Getting to know eBooks better

We have talked about eBooks a few times on the blog over the years. Whether you love or loathe eBooks, one thing is for sure – they are a big part of our library and academic lives.

Last academic year (21/22) we purchased almost 6000 new individual eBook titles and just over 300 additional licenses. In addition to the individual purchases, we continue to have access to a large range of eBook packages. The eBooks in our collection were used over 2.7 million times and we expect that to increase even more this year.

Although we maybe using eBooks more, we are aware it isn’t always straightforward getting started with them or using them. One day you may have access to a title, and then the next you don’t – or you receive a message saying there are no available licenses…

So, in this blog post we thought we would explain some of these queries.

eBook Purchases

  • eBook First Purchasing Policy: When the library receives a request for purchase, we buy an eBook if there is one available for a library to purchase (and it is affordable).
  • Institutional License: The library can only purchase eBooks with a license that can be used in an academic library. So although you may see a title on Kindle or the publishers website, it doesn’t always mean it is available for the library to buy – or it may be exclusive to an expensive subscription. Trust us, this is just as frustrating for us at it is you!
  • Types of license: Not all eBooks are unlimited access. The access to an eBook will differ from title to title, publisher to publisher and platform to platform. Licenses can range from ‘1 user’ to ‘unlimited users’ and even then, further restrictions such as license expiry dates and limited number of uses may be included. We always buy the title with the best access.
  • Turnaways: If an eBook you are trying to access is in use by another reader and there are no available licenses, the library is notified about this. Where additional licenses can be purchased, the library will do so. Sometimes an additional license is purchased automatically without the reader knowing there is an issue, and sometimes the library need to intervene to purchase additional licenses.
  • Preordering eBooks: eBook publication dates can vary and sometimes they are later than the print publication date. Unlike print books, in most situations we are unable to pre-order an eBook. This is because it might be included in an eBook package we have access to, or there is uncertainty if an eBook will be available for purchase.

eBook Packages

  • Additional Titles: Some packages that we have subscriptions to update during the year and new titles may be added.
  • Withdrawn titles: Titles that we have access to as part of an eBook package can be removed by the publisher or platform. Advanced warning is usually given to the library about this so we can look at alternative access.
  • Type of license : In most cases, eBooks that are part of packages are unlimited user. Where this is not the case information will be provided by the publisher or platform host.

Using eBooks

  • Read Online Vs Downloading : If you only need to use the eBook for a short period, we recommend that you read an eBook online rather than downloading the entire book – and remember to close your browser after using it. This frees up the book for another reader sooner.
  • Features: Although features may vary from platform to platform, most platforms allow you to alter the text size, change the font, alter the background colour and even offer read aloud features.
  • The difference between Digitisation and EBooks: There is sometimes confusion about the difference between our Digitisation service and eBooks. Digitisation is where we can scan a chapter, articles, or extracts usually only available in hard copy and in compliance with copyright law. We can’t digitise an entire book – even if we own it in print. An eBook, on the other hand, is purchased by the library either individually or as part of a package and available electronically as desribed above.
  • Information provided by Platform: The number of licenses and information about the amount you can print/copy/download is usually provided when you first access the eBook. The layout and location of this information may change depending on the platform, but it will look something similar to this.

These are just some important features about eBooks (and using them) that we hope you find useful, and that make your experience of using them less stressful and confusing!

If you want more information about eBooks at Durham University Library & Collections then visit our guide where you can find FAQ’s, information about Accessibility Statements, troubleshooting and more general information.

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