Free readings!

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 21, 2020

Many of us are currently locked up, in one way or another. For some of us this means no time for leisure – the people who are ill, the health workers currently making heroic double and triple shifts, workers struggling to get their work done in a virtual way, and parents and other careworkers being overwhelmed by the 24/7 homeschooling and carework. But for others, it means more time to read or watch movies, since there is nowhere to go. And given that acts of kindness and solidarity are now especially important, it’s nice to see that some publishing houses are putting out some of their book for free for everyone to download. Thanks!

Let’s share what we know is available. Here’s a start – Verso is offering 5 books (in ebook format) for free, which are all contributions to the post-pandemic world we might want to strive for.

And of course, pandemic or no pandemic, fully open access academic publishers, such as Open Book Publishers, are always providing us with free readings. Not all PDFs are for free, but some are, including Noam Chomsky’s Delhi Lectures on Democracy and Power.

Have you come across other intellectual, artistic, entertaining or otherwise valuable resources that have been made freely available to all?



bjg 03.21.20 at 5:47 pm

Perhaps in the category of entertaining rather than intellectual or artistic, Messrs have 5293 ebooks, each in several formats, all now out of copyright in Canada. Fans of older detective fiction will find Albert Campion, Father Brown, Bony, Dr Thorndyke and others; Hornblower is there, as (amongst the authors) are Enid Blyton and Aldous Huxley.



Stephen Frug 03.21.20 at 5:59 pm

Peter Frase’s FOUR FREEDOMS — one of the six Verso books — is superb. I recommend it to everyone. Now to go check out the others…


Tyson Woolman 03.21.20 at 6:05 pm

Haymarket is offering ten free e-books as well. Naomi Klein, Angela Davis, and others.


Luis 03.21.20 at 7:30 pm

I’m reading Journal of a Plague Year, by Defoe, from Project Gutenberg. Horrifying but clinical/distanced enough to be emotionally bearable.


Clinton Castro 03.21.20 at 7:44 pm

I am a huge fan of audiobooks, all of which I stream for free through apps made available through my local public library system (Miami-Dade). We (Miami-Dade) has access to hoolpa and Libby, which offer a great selection of audio books (as well as ebooks, movies, and music). Audiobooks are great for a time like this because you can listen to them while cleaning, going for walks, and watching after children (which I’ve been doing A LOT of lately!)


ravedubin 03.21.20 at 8:33 pm

Most of these come with strings attached (enter credit card #, the 5 “free” books turn out to be exactly 1 on a topic that’s of no interest to you, etc.). Here are alternatives that are free (as in “free beer”) in more than one sense (as in “free speech”):


Kiwanda 03.21.20 at 8:50 pm


Bob Michaelson 03.21.20 at 10:16 pm

There are also books available courtesy of the Internet Archive – see
and scroll down to #2.
People might also enjoy the free movies in #1, or the old-time radio shows in #4, or some of the others. I’ve been listening to many of the radio shows, including Vic and Sade, few of which I’d heard previously (unfortunately 2000 disc recordings of the show were destroyed just before 1940, and many more subsequently – many of the surviving recordings were made privately off the air and have very poor sound quality.)


dilbert dogbert 03.21.20 at 11:46 pm

Yesterday’s Man pissed me off. When you kill the unions, you birth huge money politics.
Unions could harvest small money and create big money. Now the Democratic Party has to go where the money is. My other rant is the end of the fairness doctrine. That created Faux News.


hix 03.22.20 at 2:19 am

Got to say, i find the concept that everyone´s already homeschooling a bit scary. Let the kids have some free time, its stressfull for them aswell.


nnyhav 03.22.20 at 2:31 am

until April 2, a selection of 30 free ebooks:


Zamfir 03.22.20 at 8:46 am

@ hix, my eldest is only 5, but even for her a bit of home-schooling every day helps to relax. It’s familiar stuff, and also a break from playing with her brother (which she likes, but it gets frustrating if it is full-time)

My wife teaches high schools students, 15 to 18 years old. She says that many of them feel the same – a few hours of online school gives them structure, familiarity, something to do at home.

I suspect the same is true for many adult home workers right now. “Going to the office” feels good, even if the work itself is often of questionable use given the changing economy. And peehaps something similar applies for “home schooling” parents – it gives the parents a structured thing to do as well.


