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Durham University

University Library

Ebooks Guidance

Many of our ebooks are purchased as collections. Examples include Oxford Scholarship Online, Cambridge Collections Online, and ACLS Humanities e-books, although there are many more. Titles within these collections do not usually impose restrictions on how many people can be viewing them at any given time, but in some cases there may be restrictions on how many pages can be saved or printed.

Where you see references to Ebsco/NetLibrary, to Ebook Central/MyiLibrary/EBL, or to Askews/VLEbooks there will often be constraints on access and use. Many titles from these companies restrict the number of members of Durham University who can be viewing at the same time and most restrict the number of pages that can be saved or printed. These restrictions are imposed by the publisher. Typically one of the following licences apply:

  • Single User Licence – Allows only one member of Durham University to access the ebook at any given time.
  • Multi-User Licence – Typically allows 3 members of Durham University to access the ebook at the same time, although the exact number can vary slightly.
  • Unlimited Licence – An unlimited number of users can access the ebook at the same time. There are still usually limits on how many pages can be saved or printed.

Additionally there are usually two ways an ebook with such restrictions can be accessed:

  1. They can be ‘streamed’ to your web browser a page or section at a time through the site's dedicated viewer. When you choose this option one of the slots is blocked while you are viewing but released for others to use as soon as you exit the viewing application.
  2. They can often be downloaded in full to your computer. If you choose this option the book is ‘checked out’ to you for a fixed period of time. During this period one of the slots is blocked and the book cannot be ‘returned’ early. The book ceases to be available to you on your device when the download period expires.

It is strongly recommended that you check the library provisions of all key readings described in you module handbooks or reading list as soon as you get them. If any are only available through Ebsco/NetLibrary, Ebook Central/MyiLibrary/EBL, or Askews/VLEbooks it is advisable to access the books using the 'view online' option immediately and to save the pages you have been instructed to read. Once saved, you will have permanent and unfettered access to those pages. As the 'download' option blocks access for others for longer, please only use it where there is a genuine need for extended use.

The number of pages that can be saved/printed is set by the publisher and we cannot have those adjusted. There is, however, often flexibility on the number of students who can view the book concurrently. There is not always an unlimited option available but we can usually increase accessibility by purchasing multiple licences. Please alert library.resources@durham.ac.uk if any of your module’s key readings are contained in single-user ebooks and we will investigate options available for improving access. Please encourage your students to follow the advice in the section marked ‘Advice for students’.

In Ebsco and in Ebook Central the number of slots or 'copies' available for any given book is described in the page you arrive at after following the link from the library catalogue or Discover. Askews/VLEbooks is the only provider imposing restrictions that does not currently describe the restrictions clearly for each book.

In Ebook Central you can save full chapters directly from the contents page, providing the number of concurrent users isn’t currently at the maximum permitted by the licence (in which case the link will be greyed out). Saving the chapter from here means you are not taking up a slot that could be used by somebody else.

If you are unable to view the book you need because all of the slots are occupied, try checking the library catalogue for the book’s title, as some ebooks are available from more than one site or we may have print copies available to consult.

The 'view online' option is like taking a physical book off the shelf to consult it. While you are 'holding' one of the 'copies' nobody else can access it but it becomes available to them as soon as you put it back. Using this option many people can consult the book in one day and just 'photocopy' (by printing or saving) the bit they need.

The 'download' option is akin to borrowing a print version on your library card. You take it away for a fixed period of time and nobody else can view it until you have returned it. You can still print or save the bit you need during this time but you can't 'return' the copy early. While you are 'borrowing' the copy other people can place reservations in a queue the same way you can with print copies.

Where a 'multi-user' licence is in effect, the number of 'copies' varies. Most of these copies can be 'borrowed' but one copy will always function like a 'reference only' book in that only the 'view online' option is available. Thus with multi-user licences at least one of the copies circulates fairly swiftly and several people can consult it in one day.