We all know that college isn’t cheap. So if there’s anything you can do to save money – like saving money on college textbooks by getting them, for free – you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity!
One of the biggest costs, aside from tuition and living expenses, of course, is the cost of textbooks.
According to the College Board, the average college student spends $1,200 a year on college books and materials.
And that’s an expense that you can definitely do without.
Fortunately, there are tons of ways to not only buy college textbooks for cheap, but also to get them 100% free.
Below, we cover ways you can get college textbooks for free and almost free.
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If you’re looking to save money this semester, check out our tips.
What will I learn?
So, Can You Really Get College Textbooks for Free?
The answer is yes.
There are some places where you can get physical textbooks for free, as you’ll see below.
However, generally, most textbooks that you get for free are digital versions, like PDF documents.
So there are tons of free online textbooks and PDF versions of textbooks out there that you can read at no cost.
Some authors simply offer their works for free.
Other digital textbooks are in the public domain, meaning they’re available to the public as a whole and are not subject to copyright. So the public can access these texts for free.
Also, there are open access textbooks that you can read at no cost.
Open textbooks are licensed under an open copyright license and are offered online at no cost. Also, these books can sometimes be printed at little or no cost.
Where Can I Get Free College Textbooks
Now, a quick note: Do be careful if you decide to download free PDF versions of books, because there can be copyright issues.
We recommend only downloading PDF textbooks that are in the public domain, aren’t copyrighted, have an open copyright license or where the owner of the work has given permission for you to download it.
Here are some ways to get college textbooks for free (or nearly free).
OpenStax is an excellent resource for free college textbooks. It’s a nonprofit educational initiative, which is based at Rice University.
On OpenStax, you can find high-quality, peer-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks that you can read for free online, or print for a low cost.
According to OpenStax, its textbooks are being used in 48% of colleges and universities in the United States and in more than 100 countries.
2. AACC Bookstore eTextbooks
The AACC Bookstore offers free e-textbooks and digital study versions that are in the public domain or are royalty free versions of materials. It’s another good place to get free textbooks online in PDF format.
3. Textbook Revolution
Textbook Revolution is a website where you can get free PDF textbooks. Handily enough, you can search for textbooks by license or by subject. There are textbooks available on a huge range of subjects, like Biology, Computer Science & Technology, Economics, Health Sciences & Medical, Mathematics, and Physics and World history.
On the website, you can search for free textbooks.
And, you can also use it to search for cheap college textbooks as well.
4. Your College or University’s Library
One of the best places to get free books is at your college’s or university’s library. It should have a lot, if not all, of the books that are required for your course.
Getting to the library as early as you can before the semester begins is so important, otherwise, other students might have already borrowed the titles that you need.
Of course, since they’re library books, you won’t be able to make notes on them or highlight them, so keep that in mind!
The library is definitely your best option if you’re looking to get physical copies of textbooks for free.
5. Project Gutenberg
If you ever wondered, “Where to get free PDF versions of textbooks?“, Project Gutenberg is your answer.
You can find more than 57,000 free eBooks there, including textbooks.
What’s great about Project Gutenberg is that you can get books in a range of formats, such as ePUB, PDF, and .doc.
This means that no matter what device you have, such as Kindle, Nook, phone or desktop computer, you can view the textbooks from the site.
Also, you can read textbooks online, or download them.
Overall, it’s a great platform with a wide selection of titles.
ManyBooks.net, is a website where you can find free college textbooks. On there you can find titles in a range of file formats, such as ePUB, PDF, and .doc.
So regardless of what device you’re reading on, you can easily read free textbooks from ManyBooks.net.
If you’re looking for PDF versions of textbooks, then ManyBooks.net is definitely worth checking out.
Free-eBooks.net offers free books that you can download. It has a whole academic section. So if you want PDF versions of textbooks, then make sure you check out Free-eBooks.net. There’s classic fiction on there too, so if you’re taking a course like English Literature, then this is also handy!
DigiLibraries.com is another website that offers free books. You can find some free textbooks there.
Bibliomania offers some academic texts, so it’s worth having a quick look on there for free textbooks.
