Like most textbooks, German textbooks can be quite pricey. Especially for students with a low-budget or those just looking for a good way to get started without breaking the bank, free online textbooks can be a good alternative. But where to find them?

When you search online for free German textbooks online, there are quite a lot of 19th century books from the public domain. Sadly, they often use outdated words and the indecipherable Fraktur typeface which makes them pretty useless to most learners and teachers. On the other hand there is also a handful of really good free German textbooks out there, but they can sometimes be hard to find. This is why I’ve collected my personal top 5 free German textbooks below:

Deutsch im Blick

“Deutsch im Blick” is an excellent free textbook for beginners. It was developed by the University of Texas and is just as good as many expensive German textbooks. It comes in PDF format and has tons of additional (downloadable) and interactive materials. There are video clips, quizzes, quests, audio for pronunciation and comprehension practice and much more. By working through chapter 1-10 and the various materials anyone will be able to acquire basic German skills in no-time, free of charge.

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A Foundation Course in Reading German

While it doesn’t have the audiovisual bells and whistles of “Deutsch im Blick”, this open online textbook by Howard Martin and Alan Ng still is a very solid and structured German textbook. Most importantly, it doesn’t require any previous experience or knowledge. It’s mostly pure text which may seem bland it first, but the clean and concise presentation is its greatest strength. Whether you follow the table of contents in the sidebar or jump through links across the chapters, navigating through the content is a breeze! (Also features interactive exercises.)

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FSI German Basic Course

Another excellent resource that shouldn’t be missing in any post about free German textbooks is the FSI German Basic Course. This course was originally developed in the 1960s by the US government’s Foreign Service Institute and is now in the public domain. It was designed by with absolute beginners in mind. This book teaches the most basic vocabulary for daily situations, fundamental grammar and everything else you’ll need in the beginning. The presentation may seem a bit drab, but who needs glitzy graphics? This is still one of the best free German textbooks you can find on the net. The archive.org has both the original text in PDF, EPUB, MOBI and other formats. In addition to that, there are little audio snippet which you can download as MP3s or stream.

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Essential German

This online textbook by Eugene R. Moutoux, subtitled “A No-Frills Approach to Reading and Writing German “, actually consists of four different books. Most of it is text, with the occasional image. By working through the various chapters, you’ll learn everything from basic grammar to fundamental vocabulary. Also, there are exercises and short stories for practicing reading skills. The presentation may be in need of an update. Most importantly, though, the content and basic layout of the free edition provides a solid way to begin learning the German language. (In addition, a revised paperback edition apparently is available from the author for a fee.)

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Tom’s Deutschseite

I’ve already mentioned this website in my article about German worksheets, but it also deserves a place right here. Because apart from the excellent grammar explanations (in English) and worksheets to download or print, this website is as comprehensive as traditional textbooks and covers a lot of ground from grammar to spelling, basic vocabulary, pronunciation and more.

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5 Free German Textbooks For Beginners

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