Free college textbooks can be a lifesaver when trying to afford college life's high costs.
We all know that textbook prices can be outrageous. A single book can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars—not even counting the cost of course materials like workbooks or lab manuals!
But there's a way to get around these high prices: by finding free textbooks online.
This quick guide will explain how to save as much as possible on your textbooks.
We will explain all your options, from free instantly available downloads to buying or renting reduced-cost hard copy textbooks.
We list reliable free textbook sources first and then go into alternatives that can save you up to 80%.
Save time and money when you find free college textbooks with our handy checklist!
What Types of Free College Textbooks Are Available?
Two types of textbooks are pdfs or ebooks and hard copies.
PDFs or ebooks can only be viewed online unless you print them out yourself. Make sure that the ebook is compatible with the type of device that you use.
PDFs or eBooks:
PDFs and ebooks are digital copies of textbooks. These are available for download and must be read on a digital device like a computer or phone unless you print them out.
PDFs or eBooks are great if you like to read on the go and don't want to carry heavy books around.
We have listed sources for both free open-source ebooks and paid ebooks. We also include sites where you can usually save about 80% by purchasing a digital copy of a book over a hard copy.
Be careful of downloading from unknown sites, as you can download malware at the same time.
For this reason, we have only mentioned well-known sites with good reputations.
Keep in mind that anytime you download something from the internet, malware could be attached to it.
Hard Copy Textbooks:
Hard Copies are a better choice if there are many photos or illustrations in the book. Many teachers prefer them.
Hard-copy textbooks are heavier to carry and bring to class than their digital counterparts.
There are many resources for hard-copy textbooks at a reduced cost. In addition, you can save considerable amounts by buying used or older editions of a textbook.
There is a new service available from many sellers of hard-copy textbooks.
This new option is called textbook rental.
When the platform sells the textbook, they guarantee they will repurchase it from you at the end of the year. Some even offer free postage to return the book.
Check List for Finding Free College Textbooks
- Get a list of the books required for each class you will be taking. You will usually get a list from the instructor on the first day of class. If you want to find out earlier contact the department secretary for your course. They usually have a list of required textbooks.
- Make a list of all the books you need for every course. This should include titles, IBSN numbers, authors, and editions needed.
- Take the list and first search for open-source eBooks or PDFs, as these are free for everyone, and you can have a copy on your desktop almost instantly. We will list all the sources below.
- After searching the big open source, there may still be some books that are not available for free. This is common with rare books or less popular courses.
- Next, look for low-cost versions of the books you need. There are many online portals where you can search for your textbooks by title or IBSN number. You can often rent hardcover textbooks or sell them back at the end of the year.
- Finally, ask if you can check the book out from the library. You can join groups on social media that are only for people taking your course. Check with students in the year above you if they want to sell their books.
Some points to remember:
Talk to your professor about whether or not you need the textbook for the class.
Sometimes, professors will assign readings that are optional or just suggested in case you would like further reading material.
See if an older edition of the textbook is compatible with the class syllabus. It depends on how cutting-edge your area of study is.
For some subjects, having the latest edition can make a huge difference. Other areas of study don't change much from year to year.
What is an Open-Source Free College Textbook?
Open source means the creative or intellectual work has an open copyright license.
In relation to a textbook, this means that anybody can read it, copy it, download or even customize the content.
All you need to access this free material is an internet connection and some time!
What are the Best Sources to Find Free College Textbooks?
We have chosen the largest and most reliable open-source website portals to make your life easier.
Digital Book Index
To begin with, try the Digital Book Index, as this is a "meta index" with links to over 1800 free open-source sites. In addition, there are more than 140,000 free books available.
Digital Book Index provides a link to where you can find the free book rather than the book itself.
The portal provides support for Kindle, Nook, and IPads.
Digital Book Index has been around since 2000, and the website is outdated. Still, it is an incredible free resource that the New York Public Library calls "Best of the Web."
You can find peer-reviewed free textbooks on the OpenStax College site.
OpenStax began in 1999 with a Rice university engineering student as an Open Educational Resource(OER) where faculty could share and publish textbooks.
Open Stax is run as a non-profit by Rice University, aiming to make learning accessible for everyone. This vast site is known for providing high-quality textbooks.
They are 100% free and offer books in English and Spanish.
Open Textbook Library
The Open Textbook Library is an offshoot of Internet Archive books and is made to be more easily searchable.
You will find a worldwide library of textbooks here. The Open Textbook Library aims to create a webpage for every book ever published.
