The NLM Bookshelf: Free Access to Books and Documents in Life Sciences and Health Care

A previous post highlighted the UCSF Library’s guide to ebooks at UCSF. Since the library actually pays subscriptions for these ebooks they’re only available to UCSF faculty, staff and students. What if you aren’t affiliated with UCSF or aren’t on the UCSF network? You obviously have fewer choices in accessing ebooks but if you want to find free high-quality ebooks in the life sciences and health care you can’t do better than go to the NLM “Bookshelf” website:










Bookshelf is a full-text electronic literature resource of books and documents in life sciences and health care provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) within the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and complements the other biomedical literature resources at NCBI, including PubMed and PubMed Central (PMC).

Bookshelf titles are of varied publication types and topics, and includes public domain works as well as works the copyright holders of which have granted NCBI permission for distribution.

Bookshelf includes textbooks, monographs, health reports, documentation, website content and databases, covering genetics to advanced molecular biology, health care, health policy, health care evidence reports, clinical guidelines and health care policy analysis.

The collection is relatively small , but gives you access to important titles such as Stryer’s Biochemistry (5th Edition) and Molecular Biology of the Cell (4th Edition). Unfortunately you can’t simply browse the contents of some of these books but have to access text through the main search interface. (Note also that the most recent editions are usually not included). So, for example, if I’m looking for information on “protein synthesis” you type keywords in the search box:



..and get these results:


Now you click on Top results in this book:







Clicking on From RNA to Protein takes me to the actual text:



About David

David is the Education & Information Consultant, Basic Sciences
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