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During the 2021-2022 academic year, the average college student spent between $628 and $1,471 on textbooks and supplies. Since the price of textbooks typically increases an average of 12% with each new edition, this cost will only continue to balloon upwards. There are a few measures students can take to try to mitigate these costs: renting the textbook instead of purchasing it, shopping at a secondhand bookstore, or buying a previous edition (and praying the baseline principles of the subject haven’t substantially changed between then and now). But there are also a handful of websites that provide databases to search to see if the textbooks a student needs are available to be downloaded for free.

By searching for your required textbooks’ ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) you may find the exact textbook you’re looking for without having to pay its publisher’s absurd sticker price. Here are a handful of websites you should checkout before dropping any money on this semester’s textbooks.

Library Genesis. Considered online as the “Mecca” of free textbook downloads, Library Genesis is the first stop for any student looking to find a PDF of their required textbooks. Its simple interface allows users to search by author, title, or ISPN. Library Genesis claims to host more than 2.4 million non-fiction books, 80 million science magazine articles, as well as millions of comics files, fiction books, and hundreds of thousands magazine issues.

Free Book Spot. Free Book Spot is a website that doesn’t actually host the PDF files of textbooks, but instead connects users with websites where the textbooks they’re interested in are being hosted. Nonetheless, Free Book Spot has hundreds of thousands of books across dozens of categories. If the book you need isn’t listed, there is a queue to upload your request to, for system admins to try and track down.

PDF Drive. PDF Drive is an online PDF search engine that hosts over 75 million eBooks, magazines, and articles. With an intuitive interface, PDF Drive allows its users to preview files before downloading (which is important, as the site only allows for 100MB of free downloads). It also allows you to bookmark links to refer back to later, should you ever need to easily track down a PDF you didn’t download.

The Wayback Machine. Any researcher’s best friend, it’s no surprise that the Wayback Machine also is clutch when it comes to downloading free textbooks. Not only does the Wayback Machine have years of screenshots of over 700 billion web pages, it also has a collection of over six million books that can be easily searched by title, author, or ISBN.

Project Gutenberg. Named after the famed inventor of the printing press, Project Gutenberg is a library of over 60,000 free ebooks. A volunteer project founded by writer Michael J. Hart stated his mission was to “provide as many e-books in as many formats as possible for the entire world to read in as many languages as possible to break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy.” Their collection is available in plain text, as well as HTML, PDF, EPUB, MOBI, and Plucker when possible.

The Assayer. The Assayer is an online catalog of books whose authors have chosen to make them available for free. Founded in 2000, The Assayer differs from other resources because its focus is on books related to math, science, and computers. This platform also allows you to leave reviews on books you’ve read and engage with other readers, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Open Library. Open Library functions much like it sounds; users can “check out” a book and give back access to it once you’re done reading. While it may not have a ton of textbooks, it does have pieces of classic literature that frequently end up on syllabuses. What makes Open Library stand out is that its collection is translatable to a handful of languages, including Spanish, French, German, Czech, and more.

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