The famous scene between Matt Damon and the bar-room bully in “Goodwill Hunting” shows the titular character Will Hunting stepping in to embarrass a pompous Harvard student for mocking his friend. He dismisses the guy’s expensive education as something he could have gotten for “a dollar-fifty in late fees at the public library,” alluding to the largely symbolic nature of his Harvard degree. Change “the public library” to “online” and that quip holds true for much of modern post-secondary education.
The entire wealth of human knowledge exists on the web, if you know where to look. Below are the best free sources for reading and knowledge on the internet.
B-ok.cc is an abbreviated spelling of “book” and is the official website of Z Library, one of, if not the largest sources of free book downloads on the web. It converts new and old books into a variety of common formats, including epub, mobi and pdf. Simply sign up and start searching for digital books you are interested in reading.
As within anything that purports to be free online, it is always a good idea to utilize a VPN while taking advantage of these sites. Z Library features several different ways to search books, including by author, title, ISBN and publisher. It also carries books in a variety of languages and is actively looking to build its presence and encourage reading in countries around the world.
Sci-hub defines its mission as a desire to “remove all barriers in the way of science.” The home page is rich with symbolism and features a raven, a folkloric symbol of knowledge in many cultures, holding a key in its beak. At the top left-hand side of the page the website boasts that it is the first in the world to “provide mass & public access to research papers.”
Sci-hub is the go-to place for cutting edge research and academic articles. Its database is constantly being updated with new papers, so there will be cutting edge knowledge and information available there from the current year. Sci-hub is great for searching articles that you already know the exact name of, but which are currently behind paywalls on other sites.
Project Gutenberg, named after the German inventor of the first printing press, Johannes Gutenberg, is a repository for all public domain works from throughout history. These 60,000+ free ebooks are ones that are no longer protected by intellectual property rights and are open to unrestricted access and reproduction. This volunteer effort, founded in 197, works to digitize and archive all such works of literature and non-fiction. It is the world’s oldest digital library.
The website has a search function, a top 100 list, a latest books section and a place to create a bookshelf and curate your reading list. Here you will many of the classic and most important works from throughout human history.
YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine behind Google and the platform has completely revolutionized learning and the way we access and absorb information. YouTube is awash in free courses, podcasts, and niche channels with which to fill your brain.
One of the most notable things about YouTube is the variety and number of great documentaries hosted. There are hundreds of channels dedicated to free high-quality documentaries, including one literally titled “Free Documentary.” A quick browse through their “videos” section displays hundreds of documentaries uploaded over the course of several years.
Feedly does not host files in the same way any of the above sites does, but it is a very convenient and free way to organize your information diet and curate custom news feeds for yourself. Feedly is one of many “news aggregators” online which allow you to select from basically every media source on the web and build a news feed constantly updated with new articles, announcements, press releases, tweets etc. from these sources.
You can separate your news feeds into categories and compartmentalize your reading. Whether it is for work, school, or personal reading, Feedly is a free way to make reading and learning easier and more organized.
Knowledge is power, but you have to know where to go to get that knowledge first. Incorporate the above 5 web resources into your learning and self-education and take advantage of the internet’s and digitization’s best feature: democratized access to information.