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Free College Books: Where To Find Them Online

The idea of finding free college books is something that every college and university student dreams about.

Considering the soaring prices of post-secondary schooling, having to spend thousands of complementary texts is challenging.

Fortunately, there are dozens of resources that you can use to find the best college books for free or at a low cost.

How Much Do College Books Cost?

The total cost of your college books depends primarily on the major you’re studying.

Some subjects require access to more expensive books, especially if you’re working on a specialty.

Another factor that can influence the amount you spend on books is the course you’re taking.

More advanced courses require more advanced readings, and thus, a higher price tag.

On the other hand, entry-level subjects are more likely to have inexpensive, if not free, resources for you to use.

Approximate Cost of College Books by Subject

To give you a general idea of the costs of college books, let’s take a look at the average prices per major.

  • Architecture: $1200
  • Design: $900
  • Business: $850
  • Chemistry: $800
  • Neuroscience: $700
  • Music: $600
  • Linguistics: $590
  • Journalism: $500

Of course, there are bound to be fluctuating prices if you study a specialty within an encompassing major.

For example, business administration textbooks are likely to be less than economics textbooks.

However, the price per book is still astounding when it comes to calculating the total cost of texts over your entire program.

Where To Find Free College Books

Instead of spending most of your savings on college textbooks, there could be free resources to help.

Let’s delve into some of the most popular options to find reliable, high-quality, and most importantly, free textbooks.

University of the People

University of the People is a unique resource as they offer free textbooks and free college courses.

Students don’t have to worry about course materials, annual enrollment charges, or costs per course.

The administration fees are meager, so post-secondary education is accessible by anyone accepted into the program.

Currently, the institution serves students in over 200 territories and countries, with over 49,901 taken per term.

It’s an accredited online university in the United States, and its leadership is built with the help of worldwide scholars.

Suppose you need an affordable and accessible way to get an education.

In that case, the University of the People is a fabulous alternative.

Project Gutenberg

eBooks are booming in popularity for several reasons, especially when it comes to college and university.

With Project Gutenberg, students have access to over 60,000 free eBooks that you can download or read online.

You’ll find an assortment of subjects since all of their offerings include books that have expired copyrights.

What makes this site unique is that thousands of volunteers independently vet each uploaded text.

This process helps ensure you’re accessing authentic and quality texts to help you progress through your courses.

The entire program operates with the help of donations, which also helps them digitize more books to add to their collection.


Another popular resource for free online textbooks is Bookboon.

They have an extensive collection of over 1000 free university textbooks as well as work-related eBooks.

You’ll find popular areas of study, including economics, finance, digitalization, IT, and engineering.

If you’re interested in personal development and furthering your career, there are multiple subject areas.

That said, the work-related texts are available for $5.99 per month after your free 30-day trial.

To access their catalog of free eBooks for students, all you have to do is make an account.

If you’re someone who prefers to minimize the number of books you have on hand, Bookboon is ideal.

You can either read the texts directly on the platform or download them to a device of your choosing.

It’s one of the most straightforward and user-friendly online resources for post-secondary texts.

where to get free college books

School Library

One of the best places to find free textbooks is at your school library.

You would be surprised at the sheer number of books your library has revolving around every imaginable subject.

The primary concern with finding free textbooks at your school library is that it’s often very competitive.

There are likely a specific number of textbooks available to be taken out and often assigned to students in advance.

You must consider getting onto the reservation list, especially if you’re taking a popular course.

You should also check the availability of textbooks regularly to see if students have returned their copies earlier than expected.

If you’re lucky, your school’s library could have an online catalog for you to browse through.

Instead of checking in person, you can see how many copies of a specific textbook have been taken out in advance.

Alternatively, you might find your school offers digital copies of a specific text, which could also be beneficial.

Trading Forums

The resourcefulness of college students can never be understated, especially when it comes to free books.

Trading forums are fabulous to network with other learners and find textbooks at little to no cost.

It’s more likely you’ll find the texts you need at a discounted price rather than free, but you could consider trades.

For example, if you have a textbook another student needs, you could trade one for the other.

This process is also a great way to make friends in the same major to diversify your network.

