Google Books, no longer offer PDF for public domain?

[NEVERMIND, it’s still there, as a “Download” link in upper right corner. Just a LOT more subtle and less visible, now that they’ve put their ebook store and viewer in the flashy eye catching location it used to occupy, if memory serves.]

[BUT they do have a ‘captcha’ on all PDF and EPub downloads, presumably to prevent bulk downloading. I think that’s new. And really annoying for users — captchas, in order to defeat software, have gotten so hard for humans to read that I had to try 3 times to succeed at Google’s. On the plus side, the download links are reverse-engineerable and predictable if you know the google book ID, so I could theoretically have Umlaut offer users direct links to download PDF or ePub (stopping at the captcha first, alas)]

At one point, Google Books let you download complete PDF’s for public domain books. Look, here’s the proof, Google telling us so in 2006.

This doesn’t seem to be offered anymore — you can read public domain books in full using Google’s online reader, but no PDF download is offered anymore. Am I right?

Anyone know anything more about this, or when they stopped, or if they told anyone?

HathiTrust offers complete PDFs for public domain books — but only to users authenticated as belonging to a HathiTrust member institution, at least for Google scans in HathiTrust.  I believe this is because Google requires them to limit PDF distribution like this, in their contract with Google.

Wonder what Google’s business interest or other reasoning is in removing PDF distribution of public domain and only allowing viewing in their reader?  It’s unfortunate, a PDF can easily be put on just about any “e-reader” device and read offline without internet access. Online reader access, may or may not work on a given mobile device (which has to have active internet connection at a minimum).


17 thoughts on “Google Books, no longer offer PDF for public domain?

  1. This is totally misleading. I just downloaded several PDFs from them last night. No problem. Easy to find how to get to PDF, and captch is no trouble at all.

    As a historical researcher, I continue to value that Google makes these public domain works accessible and easily downloadable.

  2. hum, sorry but i can’t see it for almost a year… where do you see this link? on or in ? on a book ? on a (virtual) bookshelf?

    i’m in France, so it’s possible that’s there’s no more button ?

  3. It’s quite possible they only provide PDF downloads of public domain books in the US. It is somewhat confusing to figure out what’s going on, or why. Google isn’t generous with the documentation.

  4. Actually google does still offer pdfs of its public domain offerings but not so easy to find if you don’t search what they do give you. I’ll use the book “Woodward’s National Architect” as an example from google books. Go to that book (didn’t put a link since I’m not sure if links are allowed here or not), on the right of the screen you see the blue/red/green book icon for Google ebooks. There will be two buttons (“Get It Now” and “View Sample”) directly under them is a wordlink that says “Read on your device” click on this wordlink. At the bottom of this new page that opens up you will see a big square with the AdobePDF icon and a little rectangular button that says “Download PDF”. Click that “Download PDF” button and save the pdf to wherever you keeps you public domain book pdfs.

    As for the person in France, I’m sorry but if what I wrote above doesn’t help you then that means that in your country this book either is not public domain or google doesn’t know if its public domain in France, and I’m not sure how to help you.

  5. Indeed, it seems that some books are not available everywhere.

    Marx’s Kapital for example is available in the original German version via (i.e. free) IN THEORY, but the pdf link links to Googlebooks, where, in France at least, it is not availble for free.

    I think Google HAVE recently made a change. The “Get It Now” and “View Sample” buttons referred to in the post above are not directly visible anymore (it seems to me they used to be), but there is a link (in the case of “Woodward’s National Architect” used as example) saying “free version available”, which now leads to a new page with the above-mentioned buttons.

    Thus, if there is no “free version available” link, there is no free version available… I assume Google must have restricted some access (only in some countries?) as, as far as I know, only references free resources.

  6. All of Google’s public domain books are now incorporated with the books from, which is much better, I think, than Google’s book site. It takes a bit of figuring to search for books there, but they still offer the largest selection of free books on the net.

  7. Only that those books on that link to supposedly free versions on googlebooks are not actually freely available on googlebooks, when connecting in France at least.

  8. I’ve noticed that every time I try to DL a “free” PDF file on full access books, the PDF is only 17 KB long and cannot be opened using any PDF reader. Despite the link being there, it is essentially worthless right now as none of the PDFs downloaded will work. The ePub versions do remain viable though, but it certainly isn’t as easy to use a PDF.

  9. I’ve just tried now, and admittedly I was using Chrome with my gmail logged in. I was able to get a copy by hovering over the EBOOK – FREE button/link, and then by filling in a captcha.

  10. Thank you, Tom. You’ve solved it!

    Using your suggestion, I too went to DL a PDF using Google Chrome (but without signing in), and was pleasantly surprised when the download Captcha came on (a clear sign that it was letting you get the file). I was then able to DL a PDF without any problems. Further, using Firefox I immediately went back to the same link, but clicks upon the PDF download request were met by the 17KB (null) file link instead. So, it seems that PDF FILES ARE STILL AVAILABLE SO LONG AS ONE USES THE GOOGLE CHROME BROWSER. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DL PDF’s WITH OTHER BROWSERS. Another Internet Explorer war brewing? I can’t believe that Google has become so shallow.

  11. pdfs not available for many days now. whale fail message with every attempt. any solutions?

  12. Johnny are you using Chrome? Alternatively you can try using “Iron browser”, which is Chrome without Google snooping features.

  13. i live in South africa and I also am unable to get pdf button in top rhs.I find that if one goes to and clicks the all files at the bottom of the files offered- this shows actual files available and the google pdf’s seem to work from there

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