Updated on 21.06.2023.
Do you want to load your e-reader or tablet with free ebooks or audiobooks, legally? Check out this list of sites that offer free public domain books in electronic and audio format.
Every year, new publications enter the public domain. It means their intellectual property rights have expired or are not applicable any longer.
The content of these works becomes available for public use. Anyone is free to use or reuse it. What does it mean, exactly?
You are allowed not only to legally download the ebook edition of the book. You can also publish it again, or mix with the content of other books, or freely use the characters in your merchandise.
As a result, you may see that the books that have entered the public domain are available in major ebookstores – both as free and paid products.
Why pay for an electronic version of the public domain book, if you can have it free of charge?
My advice is that if you want to get an ebook version of a classic novel, you should first check out the sites listed below.
The dates books enter the public domain vary between countries. Some rights depend on registrations with a country-by-country basis, but the most important factor is how many years have to pass after the death of the creator.
Which file format to choose?
Since mid-2022, the default file format for ebooks is epub. You will be able to add it to your e-reader or book-reading app, regardless of which platform you use: Kobo, Google Play Books, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Nook – and also Amazon Kindle.
Yes, you should download epub to your Kindle or Kindle app, as mobi is no longer supported.
Best sites with free public domain ebooks and audiobooks
1. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is a top destination for free ebooks on the web. It’s a first ebook initiative in the world, established by Michael S. Hart in 1971.
Over 60 thousand publications were digitized by Project Gutenberg volunteers, so far. The books are available for download in several formats (as I said, epub is the most popular one), and you can also read the books online, in your internet browser.
What’s more, over 100,000 free ebooks are available through Project Gutenberg’s partners and affiliates.
You can quickly browse the list of most downloaded books in the last day, week, or month. Each month, between 5 and 15 million books are being downloaded by users from around the world.
An interesting way to browse available titles is through bookshelves – collections of books, based on author, genre, or topic.
Europeana is a digital platform that provides access to millions of digitized items from European cultural heritage collections.
These items include books, music, artworks, archival documents, and audiovisual content from archives, libraries, and museums across Europe.
Europeana allows users to search the platform for items, explore collections, and create their own personal collections.
More than 2,000 European institutions across Europe contribute to the site, including the British Library and national libraries from many countries.
To find free public domain books, search for the author or title, and in the right-side panel narrow results by Type of Media (select “text”), and by Can I Use This (select “Yes”).
3. Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is a non-profit organization that provides access to millions of digital resources from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States.
It is an online platform that serves as a gateway to the vast and growing collections of digitized materials held by libraries, archives, and museums around the country.
Through the DPLA, users can search, browse, and discover the collections of libraries, archives, and museums, and use those collections to support their research and learning.
Well over 20 million items are classified on DPLA as “text”, with 16 million marked as ready for unlimited re-use. From a book detail page, you’ll be redirected to a relevant website, where you can further read it online or download.
4. Internet Archive
Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library that provides free public access to millions of books, movies, audio recordings, software, and more.
It was founded in 1996 and is one of the largest open-access digital libraries on the internet.
The library has an extensive collection of webpages, music, movies, images, and documents related to the history of the internet, as well as many other topics.
You will find on the Internet Archive, well over 30 million text files, in 25 thousand collections. 20 million files and books are freely downloadable.
5. Open Library
Open Library is a free online library with millions of books, movies, music, websites, and other materials that can be accessed by anyone. It is intended to create “one web page for every book ever published”.
It is managed by the non-profit organization Internet Archive and is part of the larger Open Knowledge Network.
The library provides access to an ever-growing range of public domain and out-of-copyright materials, as well as titles from major publishers, including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Penguin Random House.
If the book is available for free in a digital format, a Read button is shown next to its catalog listing.
Feedbooks is an online platform that provides access to a wide range of e-books, audiobooks, and other digital publications.
The platform is available on multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets. Feedbooks offers a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, cookbooks, and much more.
Users can access the platform for free, or upgrade to a premium membership for more features and access to exclusive content.
