Finding Public Domain E-Books

Recently, the Massachusetts Library System created a handout explaining the various places you can find e-books in the public domain – eBooks old enough to no longer be subject to copyright restrictions, and therefore free and available for use! Check out a summary of all the great places (besides, of course, Overdrive) where you can read and/or download books online after the break.


Google Book Search (beta)
Google is in the process of scanning and digitizing the libraries of Harvard University, New York Public Library, and Oxford University, among others. There are some copyright and access issues to contend with in this database, but it is still a great resource.

How to Access It:

  1. Log into Google Books using a Google Account
  2. click on Advanced Books Search
  3. click on Search: Full view books
  4. fill in author or title information or both (ex. Scarlet Letter)

For more information you can always check out the Google Books FAQ.

Project Gutenberg:
The most comprehensive public domain eBook site, this is where many other eBook sites get their texts. This project, which is dedicated to freely providing as many public domain texts as possible, allows users to download ebooks to  a variety of mobile devices including iPads, Kindles, Sony eReaders, Android, Nook, etc…

Scholar’s Lab (University of Virginia):
Texts are available in a variety of languages through this database: English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian to name a few. Many are available as images of the original publication. Great for students and readers of foreign languages.

Making of America (Univ. of Michigan and Cornell Univ.):
Collection of eBooks, pamphlets, and journal articles dealing with all aspects of American social history from the 19th and early 20th century. More for history buffs than casual readers. Pages can be downloaded as pdf files.


The Online Books Page (Univ. of Pennsylvania):
Links to thousands of freely available texts, and searchable by Library of Congress call number. There are also special sections on banned books, women writers, and books that have won prizes.

Internet Public Library
A fantastic gateway to sites with online books, magazines and newspapers.

Still interested in learning more? We have more comprehensive handouts available at the reference desk, and you can always ask a librarian for help!

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