Faculty & Staff Resources

Looking for instructions on using library ebooks?

Please visit our guide on Using eBooks and Online Magazines. This guide provides an overview of the different access models, permissions, and restrictions that come with library ebooks. The Using eBooks guide offers step-by-step instructions for downloading and reading ebooks.

Library eBooks as Course Materials

Each semester, the library reviews the spreadsheet of course adoptions reported to the bookstore by faculty. In addition to pulling any print books owned by the library from the stacks and placing them on reserve, the library evaluates the availability of ebook editions for each title. While we may not be able to purchase every ebook used in courses in a given semester, we do attempt to purchase as many as possible, with priority going to ebooks available in a DRM-free format and titles which the library does not already own in print. Faculty are always welcome to reach out to the library to see whether titles of interest are available in an electronic format for libraries to license.

Common Library eBook Access Models

  • Single-user (1U): This model is similar to having a single copy of a book on the reserve shelf at the library. Only one person at a time may view the book online in a browser. If you try to view the book while another person is using it, you'll receive a message to try again later. As soon as the person using the book closes their browser, the book becomes available for someone else to view. The library typically disables full-book downloads for single-user ebooks being used in classes to prevent any one person from monopolizing the book, just as we do not allow borrowers to take reserve books out of the library building. However, publishers sometimes permit users to download or print limited portions of books. If a 1U book is not being used in a class, you can usually download it for a set period of time (often 1, 7, or 21 days), during which no one else can access the book. To read downloaded 1U ebooks, you must use free third-party software (Adobe Digital Editions). EBSCO ebooks may also be read offline on mobile devices using the EBSCO app.
  • Unlimited-user with digital rights management (DRM): This model is similar to borrowing a book from the library for the semester, in a magical world where the library had enough copies for everyone. Any number of people may view the book online simultaneously or download it for offline reading. To read downloaded UU-DRM ebooks, you must use free third-party software (Adobe Digital Editions). EBSCO ebooks may also be read offline on mobile devices using the EBSCO app. Loan periods vary; sometimes, you can choose a loan period at the time of checkout; other times, the publisher or the library defines the loan period. At the end of the loan period, the file can no longer be opened, but the book may be borrowed again.
  • Unlimited-user, DRM-free: This model is similar to owning your own copy of the book. Any number of people may view the book simultaneously or download it for offline reading, printing, etc.. Downloaded files do not expire. There are no technological restrictions on what you may do with the content (though publishers' license terms dictate acceptable use). Any compatible software may be used to read DRM-free ebooks offline.

A handful of library ebooks are available in a three-user (3U) model. In general, the library no longer purchases 3U ebook licenses, just as we do not generally purchase multiple copies of print books.

How do you know which model applies to a given book? The ebook record will tell you whether the library has access to one, three, or unlimited copies. If there are no restrictions on printing, downloading, etc., chances are good that the book is DRM-free. You can also ask the library, and we can find out for you.

Whenever possible, the library acquires DRM-free editions of ebooks. However, relatively few ebooks are made available to libraries under this model. 

Printing Out Library eBooks

The record for each ebook specifies how many pages may be printed/downloaded, as well as how much of the book can be copied/pasted. 

In general, users can print out DRM-free ebooks in their entirety.

For books with DRM, publishers determine how many pages each user can print. These permissions vary on a title-by-title basis, from no printing allowed at all to 100 pages or more available for printing. 

eBook Formats and Offline Reading

Publishers make most academic library ebooks available in PDF and/or EPUB format.

To download PDF and EPUB books with DRM (most library ebooks) and read them offline, you must use specific free third-party software (Adobe Digital Editions; to read EBSCO ebooks on mobile devices, you can use the EBSCO app instead). This software works with the digital rights management integrated into the book to prevent you from keeping the book beyond its loan period, saving/printing/copying more than permitted, etc. When you go to download an ebook with DRM, you will be prompted to verify that you have Adobe Digital Editions on your device.

To download and read DRM-free PDF ebooks, you may use any PDF software you choose. Common free options are Adobe Acrobat Reader (all platforms) and Preview (Mac).

To download and read DRM-free EPUB ebooks, you may use any EPUB software you choose. Common free options are Adobe Digital Editions, Calibre, Aquile Reader (Windows), and Apple's Books app (Mac, iOS, iPadOS). Check your device's app store for other free EPUB reader options.

See our Using eBooks and Online Magazines guide for instructions on downloading and reading library ebooks. 

Library eBooks and Text-to-Speech

Almost all library ebooks are compatible with common screen reading software like NVDA (Windows), VoiceOver (Mac), and built-in Web browser text-to-speech functionality. 

Ebooks with digital rights management (DRM) may not be compatible with all screen reading software, such as Kurzweil. Students who need a specific ebook format in order to access the book effectively are encouraged to contact MCLA's Disability Resources Office, who can sometimes arrange access to accessible versions of books that are only available to students with documented disabilities.