Feedbooks offers thousands of public domain ebooks in five languages. Unlike in Internet Archive, most of the free books have covers that will look good on your e-reader or e-reading application.
For a long time, Manybooks was a popular catalog of public domain ebooks, with over 50 thousand titles, sourced from Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive.
The site has evolved into an ad-supported ebook platform, but the free classic books from the public domain are still there.
The books are available in different file formats, so if you are looking for less popular ones, like Plucker or FictionBook2, Manybooks is a good destination to explore.
To find free public domain books, look on the front page for a section called “Popular Classics.”
DailyLit is an online platform that delivers serialized fiction and nonfiction in daily installments directly to readers via email or RSS.
It offers a range of titles from classic and contemporary authors, as well as original short stories.
DailyLit also gives users the option to customize their reading experience by setting their preferred reading speed, choosing the day and time for delivery of installments, and selecting their preferred genres.
Apart from DailyLit’s own serialized fiction, you can find here hundreds of classic novels. Pride and Prejudice and War of the Worlds were two first books offered on platform’s launch in 2006.
9. Library of Congress
Did you know you can read the world’s beloved children’s classics on the Library of Congress website?
The digital collection of Classic Books includes “only” about 60 titles, but they are the ones you can’t find anywhere else.
This catalog looks like a great idea to spend some time with your kids reading together the books in their original look and feel. The books are scanned and digitized beautifully, and the interface looks gorgeous!
10. Google Book Search
Google launched its own ebookstore some time ago, but the earlier book scan project, Google Book Search, is still there.
Perform any search, and you’ll see a list of results. If you see Preview or Full View link under the book’s title, it means you can read its scan in the browser.
11. Loyal Books
The site offers over 7 thousand of free public domain books, like audiobooks or text files. Titles in 30 languages can be found here.
12. The Literature Network
The site calls itself a “searchable online literature for the student, educator, or enthusiast.”
Currently, there are over 3,600 full books and over 4,400 short stories & poems from over 250 authors.
The key to exploring the site is author index, from where you can browse linked books, quotes forum threads, and quizzes.
The site offers free Harvard Classics – complete volumes of the most comprehensive and well-researched anthology of all time (read-online, no downloads offered).
This simple-to-explore site lists free books from a variety of different authors.
The site’s purpose is to bring public domain books from sites like Project Gutenberg into a form easily readable in a web browser.
Founded in 2005, LibriVox is a non-profit initiative to record and catalog audio versions of public domain books.
The goal of LibriVox is to make all public domain books available, for free, in audio format on the internet. LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net.
Volunteers can choose from a variety of books to record, and LibriVox provides the recording tools and guidance to help them.
In August 2022, the site offered as many as 17,000 completed completed audiobooks.
The site offers free stories and poems in an audiobook format. An abstract, citation, playing time, and word count are given for each of the passages.
Many classic books and stories are included in the Lit2Go catalog, from Lewis Carroll, to Aesop, to Anne Brontë, to Jack London.
The site makes free audiobooks from texts that entered the public domain in Europe.
18. Open Culture
Open Culture is a popular blog that curates access to educational and cultural media.
Among several collections, you can find here a directory of over 800 free ebooks. Most of them are in public domain.
19. Classic Literature Library
The site offers public domain books organized into collections. You can find here the complete works of William Shakespeare, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens or Mark Twain, among others.
20. The Online Books Page
The site, managed by the University of Pennsylvania, offers a clean interface to browse for over 3 million free ebooks from around the web.
21. Great Books and Classics
A repository of works of classic writers and philosophers, from Sophocles to Epicurus, to Sun-Tzu.
The books in digital format can be read here online as html files.
22. Planet Publish
A decent collection of popular works of classic literature, in pdf format.
23. Classical Chinese Literature
Chinese classics, with each character hyperlinked to its definition and etymology.
24. Wolne Lektury
It’s an extremely well-managed collection of free public domain books in the Polish language.
Currently, there are well over 2,000 titles available, either for online reading or ready for download (epub, mobi, pdf formats).
25. Projekti Lönnrot
Public domain books in Finnish and Swedish.
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