The usefulness of online libraries can hardly be overestimated. Just think about it – instead of buying a physical book or going to a traditional library, signing up, searching the catalog (probably finding that the book in question isn’t even present) and worrying about due dates you can solve all your problems by a couple of clicks.
In an online library, you simply run search, find the book if it is present and open it – all in a matter of seconds. No worries about overdue books, no scouring the shelves, no wasting time getting there and back. You can search a dozen libraries for any literature you may need within minutes – for a student racing against time before yet another deadline such an arrangement is a godsend. And, what’s most important, all this is provided by online libraries free of charge.
1. Internet Archive
Most associate the Internet Archive only with its Wayback Machine, but it provides a treasure-trove of free texts, video and audio recordings as well.
2. Library of Congress
No list would be complete without the Library of Congress, with its thousands upon thousands of texts, photos, newspaper scans and other exhibits, mostly concerning the history of the United States.
3. Smithsonian Digital Library
For some reason, few have heard about the Smithsonian Libraries, which is a shame, considering that they have digital versions of thousands of books on topics ranging from advertising to natural history.
4. Project Gutenberg
Over 50,000 free electronic books, with the number growing to more than a 100,000 if you include the texts provided by sister projects such as Gutenberg Australia and Gutenberg Canada.
Kobo is primarily a bookstore, but it offers an impressive choice of classic titles by such authors as Jane Austen, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain and others.
6. International Children’s Digital Library
This project is exactly what it says on the tin – it is a digital library centered on children’s stories. Texts are available in many different languages, and flexible search function allows looking for books based on themes or reader’s age.
A wide range of titles, including works by classical authors, scholarly texts and historical documents, quite useful for research work.
8. University of Pennsylvania
In terms of academic literature, the University of Pennsylvania probably takes the cake – its digital library offers over 2 million free books, no strings attached.
9. High Wire
A top resource for those writing academic articles. Stanford University offers almost 2.5 million full-text articles from most prominent scientific publications.
10. Open Library
Open Library is an enormous library catalog aiming at creating a page for every book ever published. They may have not achieved it yet, but they sure do try – there are more than a million books available for borrowing.
Many people associate online libraries with pirated content, but it needn’t be true – all these libraries are completely legit, and you may use them without being afraid of breaking the law.