Lockdown Library: Here’s How to Get Access to Thousands Classic Books at No Charge

By Kurt Stolz on 25 March 2020
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A major difference between the Covid-19 outbreak and the Spanish Flu or Black Plague beyond the increase in the literacy rate is that, despite quarantines, lockdowns, and self-isolation, one does not have to sit home reading the Bible.

Today, thanks to the Internet, there are thousands of books readily available that open a whole new world to a reader’s eyes.

Indeed, today’s online world is resembling what was set forth in Neal Stephenson’s epic novel about life in the “Metaverse,” “Snow Crash,”  a tome that FBT Editorial Director Jonathan Spira counts among his favorites.

Starting in 2018, “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, a book of spiritual fables by a then obscure Lebanese-American poet, along with works by thousands of other artists and writers, including Agatha Christie, Joseph Conrad, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Marcel Proust, Edith Wharton, and P. G. Wodehouse have entered the public domain and are available at no cost online from a variety of different sources.

Here are our five choices for free access to the world’s best classics.


Don’t be fooled by this site’s ca. 1999 look and feel: In addition to tens of thousands of books, Classic Books, which delivers on the promise of its name, also offers useful resources for grammar and new original fiction.  The site provides an app that allows the reader to adjust the font, font size, background color, and more. 



With no fee or registration, the Project Gutenberg library of over 60,000 epub and Kindle eBooks is available for online reading or download.  No app is required beyond a Web browser or a common eBook reader.

Works here include classics including Goethe’s “Die Leiden des junge Werther,” “The Trial” by Franz Kafka, dozens of works by Shakespeare, and “Poirot Investigates” by Agatha Christie.

Project Gutenberg offers editable “bookshelves” in multiple languages including English, German, French, Italian, with topics ranging from Animals to History to Tech to Wars.



MIT created this extensive resource for Shakespeare’s plays and poetry in 1993 and it’s still open for you to browse today.



An excellent resource with works ranging from “Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser to Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth” to “Howard’s End” by E.M. Forster. There are numerous works by Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, and Rudyard Kipling.  It’s also an excellent resource for beautifully illustrated children’s books by Beatrix Potter with works ranging from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to “The Tale of Mr. Tod.”



Planet eBook has dozens of the world’s greatest classics including “Aesop’s Fables,” “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy, “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville,,“TreasureIsland” by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Ulysses” by James Joyce, “War and Peace” by Tolstoy, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë, and “1984” by George Orwell.


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