Once you’re finished with your course, you can continue the tradition by giving others unrestricted access to your old texts.

Where To Find Almost-Free Textbooks

Sometimes, especially when studying a specialty, finding free textbooks can be more challenging than expected.

In these instances, it can be more beneficial to consider almost-free, or discounted, textbooks instead.

There are several essential resources that you can use to find inexpensive texts to accompany your classes.

Amazon’s eTextbooks

Amazon is one of the world’s leaders in an assortment of products, including textbooks.

With eTextbooks, you can find hundreds of thousands of Kindle digital products in an assortment of areas.

When you visit the platform, you’ll be able to sort through textbooks by subject, as well as their release date.

What makes this version of textbooks unique is you can also find versions with Audible Narration.

Instead of reading the text, you’ll have them read aloud to you, which is significantly beneficial for those with disabilities.

The majority of texts on this site are available at a full price. Still, they are also likely to reduce throughout the year.

If you’re able to get your hands on discounted eBooks, you can create a collection to review throughout the years.

Some of the most common subjects you’ll be able to find on Amazon’s eTextbooks include:

  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Business and Finance
  • Communication and Journalism
  • Medicine and Health Sciences
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
  • Education
  • Humanities
  • Law

Textbook Nova

Unlike the other resources we’ve explored this far, you won’t purchase books from Textbook Nova itself.

Instead, this innovative platform was designed for students to help them find the lowest available prices.

Textbook Nova allows you to input the keyword, author, title, or ISBN of a specific book and scours Amazon for the best price.

Instead of being forced to overpay for college and high school texts, this platform is intuitively designed to help.

When you’re stuck finding all of your texts for an entire year, it can be beneficial to have a textbook search engine.


Every student has heard of AbeBooks at one point or another, thanks to their discounted textbook prices.

It’s designed to be an online bookstore intended to meet a ton of readers’ needs.

You’ll be able to find college-approved texts, rare books, collectibles, and art.

All you have to do is type in the author, title, keyword, or ISBN of the book you’re looking for at the moment.

AbeBooks then presents you with a list of related texts to browse through to find the correct one.

You’ll also find there are multiple versions of the book for you to choose from.

Students can opt to buy the texts new or used and in hardcover or softcover.

You’ll also have transparent pricing and an idea of where the textbook is shipping from before placing your order.

It’s a very convenient alternative to visiting your campus bookstore.

Online Marketplaces

If you’ve found it’s too challenging to find free books on online marketplaces, discounted books are abundant.

With sites like Student2Student and FreeTextbooks, you’ll find several titles relating to your major to consider.

The most exciting thing about online marketplaces is that you can often choose between buying books in-person or shipped.

These resources are bound to have the most copies, especially since they typically offer incentives to sellers.

When you’re finished with your textbook, you can list it on the site and sell it to get some of your money back.

With this added benefit, it’s guaranteed more students are listing their books to be bought by others.

Textbook Renting

Renting textbooks is a sure-fire way to get discounted prices well below purchasing costs.

However, it’s important to note that when renting, you don’t own the text.

You won’t highlight or make notes throughout the pages, as they need to stay pristine for future readers.

Also, many rental companies charge fees or penalties if textbooks aren’t returned in their original condition.

If you can guarantee that you’ll be able to keep your rented items in near-new condition, renting is ideal.

Typically, you’ll be able to rent the texts for the duration of your course with the option to purchase at the end.

Some businesses also allow you to extend your rental period if you need them longer than the initial agreement.

Two of our recommendations for textbook rentals are CampusBookRentals and Wiley.

Used Book Stores

If all else fails, visiting used book stores can be a valuable resource for finding useful textbooks.

Our recommendation is to visit a thrift store or used book store in a college town to find the highest number of titles.

It’s far too often that people give their textbooks away for free in donation bins, making them readily available for students.

If you have a few hours available on the weekend, making a trip to a used book store can be pretty beneficial.

Finding the Free or Low-Cost Books

Finding free college books can be a treasure, especially with the increasing costs of post-secondary education.

There are tons of great resources from used book stores to your campus library for you to use to your advantage.

As long as you’re willing to put in the work to find significant discounts, it can pay off.