Find and Use E-books: The Public Domain & E-book Repositories

  • Last Updated: Jun 6, 2019 10:40 AM
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What are public domain works?

Public domain works are works of intellectual property for which the creator's rights have expired or been forfeited, or for which no copyright existed on the work in the first place.

Most of the works in the e-book repositories described on this page that are classified as public domain are those published

  • before 1923
  • published 1923-1977 without a copyright notice.

For more information about what's in the public domain, see this excellent chart.

Google Books

Google Books began as a partnership with some major research libraries to scan (with OCR) collections of these libraries. Over the years other libraries have joined the project and publishers now participate as well.

E-books in Google Books may be in the public domain or they may be copyrighted. If the e-book is freely available on Google Books, it will appear in your browser window in full (in pdf) and you can read it on the screen or download it. To download, click the arrow on the tools button (it looks like a gear):

The Internet Archive

The Internet Archive Text Archive is a repository of free, public domain books contributed by dozens of libraries from around the world. The Text Archive is part of the Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library founded in 1996. The Internet Archive also stores audio, moving images and software files.

Files for textual materials in the Internet Text Archive may be available in several formats: pdf, html, plain text, ePub, Mobi (for the Kindle), DJVU.

Did you know ... ?

That the Knox College Library has contributed materials to the Internet Text Archive?

There are currently about 30 items in the Knox College Internet Archive collection. The Library staff worked with staff of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries (CARLI) to digitize and make available significant 19th century texts relating to the history of the Illinois Military Tract.


The HathiTrust Digital Library, founded in 2008, is built upon a partnership of more than 60 research libraries and institutions. Materials that have been digitized and placed in the HathiTrust Library by the partner institutions may or may not be public domain materials. Use is therefore restricted for some of the e-books in this repository.

The I-Share catalog contains records for over 1.2 million public domain (freely available) e-books in the HathiTrust library. When you search the I-Share catalog you may see links to these e-books. Look at the location and availability information to find out if the item is in the HathiTrust collection:

The books in the HathiTrust Digital Library are in pdf and are immediately viewable in your browser. There may also be an option (on the menu on the left side) to download the entire book in pdf.

You may also wish to limit your search in I-Share to just those items in the HathiTrust collection. To limit, click on the Advanced Search option, enter your keywords in the search boxes and then scroll down to near the bottom of the screen and select the limit button for the "HathiTrust eResources Only."

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