Online Library Resources for Writers

I used to hoard books but somewhere along the way I convinced myself that I really could find the information again if I needed it, and proceeded to donate most of my books. Since then I have needed the information in the donated books only a few times, but always when I was close to a deadline.

What do you do when you are writing a piece to deadline and you realize you don’t have the book you were going to quote from—and you don’t have time to go to the library or your local bookstore?

After figuring out a way to get the information I needed—just in the nick of time (every time)—I started to wonder what other people do to find the exact passage or quote they need, especially if they aren’t willing to buy an e-book, as I often end up doing.

There are many free library sources out there. They are most useful for classic books and poetry. Here are a few of the most popular ones: ( is the best resource I’ve found. You can find quotations, books, and poems that are all searchable. You can even browse through The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr, to brush up on your grammar, or jump right to the sentence element that is giving you the most trouble.

Open Library ( is a free, digital lending library of over 2 million books that can be read in a browser or downloaded to be printed.

Internet Archive Texts ( contains digital books collections, containing over 5 million books and other text items that you can browse through and read.

Project Gutenburg ( is the original free book source on the internet, but it’s homepage claims it has only 42,000 free digital books.

And one more tip: The last time I couldn’t find a book that used to be in my library, I went online to to download the book as a Kindle. Since I’d read the book (and owned it at one time) I didn’t feel bad about checking out the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon’s site. The passage I wanted to quote from was available for me to read so I did—no need to download it. As an aspiring writer as well as someone who believes in the Golden Rule, I want to emphasize that I wouldn’t do that if I hadn’t already bought the book—but if you are ever in the same situation, you might want to give it a try.

Do you know of any other free library resources for our writing community?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, mother, life coach, and family physician. I’m enjoying all winter has to offer, including sledding, but especially long evenings spent under a cozy blanket with my laptop.

44 thoughts on “Online Library Resources for Writers

    • Hi Pl,
      You are welcome. It’s funny how we can forget about resources even after we’ve used them many times!

      Happy writing!


  1. Reblogged this on Scribing English and commented:
    Thanks Diane MacKinnon for this extremely great list of resources. When books are needed, online Libraries are pretty handy, especially since I can’t seem to ever remember or be bothered returning library books. As a result, I’ve hidden my library card from myself, ESPECIALLY after racking up a $61 late fee. Oops!

    • Hi Talisha,
      Thanks for reblogging! And, as I wrote this post while sitting in my local library, I agree that libraries are a great place to get help. I use mine all the time–for quiet space to write, and resources for my writing!


    • Hi Cynthia,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and I’m also glad you signed up for our posts!

      Thanks for reading and subscribing!


    • Hi philosphermouseofthehedge,
      Yes, the site is easy to get lost on, there’s so much information!

      Happy writing!


  2. Diane, if I remember the name of the author and a part of the quote then I will key it into Google for the rest. You’d be surprised how many generous people there are out there willing to share. I’m not sure about pretending to be interested in downloading a book to buy when you don’t actually intend to do so. I understand that it seems unfair to have to buy a whole book just for the quote, but looking at it from a writer’s angle (yours) , I’m sure you would look at it differently if you had thought it through. Perhaps you already have.

    • Hi marymtf,
      Thanks for the tip about Googling the quote–I’ve done that in the past and I agree, it’s surprising how much you can find on the Internet.

      I also agree with you that I wouldn’t pretend to be interested in downloading a book just to get a quote. We all have to decide for ourselves, but I would only look in a book that I already had (or once had) in my library. I wouldn’t have any problem with someone doing that with my (future!) book so it wasn’t an issue for me.

      I only mentioned that tip because it saved me tearing my house apart looking for a book I couldn’t find or running out to the library or bookstore to purchase a new one and I thought it might save someone else (who, like me, might not be as organized as I could be!) some time.

      Thanks for your comments and for reading,


    • Hey marymtf,
      I’m replying here to your reply above. I wasn’t offended, I think it’s good to dialogue about questions like this. Thanks for reading and taking the time to chime in with your opinion!


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