Free Ebooks from the Library of Congress Put History in Students’ Hands

ibooks-promo-art-master-compTrace the routes immigrants took to North America. Highlight the orbits in Copernicus’ map of the solar system. Circle the “no” votes on Thomas Jefferson’s personal chart tracking votes on the Constitution. Zoom in on the faces of new arrivals as they step ashore at Ellis Island in a Thomas Edison film.

As the new school year begins, the Library of Congress invites students everywhere to touch, draw on and analyze some of its most valuable treasures–all via a new set of free interactive ebooks for iPads.

The new Library of Congress Student Discovery Sets bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details, and make notes about what they discover.

The first six Student Discovery Sets are available now for the iPad, and can be downloaded for free on iBooks. These sets cover the U.S. Constitution, Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance, and Understanding the Cosmos.

Student exploring one of the Library's new Student Discovery Sets

Student exploring one of the Library’s new Student Discovery Sets

With a swipe of a finger, learners can peer into the workshop where the Statue of Liberty was built or scrutinize George Washington’s notes on the Constitution. Using the portability that tablets bring, students can hand their work to a classmate to collaborate.

The objects in the Student Discovery Sets are primary sources–items created by eyewitnesses to history. From Galileo’s drawings of the moon to Zora Neale Hurston’s plays to Thomas Edison’s films, these maps, songs, posters, sheet music and iconic images immerse students in history, culture and science and give them the power to explore.

Primary sources have unique instructional power, says the Library’s director of Educational Outreach, Lee Ann Potter. “By analyzing primary sources, students can engage with complex content, build their critical thinking skills and create new knowledge. The Library’s new Student Discovery Sets provide rich tools for launching that process of analysis and discovery.”

The sets are designed for students, providing easy access to open-ended exploration. A Teacher’s Guide for each set, with background information, teaching ideas and additional resources, is one click away on the Library’s website for teachers,

Try these new interactive tools and let us know how you might use them!


  1. sdiana
    September 15, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Do you expect this to be available on other platforms? Our students have touch screen chromebooks and we would love to have this available to them.
    Thank you

  2. Davin
    September 15, 2014 at 10:44 am

    The iPad isn’t the only tablet on the market. What about Android tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab, which are better than the iPad.

  3. Gilles Brown
    September 15, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Shoot, iPad and Mac only. We have Kindles; we have PC netbooks. Will you be putting these ebooks out on other platforms?

  4. Stephen Wesson
    September 15, 2014 at 10:51 am

    We’re currently exploring other platforms!

    But in the meantime, all of these sets are available for browser viewing as Primary Source Sets on the Library’s site for teachers:

  5. Erin Jackson
    September 15, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I love this idea. Is there any Android platform available? Will one be coming?

  6. angi
    September 15, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Why ipad only first? Kindle please!!!

  7. Deborah
    September 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Is there a direct download link available? Because of the way our school iPads are managed, we can’t download iBooks from iTunes since the license agreement only extends to 11 devices and we have 20+ in a pool sharing one account. The only way to get around this is to do a direct iBooks file download to each device? Could that be arranged?

  8. Karen
    September 15, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    This is a great resource and I know my teachers will want to utilize it– PLEASE tell me that they will be available on other platforms. We have android tablets and will be getting chrome books in winter in the secondary schools, only the elementary schools have iPads 🙁

  9. jgoode
    September 16, 2014 at 9:43 am

    I could not locate the teacher’s guide that is supposed to exist for each set. Looked all over Could you please provide a direct link to the guides?

  10. Stephen Wesson
    September 16, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for the question!

    The teacher’s guides are on our Primary Source Sets page, along with printable versions of the documents. You can find them all here:


  11. Stephen Wesson
    September 19, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Deborah, we’re exploring that possibility now, and will keep you posted!

  12. David
    October 27, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    We also use chromebooks and would love to access these resources through those.

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