I was researching some local history recently when I came across several references to a book from 1880 that looked like it would be an excellent resource for me to use. Thinking I might find a copy at the state historical library I searched Google first for any additional information I could find. On the first page of my search results was a link to Google Book Search, where all 1,067 pages of this obscure, regional history book had been scanned and was available to download for free.
This reintroduction to Google Book Search was a pleasant surprise, and was a reminder of several other sites that offer “free books.” The following are a great way to save money on buying books; they are easily searchable and take up negligible room on your computer if they are available to download. These sites give you access to an amazing number of resources you might not be able to find anywhere else.
Bartleby – A vast collection of reference, verse, fiction and nonfiction. As of this writing one of the featured books is Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body including all 1,247 color engravings.
Bibliomania – They have over 2,000 texts available, including fiction, poetry, short stories, drama, interviews and articles.
Books-On-Line – 51,198 books are listed on this directory. Along with a large offering of fiction and non-fiction books they have links to 499 movie scripts.
California Digital Library – Many universities and historical libraries around the country are offering digitized libraries to the general public. I included this one as a good example of what you could find. Don’t forget to check federal sites, too, such as the Library of Congress.
Google Book Search – I have found some kind of reference to every book I have searched for on this site. If they don’t have the text for you to read online or a PDF copy for you to download there is usually a link to buy or borrow what you are looking for.
Many Books – With 24 different download formats to choose from and 23,259 ebooks offered for free, this could be your best option if you like to use a PDA, iPhone or eBook reader.
Project Gutenberg – This Grand Daddy of ebooks seems to have been around forever. Starting with the Declaration of Independence in 1971 on a Xerox mainframe, they encourage anybody and everybody to contribute. You never know what you will find here.
Soil and Health Library – While searching for a book long out of print I discovered this site. Their digitized library subjects include agriculture, health, Personal Sovereignty and Spiritual Freedom.
SurLaLune – This little collection offers over 40 ebooks of fairy tales and folklore anthologies for free. They also have a nice collection of over 1,500 illustrations.
The Universal Digital Library – Their goal in nothing less than to digitize all books. They currently have 48 million titles indexed and operate 50 scanning centers around the world.
As a bonus I have included my Secret Library Tip for you to find free hardcopy books at your local library.