Many texts used in 2000-level English courses may be in the public domain (are not under copyright) and have online versions available for free. Whenever possible, it is recommended to make students aware of the fact that a free version is available online. This opens up more options, allowing them to choose whether to purchase a print copy, opt for online access, or both.
Students can use the UH Libraries print credit to ensure they still have access to a print copy, if desired. UH students, staff, and faculty with an active CougarNet account receive a print credit at the start of every semester for use at UH Libraries. The print credit amounts to 500 black-and-white pages, or 75 color pages. More information: https://libraries.uh.edu/services/print-scan/
Caution: Unauthorized Online Copies
Be aware that you may find unauthorized online copies of books that are protected under copyright (for example, someone has scanned a book and posted the PDF online). You should not link to or otherwise provide copies of these unauthorized reproductions—doing so may open you or the University to litigation from the publishers.
Works published before 1924 in the U.S. are in the public domain due to copyright expiration. Be wary of “free online ebooks” you find that were published during or after 1924.
If you are unsure of the copyright status of a particular work, you can use the UH Libraries Copyright Services: https://libraries.uh.edu/research/communicate/copyright/.
Where to Find Public Domain Texts
Folger Shakespeare Library: https://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/
- Free, high-quality, searchable digital texts of Shakespeare’s plays; includes web version and downloads in multiple file formats
- Note that students who prefer to read from physical books can purchase matching mass market paperback editions, which include textual notes and synopses not found in the free digital versions
HathiTrust Digital Library: https://www.hathitrust.org/
- Digital library with over 8 million book titles; items in the public domain allow full view and items in copyright are searchable
- Log in for full access; search for University of Houston as a partner institution log in with CougarNet ID and password
- Over 13,200 free public domain audiobooks recorded by volunteers
- Searchable by author, title, and reader
- An excellent resource for students who benefit from listening to a text, or reading and listening simultaneously
Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: https://press.rebus.community/openamlit/
- Anthology of public domain texts with a socio-historical approach to introducing Early American literature
- This work is in progress; some sections are incomplete
Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/
- Over 60,000 free ebooks, primarily in the public domain (some copyrighted works are available with permission from the copyright-holder), digitized and proofread by volunteers
Examples of Texts in the Public Domain
Macbeth, William Shakespeare. Available for free at https://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/.
Paradise Lost, John Milton. Available for free at https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20.
The Virginian, Owen Wistor. Available for free at https://hdl.handle.net/2027/pst.000029710171.
- Downloading the full book requires logging in; on the log-in page, search for University of Houston then log in with your CougarNet ID.
Edward Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary. Accessible at https://poets.org/edward-hirschs-poets-glossary. The Academy of American Poets has made available more than forty entries from Edward Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary (2014). The selections primarily cover poetic forms, detailing both their history and their traditional characteristics. In my Introduction to Poetry course, the students read entries on the stanza and free verse.
The Poetry Archive Glossary. Accessible at https://www.poetryarchive.org/glossary. This glossary of poetic terms not only provides brief introductions to key literary concepts; each entry also includes links to relevant poems—both texts and audio recordings—that are accessible in the archive.