But that’s not all. There are two reasons why Bibliomania is such a good website for students.
Firstly, it has a study section, which is designed for school and university students and their teachers and tutors.
In this section, there are study guides that are written by Oxford and Cambridge University graduates. These study guides provide summaries, discussions, and commentaries on texts.
There are study guides available in a range of genres from American Literature to Religion.
This is a pretty handy resource if you’re a student.
You do need to register on the website to access these study guides, but it’s totally free to get an account.
Also, you can chat on the site’s message boards by clicking “Discuss” at the bottom of a book or author page.
The other reason why Bibliomania is such a good platform for students is that it features thousands of classic books.
On there, you’ll find books from classic authors, such as Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain.
So if you’re studying literature, then the website is an excellent resource for free books.
10. Your local library
Your local library can be a good resource for physical textbooks. You can also download library eBooks through free apps. It’s definitely worth visiting your nearest library to check whether they have any of the textbooks you’re interested in.
Bookboon is a website where you can download free textbooks. All of the textbooks featured on the website are written by professors from the world’s top universities. There are books available in a range of categories, such as IT, statistics, engineering, natural science and economics.
If you need free history textbooks, then check out U.S.History.org. The website focuses on history from Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium.
11. Open Textbook Library
The Open Textbook Library is a great resource for anyone looking for free textbooks. You can get digital textbooks for free in PDF format, and you can also print them out.
You can find textbooks on a huge range of subjects, such as Business, Humanities, Economics, Mathematics, and Law.
12. California Open Online Library for Education
The California Open Online Library for Education gives you free digital textbooks, as well as course materials, online courses, and journals and articles.
There are textbooks available on a range of subjects, such as Science and Technology, Mathematics and Statistics, and Education.
13. American Institute of Mathematics Open Textbook Initiative
If you need math textbooks, then check out the American Institute of Mathematics’ Open Textbook Initiative. There’s a section for Approved Textbooks, which includes textbooks that have been judged to meet the evaluation criteria set by the AIM editorial board.
On there, you can find textbooks on a wide range of subjects, like Trigonometry, Calculus, Mathematical Computing, Numerical Analysis, Abstract Algebra, Number Theory, and Geometry and Topology.
14. Open Textbooks Grand Valley State University
Another place where you can find open textbooks is on the Grand Valley State University website.
15. PDF Search Engine
As you can tell from the name, PDF Search Engine is basically Google for PDFs. So you can use it to find free PDF versions of textbooks. So if you’re looking for a specific title, then this can be a handy tool.
As we mentioned above, be careful when downloading PDF documents and ensure you have permission to download a textbook.
16. The Assayer
The Assayer is an online catalog of books whose authors have made them available to people for free.
The website, which has been around since 2000, is a great place to find books on math, science and computers in particular.
But, you can find free textbooks on other subjects there too, like Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Geography, Anthropology, Recreation, Political Science, Law, Music, and Fine Arts.
Merlot offers people free curated online learning and support materials, including textbooks. There are more than 6,600 textbooks on there.
21. Milne Open Textbooks (formerly Open SUNY Textbooks)
Milne offers Open Educational Resources (OER), including textbooks as well as materials that are in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that allows them to be repurposed by others.
22. E-books Directory
E-Books Directory features a list of links to free eBooks, documents and lecture notes. So it’s a good place to find digital versions of textbooks. There are more than 10,000 free e-books available in 702 categories.
On Feedbooks, you can find thousands of public domain books. So it’s definitely a good website to check if you’re looking for free textbooks in the public domain.
FreeBooks4Doctors is a great website to visit if you’re looking for medical textbooks in particular. There are more than 300 free medical books and websites featured there.
Books are available on a wide range of subjects, such as dermatology, pharmacology, and anatomy.
What’s great about this website is that you can get book alerts.
FreeTechBooks offers free online computer science, engineering and programming books, textbooks and lecture notes.
The books there are open access, and there are more than 1,200 books featured there.
26. OER Commons
OER Commons is digital library that features openly licensed textbooks and supplemental resources.
27. The Orange Grove Open Textbooks
Update: The Orange Grover services were shut down on August 31, 2020.