You will find peer reviews on this site to ensure high-quality books.
An open-source textbook is careful only to provide material licensed by the authors to be freely used, and they have over a thousand free college textbooks.
The Open Education Network supports Open Textbook Library.
Opened at BCampus
Opened at BCampus is a project paid for by the Canadian government. You don't have to be Candian to use this free resource.
OpenEd began in 2012 and provided students with open textbooks and other open educational resources.
BC Campus has textbooks available in 40 subject areas covering trades and skill training.
Their goal is to make higher education more accessible to everyone. They have provided free textbooks in the forty most popular course areas.
OER textbooks and collections are searchable by topic and subject area. In addition, you can search by University or college.
They only provided open-license ebooks.
They have partnered with 24 higher education open providers offering over a thousand ebooks for free. You can search by subject area, educational level, title, and author.
This resource for students and educators only provides educational open-source, free textbooks.
The LibreTexts project is a collaboration among many Universities and colleges that want to improve education for everyone with Open Access Resources.
Libre Texts have concentrated on making its site easy to use. They have around 400 open-access textbooks, and it is growing quickly.
This site has been around since 2006 and if you can't find your free college textbook elsewhere, give Mobilism a try.
Mobile has an online community where resources are shared.
You have to create an account, but it only takes a few minutes.
You can request books and the site also offers movies, music, and art resources.
Paid Textbooks in PDF and Hard Copy
You usually won't be able to find all the textbooks for free. However, you can get up to 91% off on paid sites.
We have some reduced-price options if you have exhausted all the resources above or want a hard copy of a book for easy reference.
Ebooks and Pdfs are generally 80% less than hard copies, and many sites offer both hard copies and Ebooks for sale.
With over 10 million books and free shipping at Textbooks.com when you spend over $25 you are bound to save money on this site.
Textbooks make returning books easy and offer interactive ebooks.
TextBooks has the most used textbooks worldwide and offer plenty of books.This company has a good reputation for helpful customer service.
They offer other services, such as software discounts and repurchase books.
Mcgraw and Hill Higher Education
McGraw and Hill Education have published educational textbooks since 1917. In addition, they have a free augmented reality app and a free college study app called Sharpen.
They offer affordable textbooks in hard copy as well as in digital form.
You have to make an account to access their services and shop, but it is quick and easy.
Mcgraw and Hill offer support to both students and educators.
Save Money as a College Student
There are other ways to save money. For example, did you know that there are ways that you can get scholarships just for the cost of your books? You can also get a tax credit for the amount you spend on textbooks!
In addition, if you are getting a Pell grant or have a low income while in college, you can easily qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Plan. This is a government benefit that makes sure Americans can afford to keep connected to the internet.
FAQ - Textbooks
What is an ISBN Number?
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a unique identifier for books that allows booksellers, libraries, and online retailers to stock and order the correct title.
The ISBN is also used by students looking for textbooks because it allows them to search for the cheapest option available.
If you're looking for an IBSN number, there are a few places to look.
One option is to look at the book's back cover near the barcode.
Another place you can check is on the copyright page, which is usually located on either the first couple pages of a book or near the back.
Lastly, IBSN numbers can be found on websites like Amazon or Goodreads.
What is a peer-reviewed textbook?
A peer-reviewed textbook is a type of textbook that experts have evaluated to ensure that it meets specific standards.
This process is known as peer review. For a textbook to be considered peer-reviewed, it must undergo a rigorous review process by experts familiar with the subject matter.
These experts will not only check the accuracy of the information in the textbook, but will also assess the quality of the writing.
The peer-review process helps to ensure that textbooks are high quality and up-to-date.
Are free college textbooks legal?
It may seem too good to be true, but many open-source, free textbooks are legal. This is because their author or publisher has made them freely available for anybody to copy or download.
Many people argue that all educational material should be freely available to all, and just as many people believe in the property rights of creators.
Luckily many free college textbooks are perfectly legal to use, download and share as you wish. However, just because something is free and available to download does not mean it is permitted under copyright law.
Stick to sites that are well known and state that their material is free of copyright restrictions.
From Getting Your GED to a Master's Degree - Our Comprehensive Guide to a FREE Education Online
Did you know you can get a GED all the way up to a Master's degree online for free? Our complete guide shows you how to get a free education including how to apply for scholarships and grants.
We even cover topics such as how to save money on textbooks and other school essentials.
Take Charge of Your Future, "The Ultimate Guide to Online Classes for Adults: Get a Free Education Online".