Frequently Asked Reference Questions

Finding Books

Example questions that are addressed using this FAQ:

  • If you’re the Internet Public Library, where are your books?
  • Can you help me find a book (or textbook) to download?
  • How can I find the latest John Grisham novel (or another bestseller) on the Internet?
  • How can I find a book that is new or a book that is out-of-print?
  • What is a classic and do you have any?

ipl is not a physical building with shelves and materials to lend; rather, it is an online resource that provides ways for finding books.

Free, Online Books

It’s important to keep in mind that most books published after 1923 are not available for free over the Internet even if they are offered in a digital form (such as a downloadable, electronic book). Books that are considered "classics" are often older (pre-1923) and can be found online through a few reliable sources. These are freely distributed so that you can read them on your computer, eReader, or other electronic device.

A good place for finding a list of distributors who offer freely available books that are accessible online is through the ipl’s Online Texts resource list. You’ll have to check with the distributor for the options for each title, and check back often as this field is growing with the current advances in digitalization.

ipl also has the eReader Resources Special Collection, which includes a list of eBook libraries that offer free eBooks or ways to borrow eBooks online.

Library Books

Another way to find books is through your local academic or public library. Besides hardback and paperback books, libraries usually have audio books and eBooks. Ask one of the librarians to tell you what’s available. If your library doesn’t have the specific books you need, ask about whether they offer an interlibrary loan service that could help you get the book from another library that does.

Not sure how to find your library? Go to our Library Locator page where we’ve listed resources to help you find the nearest physical library to you.

Books to Purchase

An alternative to getting books free online or at your library is purchasing books from a bookseller or bookstore. The Yahoo! Directory includes a list of bookstores.

If you suspect that the book you seek is out of print, you can contact a used book dealer. ipl’s Finding Used and Rare Books and Their Prices FAQ includes a list of sources for finding copies of used and rare books and getting estimates of their values.

Book Lists

If you don’t know what book you’re looking for, book lists, reviews, and recommendations are a great way to browse for the book that’s just right for you.

If you’re interested in “classics,” visit ipl’s The “Classics” of Literature FAQ.

If you’re interested in bestsellers, ipl’s All-Time Bestselling Books and Authors FAQ includes some popular weekly and periodic best-seller lists. ipl’s Book Lists and Awards resource list includes many websites that provide lists of bestsellers and award-winning books.

If you’re looking for book reviews, visit ipl’s Finding Book Reviews FAQ, which provides both online and offline resources.

ipl also has a Book Recommender Systems resource list. Book recommender systems can help you find books based on other books that you’ve liked. These systems are usually available at your local public library. Ask your librarian for help.

Finally, for more in-depth information about finding books, visit ipl’s Love to Read: Finding Books and Book Clubs Pathfinder.

This FAQ updated by Kara Larson in 2012.