Free Books for Your Classroom: Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and More

Schools around the world face similar issues and a major one for many institutions is funding. This is something that I have come up against numerous times, and you probably have, too. Maybe you’ve thought up some brilliant unit on Shakespeare and discovered that your school doesn’t have enough copies of whatever play you’ve chosen to go around or your English language section is just not large enough to satisfy your best readers and there’s nothing you can do—or is there?

Well, Project Gutenburg is here to save the day with more than 42,000 ebooks to choose from. Everything is free in the United States (residents of other countries are urged to check with their countries’ copyright laws before downloading material) and many texts come with multiple formats so while your students could read directly on their computers using Adobe Digital Solutions or other free software, they could also download versions compatible with their Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other digital devices. This might not be the same as your grandmother’s English class but it definitely opens up a world of possibilities for schools with limited library resources or budgets.

It all sounds amazing, but I should warn you that you won’t find everything you’re looking for. These books are usually older and they are offered for free because their copyrights have expired. Searches for Harry Potter and the Hunger Games trilogy did not pull up the books I was wanted, but material by William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens were all well represented.

To support the site, consider making a donation or even volunteering. Volunteers help in a number of ways including proofreading and creating audio books; the information for volunteering is at the bottom of the home page. I hope this can be of use to you and your students this school year. Good luck and happy reading!

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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2 Responses to Free Books for Your Classroom: Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and More

  1. Mohammad Jamir Haider Babla, Chitttagong, Bangladesh. says:

    All great books are absolutely free!
    I have never found such a website containing free books of all categories. I have already found the greatest classics of the world. It might be one of the greatest virtual libraries in the world. This site is a lighthouse for the interested readers and creative teachers all around the world.
    In countries like Bangladesh, this virtual library will be of great use. Thanks

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      I was amazed when I found the site too, Mohammad! Honestly, I will use it more for myself than for my students because there are a ton of classics I haven’t read yet but there are also some texts that I think students would enjoy as well. As I search for books to use with my advanced reading class, I am finding that a lot of them are period pieces with older English which may be too difficult for lower level ESOL students but with enough searching, you’ll probably find something for every level. I’d be interested in knowing what you choose in the end. The website does have a note about copyright issues so I would just be sure that there are no problems with using these texts in Bangladesh before you share them with students. At any rate, I completely agree that a virtual library like this one has a lot of potential.

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