The Orange Grove, Florida’s Open College Education Resource, provides open textbooks.
28. Check out Freecycle
Freecycle is a great website, because it serves two good purposes. Firstly, it encourages people to recycle their stuff, rather than throwing it out, which is more beneficial to the environment.
Secondly, and most importantly, if you’re looking for free textbooks, you can find free stuff there.
While you won’t always find college textbooks on there, it’s always worth checking on Freecycle.
Other Ways to Find Free Textbooks for College
Okay so above, you can find tons of free college textbooks. But there are a few more things that you can do to get college textbooks for free.
29. Sell your old books for cash to buy new ones
If you have old books, whether they’re college textbooks from last year that you no longer need or fiction titles that you’ve already read, then consider selling them.
When you sell your textbooks, you can use this money to put towards new college textbooks. If you have enough books, or books that have a good value, then you may be able to make enough money to pay for your college textbooks entirely.
One place to consider selling is on Amazon, with the Amazon trade-in program.
Amazon trade-in is a program that allows you to sell your old items, including books, for Amazon gift cards.
So you can sell the books you no longer need, and then use the gift cards to buy books on Amazon.
Check out the Amazon Trade-In program here.
Amazon isn’t the only place where you can sell your used books either. Check out the following platforms:
If you do plan to sell books, to make sure that you get the best price for them, check out BookScouter.
It’s a website that you can use to compare the price you’d get for a book you want to sell at more than 40 book buyback vendors.
This is so much quicker and more convenient than having to visit each website individually.
And, it ensures that you get the most money for your old textbooks.
Also, all of the buyback vendors on the website allow you to ship your books for free.
30. Get gift cards on InstaGC.com
InstaGC is a rewards website that pays you with gift cards.
You’ll earn points for doing tasks, like:
- Completing surveys
- Watching videos
- Shopping online
- Searching the internet
And, you can redeem your points for gift cards to bookstores, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
So, you can use your gift card to pay for a textbook and essentially get it for free!
Start earning free gift cards with instaGC here.
31. Get free gift cards from Swagbucks too!
Swagbucks is a great rewards website, and one of the most popular of its kind.
One of the reasons for Swagbucks’s popularity is that it offers its members so many ways to earn money!
You earn points, called Swagbucks, for completing easy tasks, like:
- Taking surveys
- Shopping online
- Browsing the internet
- Playing games
- Watching videos
You can use your points to get gift cards to bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
So basically, you can use your Swagbucks gift cards to buy your textbooks, and get them for free, essentially.
What’s great about rewards websites, like Swagbucks is that you can easily do these tasks in your downtime, such as during the commercial break or while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store.
Sign up for Swagbucks here and get a $5 sign up bonus.
Ways to Get Cheap College Textbooks
Above, we’ve given you many places where you can get free college textbooks.
But, you might not be able to get the specific book you need at the places above, or you might want a physical copy of a book, rather than a digital one, or you might want a physical book that you can make notes on, so borrowing one from the library isn’t ideal.
If that’s the case, then consider getting your books using one of the methods below.
Below, we’ve listed places where you can get books at a huge discount, and places where you can buy cheap used college textbooks.
32. Thrift Stores
While they tend to have more fiction books than non-fiction titles, thrift stores near you can be a good place to shop for cheap textbooks.
You can sometimes find some well-used textbooks there. Just visit frequently so you don’t miss out on great offers.
And, if you’re doing a course on literature or any other course that requires you to read fiction books, then the thrift store is such a good place to shop.
You can often find classic titles there at a super low price.
33. Yard Sales
Yard sales can also be a good place to find books. Again, as with thrift stores, you’re likely to find mostly fiction titles, but it’s still worth visiting any local yard sales just to see if they have any academic books.
34. University and Library Sales
Occasionally, libraries and universities sell books to make room for new books.
This means that they’ll sell off the old ones at really low prices. You can get some huge discounts on books. So if you want cheap textbooks, then consider attending one of these sales.
Just call local libraries and universities and ask if they are holding any book sales, and if so, when the sales are being held.
