How to Find Public Domain Books Online

15 sources for free, public domain books

Need some new reading material? Public domain books and ebooks – books that are absolutely free to download and are no longer under copyright – are a great way to find fantastic books, from classics to romance to computer manuals. Here are 16 sources for free books or ebooks in the public domain you can quickly and easily download to your PC to read right in your Web browser. Most of these sites also make their content offerings available to download for a wide variety of e-readers (such as a Kindle or a Nook) as well. 

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Screenshot, Authorama.

Authorama offers a wide variety of books from a great selection of authors, anyone from Hans Christian Anderson to Mary Shelley. If you're looking for the classics this is a good place to start. 

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Screenshot of the LibriVox website
Screenshot, LibriVox.

Audio books are a great way to get your reading in especially if you're in your car a lot, and Librivox looks to fill that need with hundreds of freely available audio books. Volunteers sign up to read chapters of public domain books, then those chapters are placed online for readers to download (for free!).Pro tip: be sure to look for the Librivox app to add to your mobile device so you can listen to all of your favorites on the go. 

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Google Books

Google Books Logo

From Google Books comes a nice selection of public domain ebooks mostly in the classical literature genre, but you can also search Google Books or using the main Google search engine to find all manner of public domain ebooks.

There are a number of different searches you can plug in to Google to help with your search. Use the following suggestions. You can append whatever subject you're looking for either in front or following the phrase in quotes, i.e., boating laws "public domain". Quotes should be used around these phrases in order to bring back accurate results (see Looking for a Specific Phrase? Use Quotation Marks).

  • "public domain"
  • "this document is in the public domain"
  • "this text is in the public domain"
  • "this information is in the public domain"
  • "this page is in the public domain"
  • "not copyrighted"
  • "public domain"
  • "not copyrighted"
  • "public domain"
  • "not copyrighted"
  • "public domain"

You can also use Google Scholar to find public domain works. Go to the Advanced Scholar Search, and in the Date/Return articles published between field, type in 1923 in the second date box. This will return public domain works (again, be sure to double check each piece of content to make sure that it does indeed fall under public domain).

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Project Gutenberg

Screenshot of the Project Gutenberg website

Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest sources for public domain books on the Web. Over 32,000 books available at the time of this writing, in many different formats (PC, Kindle, Sony reader, etc.). One of the widest selections you'll find of freely available books on the Web. 

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Screenshot of the Feedbooks website
Screenshot, Feedbooks.

Feedbooks offers free public domain books, as well as original works from authors uploading their books to the site - great way to discover new reading from authors who aren't necessarily in the spotlight as yet. In addition, if you've been itching to publish a book, Feedbooks is a good source to get the word out as well. 

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Internet Archive

Screenshot of the Internet Archive website
Screenshot, Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive is an amazing resource for public domain books, with sub-collections such as American Libraries, Children's Library, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. More collections are added on a regular basis, so be sure to check back often for new reading material. 

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Screenshot of the ManyBooks website
Screenshot, ManyBooks.

ManyBooks offers more than 28,000 free public domain books for download. The site is organized so you can books as easily as possible: by Authors, by Titles, by Genres, by New Titles. This is one of the most user-friendly sites on the Web for finding and downloading free books. 

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Screenshot of the LoudLit website

Similar to Librivox, LoudLit partners up great literature found in the public domain with high quality audio recordings, both available for download right to your PC or e-reader. 

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Online Library of Liberty

Online Library of Liberty

The Online Library of Liberty offers readers "individual liberty, limited constitutional government, and the free market", all in the public domain and free for download.

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Screenshot of the Questia website
Screenshot, Questia.

Questia offers books, journal articles, magazines, and newspaper articles, all in the humanities and social sciences. Questia is especially useful for anyone needing scholarly resources, since all the materials are reviewed by collection librarians.

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Screenshot of the Read Print website
Screenshot, Read Print.

Books, essays, poems, stories.....all available at ReadPrint, along with 8000 other books by 3500 authors.

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World Public Library

Screenshot of the World Public Library Website
Screenshot, World Public Library.

While the World Public Library site, a database of over 400,000 works, is not free, you can access the Sound of Literary Works page gratis. Each of these classic literature and poetry performances are free to download.

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Classic Literature Library

Screenshot of the Classic Literature Library Website
Screenshot, Classic Literature Library.

This site is extremely well organized into collections: Classic American Literature, Classic Italian Literature, the complete works of William Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Fairy Tales and Children's Literature, and lots more.

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Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Screenshot of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library website
Screenshot, Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Read classic Christian writings from hundreds of years of church history. You'll find everything from research materials to Bible studies on this site. The site also has MP3 versions of some books, as well as PDF, ePub, and PNG formatted publications.

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O'Reilly Open Books Project

Screenshot of the O'Reilly Open Books website
Screenshot, O'Reilly.

A number of technical books are available from the O'Reilly Open Books Project, mostly focusing on programming languages and computer operating systems. O'Reilly makes these books available for a variety of reasons, including historical relevance and general education. The publisher is also proud to be part of the Creative Commons community.