialties ranging from genetics to obstetrics.
- American Verse Project. American poems prior to 1920 are available on this site. Select the type of search you want to conduct to access the texts.
- The William Blake Archive. Find books, engravings, paintings, and more from this site dedicated to the study of this British writer and artist.
- Documenting the American South. Hosted by the University of North Carolina, you can find full texts by various authors that document the Southern Americana heritage.
- Travelers in the Middle East Archive. Read texts from 19th and early 20th century travel material from the Middle East with a focus on Egypt.
- The World of Dante. Study Dante’s Inferno online. It has been tagged using SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) to enhance the interface and study of this poem.
From classics to modern picture books, you will find plenty of children’s books and stories available in this list.
- Fairrosa Cyber Library of Children’s Literature. Classics such as Little Women and Peter Pan reside next to fairy tales and poems on this resource full of children’s literature.
- International Children’s Digital Library. Find quality children’s books from around the world here. The goal of this organization is to provide books from every culture so that no child or parent has to lose a connection to their heritage or culture.
- Lookybook. With a click of a mouse button, you can flip through the pages of these high quality and sometimes gorgeous children’s books.
- Children’s Storybooks Online. Broken down by categories which include Young Children through Young Adults sections, you can download several children’s books here.
- Big Universe. Read or share quality children’s books from this self-publishing site. You can purchase the books in print, but that is not necessary to read them.
- Children’s Books Online: The Rosetta Project. Find illustrated antique books here. Click on the small "To the library" link at the right under the Rosetta cart to find the listing of books.
- Storyline Online. The Screen Actors Guild has compiled several children’s books at this innovative site. Click on a book and the actor will introduce the book and begin reading it. Along with the narration, the video streams the pages of the book and the accompanying text.
Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are all covered here as you can read full copies of sacred texts or religious writings about them here.
- Brigham Young University Digital Collections. Click on "Text Collections" for a wide range of available texts including children’s literature, sermons of John Donne, and a huge collection of Mormon literature.
- BuddhaNet’s eBook Library. Download several free texts ranging from basic Buddhism to advanced studies. All texts are free, but donations are accepted.
- The Koran. Access this online version of The Holy Qur’an as originally translated by M.H. Shakir and published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc.
- AudioTreasure. Get free audio downloads of the Bible here. Select from different versions or different languages ranging from Mandarin to Tagalog.
- Jewish Virtual Library. Find texts that relate to Jewish culture on this site that hopes to "provide a vehicle for the research, study, discussion and exchange of views concerning nonmilitary cooperation between the peoples and governments of the United States and Israel."
- The Ecole Initiative. Calling itself an encyclopedia of early church history, you can read full text essays and articles on early Christian history.
- Philologos. These books from this small collection are specifically designed to instruct the reader about Jewish background and prophetic ministry to better understand Jesus.
Preserving pieces of history has become so much easier with digital libraries. Most digital libraries store anything from photos to music, but many also maintain old texts as well. The following digital libraries offer free texts and books for you to access.
- Universal Digital Library. The ambitious goal of this library is to preserve every printed book digitally in this resource. The library currently holds one million books in its collection.
- The Perseus Digital Library. Find Greek and Latin classics, English Renaissance, and more on this site. Currently, a newer, more modern version is in testing, so feel free to give that a try too.
- ERIC. This well-known resource offers free texts of academic journal articles and other educational materials, all free of charge.
- Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections. Browse through one of over 10 different digital collections that range from medieval and early Renaissance manuscripts to architectural drawings or visit the online exhibitions for even more.
- The Oxford Text Archive. Scroll through these digitally preserved texts for access to hundreds of classic texts. If the text is available for download, it will be designated "free" to the right of the link.
- ILT Digital Text Projects. Select from a few texts by such classics as Plato, Socrates, and Rousseau. You can also visit their publications site to get academic papers on education.
- Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities. Browse through these classics in the humanities for full electronic texts.
- Yale University Library: Digital Collections. Find ancient manuscripts or read a classic all preserved digitally courtesy of the Yale University Library.
- Library of Congress Digital Collections. Find books, articles, and more all digitally preserved at this national treasure and the largest library in the world.
