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Durham University

University Library

Electronic Article Delivery

Software required. To view electronic articles supplied by British Library you will need Adobe Reader version 10 or above and a British Library On Demand login and password. If your web browser has a built in pdf viewer then you will need to temporarily disable this to allow the document to open directly into Adobe Reader.

When you request a copy of an article or chapter from another library through the Document Delivery Service it will be sent to you via email, unless you specifically ask for a paper copy. Many articles will be sent to you as a pdf attachment, but scans supplied by the British Library are sent as an email with a link to download the article that you have requested. British Library scans are locked to you personally, so you will need to register with British Library to view the documents.

Electronic delivery is fast and because delivery is via email you can access the documents wherever you happen to be, giving you even more flexibility to work how and where you like.

The guides below tell you more about how it all works.


Points to note:

  • Paper copies. If you would prefer to receive a paper copy of an article then un-tick the box marked "Send me an electronic copy if possible" on the request form and choose where you want the hardcopy delivering.
  • Availability. Articles will be delivered electronically where possible, but there may be occasions where we have to supply a hardcopy. When placing your Document Delivery Service request please choose a convenient delivery address in case a paper copy is supplied (the default option is to hold the article at the Bill Bryson Library and we will email you if/when the paper copy arrives).
  • Spam/Junk mail. Emails from British Library will come addressed from and could be identified as junk mail by your email software. If you have not received the email from British Library by the time the confirmation email from the Document Delivery Service arrives, then check your junk and deleted items mail folders before contacting Document Delivery Service staff.
  • Inbox size. If your email inbox is full then we will not be able to deliver the pdf or email to you.
  • Printing. Files can be large, so print longer documents (100+ pages) in sections.


If you have problems opening your document here are a few things to check:

Registration for On Demand is a two step process. Check to make sure that you have completed both parts: the initial registration and then activating the link in the email sent by British Library and completing the second half of the registration. Once the online forms are completed it might take up to 5 minutes for the British Library to process your registration, so if the system doesn't recognize your details then give it a couple more minutes and try again.

If you do, then you may not receive the registration email which you need to activate your On Demand account. You can request an activation link by logging in to your On Demand account once you have completed the first part of the registration process. There will be a link in the top right corner to "new account activation link" which you can use to request the missing email.Use the link in the email to activate your account and complete the second part of the registration process.

Usernames over 30 characters long, or those containing an '@' symbol (like email addresses) can cause documents to fail to open. Select a shorter username without an '@' symbol when registering. You could use your CIS username since it is sufficiently long and varied enough.

Contact British Library for a reminder of your username.

Contact British Library to re-set your password. If you change your password then you can continue to access saved documents using your new password, but you may need to amend saved account information in Adobe Reader (see instructions under "are you on a shared computer?" below).

A previous user might have stored their BL On Demand password and locked you out.

  • To clear previously stored information in Adobe Reader: go to Edit>Preferences>Security and click and confirm the 'Clear remembered account' option, then try opening the document again.

This is required on all devices to view documents. Documents will not open on any other PDF viewer.

Some browsers (like Google Chrome) use their own viewer so you need to disable them or paste the document web address into another web browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox. Internet Explorer is the recommended browser to use as the "save" option is sometimes unavailable in other browsers.

  • Disabling the Google Chrome viewer: type 'chrome://plugins' into the address bar, scroll down to 'Chrome PDF viewer' and click 'disable'.
  • Apple users might prefer to use Safari rather than Google Chrome as their browser for mobile devices, but other browsers may work.
  • Microsoft Edge browser (used by Windows 10) will not give you the option to open the document in Adobe Reader: save the document instead. When you open the saved document you will be offered a range of tools to use to view the document: select Adobe Reader at this point and your DRM Lite document should open into Adobe Reader.

Online access is required every time you open the document. If you are going to need access to an article and will not have internet access then print a hardcopy.

The WiFi service has a limited capacity, so if you are using it in an area with poor reception, or using it at a busy time then your document might not connect successfully with the security software at British Library. Try opening the document using a direct internet connection, or try again later using WiFi.

The download link will work for 30 days from the date of the original email from British Library, so you must save or print a copy before this time elapses. After this date you would need to re-order the item so that a new scan can be created. There will be a charge for re-scanning the document.

Use the option to "save" or "save as" when downloading the document in Internet Explorer as the option to save is greyed out if you select "open" and view the document first. If you do not have the option to save either at the point of opening the document or when viewing the document then try using a different web browser.