The Rapid Elearning Blog

free e-books and best e-learning books

One of my goals each year is to read one book a month that will help sharpen my course-building skills. I’m always asked for book recommendations. Some of the recommendations are for those getting started, even if you’re an experienced course designer it helps to review familiar course design concepts or expand to other fields like UX or graphic design.

If your goal is to read twelve books this year, here’s a list to help you get started. Even if you don’t read them all this year, some of these are good to have on hand in your elearning reference library.

Instructional Design Books

instructional design books free e-books and best e-learning books

Gamification Books

gamification books free e-books and best e-learning books

Gamification is more than a buzz word and the principles that make games work can be applied to course design to create more engaging and effective elearning.

Graphic & UX Design Books

graphic design books free e-books and best e-learning books

Courses are more than content. The look and feel of the content is also important as well as the user experience. Here are some good books to help you learn more.

Video Production

video books free e-books and best e-learning books

Video is viable for elearning now so it doesn’t hurt to learn more about using it in your courses. The challenge for many of us is how to do it on a budget. Here are two books that have been recommended to me. I haven’t read either yet. If you have, let me know what you think.

The links to Amazon books may produce a slight commission.

12 Free eBooks

I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a good list of free ebooks in the elearning community. If you don’t want to spend money, this is a good place to start. You have one free ebook for each month.

free e-learning books free e-books


My first book to read will be Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play. What are you reading this year?


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

17 responses to “Here Are 12 E-Learning Books to Read This Year”

Wow – Tom! This is perfect!

January 5th, 2016

Good list. I have many of those books. I do recommend Ruth Clark’s eLearning & Science of Instruction.

Thanks for the recommendation for Design for How People Learn. That led me to Usable Learning, which led me to a your talk on Cultivating a Shared Practice Community. This is EXACTLY the information I’ve been looking for, your experiences and stories are great to help people understand the challenges of ‘building’ a shared community.

I value the 5% and pay homage to you and the other 4%.

I agree with the other commenter who recommends Ruth Clark’s “eLearning & Science of Instruction” book. It provides guidelines based on research evidence (“grounded theory”).

January 5th, 2016

@Manuel and Philomena: agreed, Ruth Clark’s book is a one I’ve recommended quite a bit on this blog. I’d add it to my library of elearning books.

January 5th, 2016

@Mary: thanks for the kind words. FWIW I’ve actually outlined a book on building communities. Hopefully I’ll get it done. Unfortunately the content marketing folks have co-opted the concept of community and often focus on the wrong things. So I hope to add a slightly different perspective to the conversation.

Hey Tom – Where will you be traveling in 2016? Do you still put your schedule at the end of each post?

January 6th, 2016

@Rebekah: I’m still working on the calendar for the year. I should have some locations to report soon and then will post the details as they are available.

Here’s a book from my list. I’ve designed ILT forever and just started designing eLearning. I really liked Technology for Trainers by Thomas Toth. I learned a lot of best practices from the book.

Tom, a good list, but you might want to add the most important book in the learning space, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form. I’m biased, because it’s my book, but others are raving about it. It’ll be published February 2nd, but people can reserve a pre-publication discount now by going to:

January 7th, 2016

@BD: thanks for the book recommendation.

January 7th, 2016

@Will: look forward to going through the book

Hey Tom,

Congratulations — once again — on being in the Top Ten list…

You really worked for that one!


January 14th, 2016

Definitely think you should add Robert Mager’s books ( to the Instructional Design category of must-reads! I use Making Instruction Work with all new trainers as a kind of instructional design “survey course,” and the other books in his “Six-Pack” are really great for diving a bit deeper into some of the topics MIW introduces. (I particular like Preparing Instructional Objectives as the first follow-up.)

I know that these books aren’t about e-learning instructional design, per se (and maybe that’s why you didn’t include them), but I think that, before you learn about ID for e-learning, you have to already be conversant with the basics of ID.

Oh, and I agree with the others who have suggested adding e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, too!

Tom, Thank you for this recommended list. I will definitely check out many of them. Some to be mentioned “Gamification of Learning and Instruction” and “Design for How People Learn”. At the moment, I’m getting started to read “Learning Theories and Instruction” textbook as part of my graduate school study. From your list here, I sure I can use a lot of them to reference for my class research and etc. Thank you again for this awesome list.

January 18th, 2016

@Jirawat: good luck on your studies

January 27th, 2016

Thank you for this recommended list. agree with the other commenter