free textbooks online
There are lots of resources for students to get free textbooks online. Source: Martin Bureau / AFP

Starting out your first term as an international student can be difficult. There’s having to settle into a completely new environment, in some cases adjusting to a new style of learning and a diverse set of people you’ve never been exposed to before. Outside of that, there’s the financial aspect — paying your bills, buying new furniture and student supplies, and the expenses that come with having a social life. The prospect of beginning your first class — and being told that you need to purchase a list of expensive textbooks — only adds to that. If only there was a way to find free textbooks online. 

If this sounds like you, you’re in luck — there are many resources for you to do exactly that, all without sacrificing quality or authenticity (as long as you don’t mind being without a physical copy). The best part? Many of these resources often offer lesser-known perks as well, like career and self-help resources

The only thing you’d need is your laptop, a decent note-taking and annotating tool like Preview or Adobe Acrobat, and access to a printer whenever you feel you’d need a physical copy to study from. 

You can download many textbooks online under an open license — which guarantees that they’re ethically distributed. Source: Carl de Souza/AFP

Five resources for students to download free textbooks online 


Bookboon is one of the best online resources out there for students. You’ll have plenty of options to download free textbooks online across a variety of subject areas, all without sacrificing quality. It’s particularly useful for downloading STEM and business-related textbooks. 

What makes Bookboon such a great resource, however, is all its other features. The website has a range of audio learning resources, e-books, audio talks, and more across business and professional development topics. It’s widely trusted; it’s used by popular brands and by businesses to improve the capabilities of their employees. It’s not a bad idea to get a headstart while you’re still studying — it might just give you the edge you need to land your dream job fresh out of uni. 

Project Gutenberg 

Project Gutenberg is widely known as the oldest digital library, which means it’s trusted by most professors working in universities today. With over 60,000 free e-books, Project Gutenberg focuses on providing texts of old literature with expired copyrights. This makes it available for distribution and consumption without paying a fee. 

You don’t need to register or download any pesky apps, either — you can download your texts directly from the website without any additional steps. It’s a great resource if you’re looking for new (or old) read too. You can find the top 100 most downloaded books from Project Gutenberg here

free textbooks online

Many of these resources often offer lesser-known perks as well, like career and self-help resources. Source: Safin Hamed/AFP

The Assayer

Lots of websites where you can download free textbooks online are, unfortunately, illegally operated. The Assayer overcomes this hurdle. It’s the largest web catalogue of books in which authors have made them downloadable for free — which means that you’ll be consuming their content legally and most importantly, ethically. 

While you may not be able to find the most recent textbooks here, you can access older and unchanging texts. In particular, it’s a great place to find free textbooks online for maths, science, and computer-related subjects. 

More than that, you’ll be joining a community of students and readers who often have engaging discussions about the texts they’re reading. You can leave and reply to reviews, and through this, broaden your understanding or perhaps adopt another viewpoint of the text you’re studying. 

Open Textbook Library 

It can be really expensive to purchase textbooks, especially if your course requires you to invest in more than one. Open Textbook Library understands this, and built its platform specifically to tackle this hurdle. 

Supported by the Open Education Network, you can find 1,053 free textbooks online here to download. They’re all licensed by authors and publishers — which means they have the right to be freely used and adapted by students worldwide. 

The best part? Open Textbook Library has a range of books available for self-help and student success — giving you many resources to improve your performance throughout your academic year. 

Saylor Academy

Saylor Academy is another online resource trusted not only by students, but educators and universities, as well. It has a range of free textbooks online that you can download, use and share under open licences covering subjects like accounting, general business, marketing, management and leadership, and more. 

While you can use Saylor Academy for its free textbooks, the website is more commonly known for offering free courses that you can take online. There are more than 100 for you to choose from — and you can even get (tuition-free!) college credit for some of them.