- Indiana University Digital Library Program. Download manuscripts from Isaac Newton or Victorian literature from this site.
- Michigan State University Digital and Multimedia Center. Find several texts from authors such as Joseph Conrad, Aesop’s Fables, cookbooks, and texts on orchids or veterinary medicine in PDF format.
Resources with Some of Everything
These resources offer free texts and books with topics ranging from politics to fiction to green books. There’s sure to be something to catch your attention in this list.
- 2020ok. Browse the 30 categories and their subcategories to find thousands of free books. The books here range from parenting to business and investing to comics and graphic novels. There really is a bit of everything here.
- The Online Books Page. Hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, this resource offers full text of books, magazines, and news. There are also categories for such topics as banned books and women writers.
- PublicLiterature.org. From classics to children’s books, this site offers many free books for download.
- FullBooks.com. From the 1995 CIA World Factbook to The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, you can browse alphabetically to find a wide variety of free books here.
- ibiblio.org. This gigantic online library has something on just about every topic imaginable. Find texts from many different authors here.
- Microsoft Reader–Free eBooks. Find free texts to work with Microsoft reader here. You can browse through over 1500 titles.
- Google Book Search. In addition to book downloads, you can do a search on any title and receive links to reviews, references, and even a world map showing every location mentioned in the book.
- The Etext Archives. From mainstream to the off-beat, political to poetic, you’ll find a wide variety of archived material including e-zines and texts.
- Books on Board. This site actually charges for texts, but does offer a section of free fiction and green books available for download.
Getting your writing published can be difficult when going the traditional route. These sites all offer writers an opportunity to publish their material on these sites, and you can read the full texts for free. Some of these books are very well done and worth taking the time to read.
- Scribd. Research, ebooks, poetry, presentations, schoolwork, and more are all available on this site.
- getfreeebooks. Find free books from a variety of authors, but the bulk of these books are written by the blog publisher.
- The eBook Directory. Mixed among the self-published books promising to teach you how to cook or make a million dollars are many standard texts too. Use the search tool to find specifically what you are looking for.
- Intuition Press. This site will publish any book written as requested by the author. Most books here are by unknown writers.
- Free-eBooks.net. Ambrose Bierce and Nathaniel Hawthorn reside alongside self-published pieces of fiction, poetry, travel, and more.
Audio Books and Mobile Electronic Texts
Getting your free books on the go has just gotten easier. Find out where to download free stuff for your iPod, ereaders, and more from these sites.
- LibriVox. Get free audio books from this site. LibriVox’s goal is to have every book in the public domain available on a free audio book.
- LiteralSystems.org. Listen to these books on your MP3 player or right on your computer. Donations are accepted, but not required.
- AudioBooksForFree.com. Download audio books for MP3 or DVD. The books are all recorded by real humans and range from philosophy to detective stories.
- LearnOutLoud. Find a mix of free and for-pay audio texts among these books which include classics, business, and and a large selection of self-development texts.
- Stonrynory. These free audio books are targeted at children, but adults may enjoy hearing stories from their childhood.
- Telltale Weekly. The Spoken Alexandria Project section of this site offers classics in the public domain as well as modern works used with permission. Other audio texts on the site are available for a fee.
- Free Classic Audio Books. Available in MP3 or m4b for iPods, get classics from Mark Twain, L. Frank Baum, Herman Melville, and more.
- manybooks.net. This site offers full text books for your PDA, MP3 players, or eBook reader. Text can be downloaded in PDF as well. Donations are accepted, but not required.
- mnybks.net. The sister site to manybooks.net, these books are all available for cell phones. Search by title, category, author, languages, or recommendations.
- Etext Center. A part of the University of Virginia Library, you can access British and American literature, children’s books, the Bible, Shakespeare and more for your Microsoft Reader or Palm product. HTML text for online viewing also available for all texts.
- MobileRead. While this site is mostly concerned with mobile ereader devices, it also offers several free texts for download to your mobile device.
- Mobipocket. Get free books in .mobi format from this site. Books are available in several languages, with over 900 in English alone.