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Research Skills: eBooks: An overview

A guide to help you improve your research skills: make the most of your time to find and retrieve the information you need.

Overview: eBooks

eBooks offer some great advantages for our users. They can be accessed 24/7, from all over the world! They can't be lost or damaged. And, in many cases, multiple users can access the same eBook at the same time. This guide offers guidance on making the most of our eBook collections. Below you will find 5 short videos that cover: 

  • eBooks overview: What are eBooks, how do you access them and what are the benefits?
  • Concurrent usage: a quick overview of how user licences can affect how you access and use these shared resources.
  • Tips and Challenges: additional information to help ensure your use of eBooks runs as smoothly as possible.


About our eBooks

Although we'd love to be able to have everything available digitally for those who want or need it, not every book is available as an eBook for institutional purchase. For those that we do have, a huge advantage of eBooks is that, in many cases, they can be viewed concurrently by multiple users. We always try - cost permitting - to buy the most liberal licenses that allow as many users as possible to view our eBooks at the same time. However, sometimes there may be constraints on access and use. 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.
    • NB: Any pages or sections you download from the above platforms are available to you permanently. Only the download of the full book is temporary.

Advice for staff

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 if any of your module’s key readings are contained in single-user ebooks and we will investigate options available for improving access.

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