I was amazed at the number of free online textbooks that are available on the Internet. Many of these sites are sponsored by foundations or universities. The goal is to provide open text sources and modules for free in a variety of subjects. In some cases, the authors are producing modules that can be interchanged with other modules to design complete textbooks. Some of the textbooks are black and white, while others are full text with chapters, photographs, charts, and graphs.
I researched more than fifteen web sites offering free textbooks. Here are the best of the free textbook web sites that I found:
Saylor Academy offers dozens of free college and K-12 courses with the resources and readings included. They hire credentialed professors, teachers, and industry professionals who have previously taught the specific subjects they work on. These consultants, who have attended and have taught at many prestigious public and private institutions, including Princeton, Emory, Harvard, University of Virginia, the University of California system, Carnegie Mellon, and NYU, research and design their courses from start to finish. You are not required to enroll or register to complete the coursework, but you can use their student ePortfolio system to track your courses and progress. Also, you can use their textbooks and not follow their coursework.
The CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit that creates and collects high quality curated STEM (science, technology, and engineering) content and textbooks. Their material is divided into "Concepts" (if you are learning about a topic) and "FlexBook" Textbooks (if you need a great deal of information about the topic.
The Concepts and Textbooks can be translated into over 80 languages and can be downloaded as PDF, mobi, or ePub. The topics include the following:
- Math (Arithmetic, Measurement, Algebra, Geometry, Probability, Statistics, Trigonometry, Analysis, Calculus)
- Science (Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics)
- More (SAT Exam Prep., Engineering, Technology, Astronomy, English, History )
Recommended for Grades 6-12+
California Learning Resource Network (CLRN)
The California Learning Resource Network has many free educational materials for teachers, including recommended websites, apps, handouts and worksheets, including the learning standards. However, they also link to 31 free textbooks in PDF format. The textbooks topics include trigonometry, algebra, calculus, geometry, probability, statistics, chemistry, light and matter, biology, earth science, climate dynamics, and U.S. History. Downloaded in a few seconds, the Life Science textbook in PDF has the same appearance as a regular print textbook with charts, graphs, illustrations, chapters, and is 950 pages long!
Recommended for Grades 9-12
The College Open Textbooks Collaborative
The College Open Textbooks Collaborative, composed of twenty-nine educational non-profit and for-profit organizations, and affiliated with more than 200 colleges, is focused on making instructors aware of open textbooks and promoting adoptions of open textbooks for students.
College Open Textbooks has peer-reviewed more than 100 open textbooks for use in community college courses and many more are awaiting review. Many textbooks can be downloaded and used offline and many are available as WikiBooks online. Their books are available in a wide range of subjects, as indicated below.
Anthropology and Archeology
Biology & Genetics
Engineering & Electronics
English & Composition
Health & Nursing
Languages and Communications
Statistics & Probability
Please note that some eTextbooks are actually for sale on this website, but the price is very reasonable. The U.S. History textbook that I reviewed was $16.95 for the eBook, $35.23 for a black and white bound copy, and $66.35 for a color bound book.
Note: Some of the starred (*) books link to IIP Digital (http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov). I noticed that once you get to this site, you can need to enter the name of the textbook in the search form and then you can find the textbook easily. The starred books have been peer reviewed and you can easily read the reviews of these texts.
Recommended for College Students
Founded in 1999 by a professor from Rice University, OpenStax has the mission of providing authors and learners with a place to share and adapt educational materials Except where otherwise noted, the content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. There are tens of thousands of learning modules, that are organized into thousands of textbook-style books in a variety of subjects, all easily accessible online and downloadable to almost any device, anywhere, anytime. OpenStax encourages authors to write modules that can stand alone or be combined with other modules by different authors.
Recommended for Grades 9-College
Global Text Project
Initially funded by the Jacobs Foundation, The Global Text Project includes dozens of open content electronic textbooks that are freely available. Their goal is to make textbooks available to the many who cannot afford them.
Project Gutenberg offers over 45,000 free ebooks in a variety of formats from Kindle format to ePub, or they can be read online. This is your best source for titles that are in the public domain such as The Complete Works of William Shakespeare or On the Origin of Species by Darwin. This is a website that should be bookmarked on your computer or tablet for easy access.
Wikibooks is a collection of more than 2,700 open-content textbooks that works much like Wikipedia. The topics include
According to Wikibooks, this “site is used for developing textbooks, textbook-like books, and supporting book-based instructional materials (i.e. annotated texts such as on the Works of Shakespeare with aids for reading and study, for example, or extensive book summaries). In particular, discussions on talk pages should be directed at improving modules.”
In my opinion, if you can’t find a textbook in any of the other recommended free online textbook web sites, I would definitely try Wikibooks. It appears that authors are being very responsible in editing these textbooks to make information available to those who need quick access to information or who cannot afford printed textbooks.