For Teachers

Where to Find Free Online Textbooks

By The Room 241 Team November 1, 2013

With the costs of education skyrocketing, students can’t pass up a chance for a free online textbook. Whatever the subject matter, these textbooks allow teachers to pass the cost savings on to their students and parents.

Textbooks can be found for elementary students just beginning their education as well as for college students in specialized subject matters. Here are just a few resources. Some provide textbooks in all subjects while others are limited to specific topics.

The California Learning Resource Network (CLRN)

At CLRN, teachers can find free online textbooks for all ages and for all grades in the subjects of:

  • American democracy
  • Economics
  • U.S. history
  • U.S. geography
  • Statistics
  • Calculus
  • Life sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Earth science
  • Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Physics

To assist teachers in making their textbook choice, each textbook is linked to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and each specific standard the textbook meets is listed. The site provides links to the publishers of the textbooks where supplemental materials can be found.


CK-12 is a non-profit organization that has free online textbooks in all STEM subjects as well as English and history. The textbooks are called “FlexBooks” and are aligned with CCSS goals. Instructors choose a textbook by selecting the topic and grade level.

There are also resources for students that help them with specific homework tasks that have been assigned based on the textbooks. There are resources for teachers to assist them in customizing the texts for their specific classroom use. Students and instructors have provided reviews of the textbooks that can help a teacher decide whether to use a specific textbook.

Science Textbooks

Science textbooks for grades 7 to 12 are available at Brigham Young University’s Open Education Group. This includes texts on the subjects of:

The books are of a manageable size, most less than 150 pages. They are downloadable in PDF format and hard copies can be purchased at a very low cost.

Literature and Humanities

Project Gutenberg has more than 43,000 texts whose U.S. copyright has expired, making them free to the public, educators and students. Particularly helpful to teachers of literature are the number of classic books that are accessible and downloadable for no charge.

Writing instructors can also find a number of resources here. Even the well-known “Elements of Style” by William Strunk, commonly used in almost all composition classes, can be downloaded here for free. Teachers can search through all the books by subject matter alphabetically, title of the book, author or release date.

College Textbooks

OpenStax provides free online college-level textbooks and sells printed copies at low cost. Teachers can browse through textbooks and review ancillary materials. When instructors are preparing a syllabus, they simply include the URL to the site so students have immediate access to the specific textbook the teacher has chosen.

The OpenStax also lets teachers customize the textbook for specific teaching styles and student needs. At its connexions site, teachers can review how other teachers have customized the text and adopt one of the ideas for their own class or follow the directions for customizing the text specifically for their own teaching style.

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