35. Use coupon websites for big discounts online and in-store
A really easy way to get new college textbooks at a low price is to use coupon and deal websites.
On these websites, you can find discounts for popular bookstores that can save you a lot of money.
And there are other coupons and deal websites out there, where you can get discounts for bookstores and other platforms where you can buy books, including:
37. Get Cheap Textbooks on Amazon
Amazon.com is a great place to find cheap college textbooks. On Amazon, you can save up to 90% on rental, new, used and digital textbooks.
Buying textbooks used can save you a lot of money.
On Amazon, you can save up to 90% on used textbooks.
Also, renting your textbooks, rather than buying them is a good way to save a ton of money.
You can save up to 90% on textbook rentals on Amazon.
And, you can also save up to 49% on new textbooks, and up to 60% off the print list price when you buy eTextbooks.
CheapestBookPrice.com allows you to compare the price of new and used books. On there, you can buy books at up to 95% off.
39. Half Price Books
On HalfPriceBooks you can find new and used textbooks at low prices.
You can find great deals on textbooks and books in general on ThriftBooks.
AbeBooks is a website where you can find cheap new and used textbooks. You can save up to 90% on textbooks on AbeBooks.com.
42. PaperBack Swap
PaperBack Swap is an online book swapping community. It’s a website where you can swap books with other members.
Just list the books you’d like to swap with other club members. Once a book is requested, you mail it to the member, and then you can choose from more than 25,000 available books.
You pay to ship the books that you send out, but you don’t have to pay for postage on the books you receive from other members.
At Textbooks.com, you can save up to 90% on textbooks. Plus, there’s free shipping on orders worth $25 or more.
Chegg is a website that allows you to rent textbooks, rather than buy them.
This can be a good way to save money.
You can save up to 90% on textbook rentals at Chegg.
On eCampus, you can find new and used textbooks to buy and rent. You can save up to 90% on textbook rentals, eTextbooks, and new and used textbooks.
BookfreeSwap, like PaperBackSwap, is a website where you can swap free books.
All you need to pay for is the postage, which means that you can get books at a super low price.
47. Get Free College Textbooks on Reddit
Reddit is such a great source for finding free stuff, including free textbooks that I had to put it in its own category.
By the way, if you’re looking for more free stuff, check out our Reddit freebies post for a list of best subreddit for finding free stuff.
Now, although Reddit is one of the top 10 most visited sites (and the original social network) in the world, most people have no idea it existed and if they do, they have a hard time getting how it works.
What makes Reddit one of the best places to find free stuff is its subreddits. A subreddit is basically a forum within the main forum (the main forum being Reddit itself). Each subreddit is dedicated to a single topic. Meaning every thread and comment posted on that subreddit is highly related to the topic of the subreddit.
And that means you get highly targeted and relevant comments from all kinds of users.
Of course, there are also subreddits dedicated to free and/or cheap textbooks. On some subreddits, you can post a request for a book that you want and if anyone knows a source to get it for free or cheap, they’ll post a comment. In other subreddits, users share free book sources as they find them. It really is a goldmine for getting cheap and free textbooks from places that otherwise you might have never known about.
Some of the best subreddits for finding totally free textbooks include:
- r/FreeTextBooks: As the name suggests, it is dedicated to free textbooks.
- r/College: This is a subreddit dedicated to all things college, which means people also share tips for saving money including on books.
- r/Frugal: A great forum for finding all kinds of freebies including books for college.
How to Find Older Version of Textbooks
This seems to be a common issue for a lot of students. When textbooks are updated, it seems like the older versions just disappear. But sometimes, for whatever reason, you may need the older version.
The good news is that there are ways to find them. An done of the best places to start your search is, yes, on Reddit, specifically this thread. It’s basically a directory of resources for finding new and older versions of college books.
What makes it great is that while a user took his time to do this for free, other users keep adding to the list in the comment section. So make sure to read the comments.
There are so many ways to get free college textbooks and huge discounts on the books that you do buy as well.
You just need to know where to look!
If you’ve been wondering where to get free college textbooks, then give the places above a try.
You can save yourself hundreds of dollars each year, and when you’re in college any time that you can save money is definitely a good thing!