©2021 Donald R. Snow - Last updated 2021-01-05

Don's Freeware Corner articles are printed in the UTAH VALLEY TECHNOLOGY AND GENEALOGY GROUP (UVTAGG) Newsletter TAGGology each month and are posted on his Class Notes Page where there may be corrections and updates.



Textbooks are a major expense in college, go out-of-date quickly, but many are useful for family history and others not in college.   I've been thinking about this recently as I've heard my grandkids talking about $100-200 textbooks that they need for classes in college.  That seems atrocious to mem since most textbooks don't need to be updated as often as the publishers do, and older editions usually have the same information, but newer ones are printed just to make money.  When I was teaching Calclus at BYU, during the last several years I experimented with letting the students use any Calculus book, old or new, and told them we would discuss the material by topic, rather than by sections in a particular book.  The homework and grading became the major problem, but, for the most part, the students liked it.  Now, as family historians, we sometimes need the information in textbooks, so this article is an attempt to help.  If you find a book you need, some ereaders allow you to underline and even write in the margins of the text, but that's the subject for another Freeware Corner article.

There are several websites that provide textbooks to download and use for free anyway you want.  A few websites only allow you to use them on the website, but most allow pdf downloads.  Below are some of these that I am aware of and I'm sure there are many more.


This website is sponsored by the many branches of SUNY (State University of New York).  Faculty from all their branches are invited to write and post textbooks on this website for students and anyone else to use.  They don't have very many books on there yet, but you may find something of interest for your family history.    Try searching the website for topics like famiy, history, geography, writing, library,  etgc.   For me, I'm always interested in what Mathematics texts they have and this site has several of them.  Perhaps some of the topics here will be of interest to you or your kids or grandkids in college.


This website has over 1000 free textbooks.  Of course, if you are a student at a college, you probably need a particular book and edition and that won't be here, but check.  Some of these may help with your own studies and background needed for searching for and notating the lives of your ancestors.


MIT (Massachusetts Institute Of Technology)is a major technical university in Cambridge, MA, and offers many classes online for free.  Along with the classes are the textbooks that can be downloaded.  There is a button to click to sort everything by those that have textbooks available there.  You can also sort everything by topic, department, and other variables.


This has lots of books available.  Search by topic, e.g. history, England, Germany, medicine, etc.  they have a newsletter, but I haven't subscribed to it.  This website has textbooks that have been contributed for anyone to use, modify, and distribute for their students or others interested, as long as they give the website credit.  They have rules that must be followed for a textbook to be accepted into the Open Textbook Library and these rules are described in the About section.  There is also am FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section.  You can search for any topic and see what's there, but the searches seem to yield many books that are only distantly related to your toptic search terms. 

Search Tip: For reading a long search results page put the mouse pointer about in the middle of the screen and press the mouse WHEEL down.  This puts a small circle there so and when your mouse pointer is below or above that point the page scrolls by itself down or up and the further your pointer is away from the circle, the faster it scrolls.  This helps in looking at long webpages where you let it slowly scroll down or up and read as it scrolls.


Try searching for things like "England family history" (no quotes), or medical history, etc.  This site has more than 3000 books online and many are completely downloadable.  An example is . I've found that this site is not user friendly, but it helps to read some of the instructions to see what books are actually there and how to use them.  The books are published there for people to use in school classes, home schooling, and for self-learning.  They also have text write-ups describing the topic and its history, before you see any of the books related.


This project was started many years ago with volunteers typing in the text of out -of-print books.  I remember when their goal was to have the text of 1000 out-of-print books on their website.  Now, with scanning technology, there are up to 60,000 and many are history-related.  Do a search, for example, for geneaogy, and you'll see many good volumes, some of which may be helpful in your research.  On the search menu are Quick Search, Advanced Search, Browsing Options, an Author index search, language filters, and a Full-Text Search.  The full-text searches uses Yahoo, Google, and DuckDuckGo to do site-searches on the Gutenberg website for the text you enter, so their books are every-word searchable to find what you want to download.


We've discussed Internet Archive before in other Freeware Corner articles and they now have 28 million out-of-print books online.  Many are older textbooks.  Most of these have good informatin in them for family history, but  are out-of-date for use in  a college or high school class today.  These texts are all completely searchable for any text you want, so it's worth a try.


This is an article giving 16 websites for to consider for free textbooks.  It includes some of the above sites and a few others.   


There is a wealth of free books, ebooks, and audio books online, and many of these are textbooks which have valuable information about genealogy, history, family history, geography, and other topics of interest to us family historians.  Since we are always trying to learn, you may find some very helpful resources this way.  And, you can always just Google "free textbooks [term]" for whatever subject you are interested in and see what comes up.  Remember that different search engines bring up different results, so it pays to try more than one, especially if you don't find what you are looking for on the first one.