Lee A. Arnold 03.22.20 at 11:25 am

How about a systems history? This link starts an automatic series of very short (average 1 minute) videos as a single story. Your kids might like it too. I’m always making new ones, reformatting and reshuffling, so suggestions are more than welcome.


john 03.22.20 at 12:14 pm

I second C. Castro recommendation –check your local library system for Hoopla and Overdrive. Ebooks (inlcuding economics, science, etc.), TV, movies, etc., available in multiple languages. If your library sponsors author events, they may be available on the library’s pod cast page and YouTube. Catch up on exciting lectures that you’ve missed!

As this crisis subsides, don’t forget to make a donation to the library.


novakant 03.22.20 at 12:37 pm

Great idea, Ingrid, here are some more links (I’m trying this again):

The Berlin Philharmonics offer 30 days free streaming:

The Met Opera offers nightly free streams:


Mike Huben 03.22.20 at 2:30 pm

“Z-Library is one of the largest online libraries in the world that contains over 4,960,000 books and 77,100,000 articles. We aim to make literature accessible to everyone.”


Chris Bertram 03.22.20 at 3:25 pm

And if you are willing to pay for books, then if you have a local independent bookshop, they may well be running a free delivery service (or post) during the pandemic. Such businesses find it tough to operate and may well go under if we don’t support them, to the benefit of Jeff Bezos. So, a suggestion: if possible give them some money on account against future orders now.


nnyhav 03.22.20 at 4:03 pm


Ingrid Robeyns 03.22.20 at 4:05 pm

Thanks all for the free suggestions – and totally agree with Chris about supporting our local booksellers!


SC 03.22.20 at 8:15 pm

You can vote for the next day’s free ebook on the Seven Stories Press twitter. Some fantastic titles in the list(s). (Maybe some Octavia Butler titles will make the list!)


Donald 03.22.20 at 8:19 pm

I clicked on the link to Open Book Publishers and got a warning saying that the link wasn’t private, someone impersonating a website might be trying to steal my data, etc…

Anybody know what that is about?


ph 03.23.20 at 12:55 am

I’ll second Chris @ 17. I just sent a list of free online resources to quarantined relatives in the UK. But Abe Books (used bookstore global network) has an excellent selection of titles in a variety of languages. This a great time to buy a book and help out.


MikeN 03.23.20 at 3:56 am

I am curious about “Yesterday’s Man”. I suspect it is proof positive that in this time of crisis we need Biden to step aside and offer the nomination to Bernie!, the Man of the Hour.


EthylEster 03.23.20 at 9:14 pm

Your public library is probably closed but you can still check out e-Books and audiobooks remotely. Download Libby, enter library card number and PIN, start browsing.

(Apologies for repetition if someone has already pointed this out.)


kent 03.24.20 at 1:32 am

It isn’t super intellectual, for sure … but Zach Weinersmith has free ebooks (mostly comics and silly stuff) available on his website right now.


Peter T 03.24.20 at 10:28 am

Another good way to pass the time at home is to help lift the standard of self-published work (and it badly needs a lift) by joining any of the numerous beta-reader sites for aspiring authors. One Australian one is:

You might even find some gold amid the dross.


Lucy Barnes 03.24.20 at 4:11 pm

Great to see OBP mentioned here Ingrid, thank you! Just to say that PDFs of every OBP book are freely downloadable or readable online, and all HTML and XML editions can also be freely read and downloaded.

People might also want to check out the Directory of Open Access Books ( and OAPEN Library ( which share tens of thousands of OA books, including OBP’s. There’s also the ScholarLed presses ( who are all Open Access academic book publishers (OBP is one).


Javi 03.24.20 at 5:03 pm

Hi @Donald, sorry about that, on Sunday we had an issue with the certificate at OBP’s website. It’s been fixed since Monday morning – so feel free to visit again!


bianca steele 03.25.20 at 5:21 pm

Seconding the recommendation for Hoopla. Their collection of nonfiction ebooks on all subjects is surprisingly extensive, but the “Genre” menu is easy to miss and necessary for avoiding the algorithm. They also have a wide range of resources for kids.

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