How To

Your Guide To Free Google Books (And Its Limitations)

Elliot Riley

Staff Writer

Emily Butler is a librarian and writer. You can discover more of their literary opinions on their YouTube channel,, and follow them on Twitter @EmilyFButler1.

Elliot Riley

Staff Writer

Emily Butler is a librarian and writer. You can discover more of their literary opinions on their YouTube channel,, and follow them on Twitter @EmilyFButler1.

There are countless ways to find free books online. Google books is by no means the only source of free full-text works, but given that so many of us use Google on a daily basis, it can be a convenient option. The following is a guide to discovering free Google books and creating your own Google books library. Google books is a great place to find public domain classics and open source textbooks. You can also find some contemporary novels, although the selection is limited.

Public Domain Books

All books published in 1924 or earlier are currently in the public domain. They are not subject to copyright. These titles are the easiest to find for free on Google books.

Simply conduct a Google books search for a title published prior to 1925. Narrow your results with the leftmost drop down menu, selecting “Free Google eBooks” rather than the default, “any books.” There, you will find freely available editions. You can start reading your selected title immediately in the web browser on your device, by clicking “read.” You also have the option of downloading the title as a PDF, as well as adding the title to your Google books library. The Google books library allows you to organize the titles you wish to read. As long as you are signed into a gmail account, you can start adding titles to your library.

If you are a fan of classics, you can go to town in the Google books database. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and several collections of poetry by Phillis Wheatley are all available for free on Google books, to name a few.

Nonfiction and Open Access Textbooks

Nonfiction books make up a large percentage of free Google books. Many of these books are textbooks, and thus may not be ideal as light entertainment, but can serve as great educational resources. Just because a nonfiction book is hosted for free does not mean that it isn’t a reputable source of information. Due to the growing Open Educational Resources movement in higher education, more and more professors are writing their own textbooks and giving the public free, open access to them.

The best way to find these books is to conduct a broad search for a subject such as “psychology,” and narrow results to “free Google eBooks,” “books,” and “21st century.”

Contemporary Fiction

Some contemporary novels are also available for free on Google books, although these are significantly harder to find than public domain classics or nonfiction works. Unfortunately, the free books which do exist are significantly lacking in diversity. For a more diverse range of contemporary titles, using Kindle Unlimited provides a relatively affordable option. Check out our list of 50 Kindle Unlimited Books You Can Read in 2020. You can also access free digital books through your public library, using the app Libby.

The easiest way to explore contemporary fiction titles on Google books is to use the advanced search page. Include a keyword in the top search bar to limit your results, but stick to broad terms such as genre categories (romance, science fiction, fantasy, etc.). Limit your search to “full view only” in order to only see free results, and select “books” under the content heading. You can also limit by language so that you only see results written in languages you read.

Once you have completed your search, limit your results by publication date using the drop down menu which says “any time,” and selecting instead 21st, 20th, or 19th century titles.

Free Google Books: Available Now

Below you will find a short list of contemporary novels currently available for you to read for free on Google Books.

Auraria by Tim Westover

This historical fantasy novel is set in Auraria, Georgia, during the gold rush. Westover turns the real life “ghost town” of Auraria into a place with literal ghosts, alongside water spirits, moon maidens, and haunted pianos.

The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly

This is a young adult science fiction dystopian novel about twin siblings living in New York City at a time when there are rumors of an impending apocalypse. When one of them joins an underground group called the Secret Runners of New York, she accidentally travels to the future, discovering that the rumors are true.

Betting the Farm by Alyssa Linn Palmer

This lesbian romance centers around a woman’s trip back home to her family farm following her father’s funeral. Betting the Farm is a novella, ideal for quick entertainment.

Girl of Glass by Megan O’Russell

In this YA dystopian novel, the outside world is unsafe, but a select chosen portion of the population is able to live safely in domes of glass. Seventeen-year-old Nola Kent is one of the lucky ones, until she chooses to venture outside. This is the first in a series.