ebooks explained

The COVID-19 pandemic and the need to study and work from home has led to increased usage and demand for access to ebooks, but we often get asked why certain books aren't available or why they can't be accessed, so we thought it would be useful to address some of those concerns.

Why don't you have this ebook? I can get it from Amazon for my Kindle.

You probably can, but when you buy it from Amazon for your Kindle that's only for you to use and you can't share it with anyone else. As a Library, we need to buy copies or licences of an ebook that more than one person can access at the same time especially if it's a key text.

There are three things to understand about this:

  1. Not all books are available as an ebook or for use in this way.
  2. ebooks may only be available with limited licences (single use).
  3. ebook licences may cost a significant amount of money - far more than a Kindle ebook costs!

We also have to buy our ebooks from ebook suppliers who provide ebooks for educational use, so just because you've seen it on Amazon, it doesn't automatically mean we can get it or buy it at the same price.

Some publishers are releasing their ebooks as etextbooks, which are basically annual subscriptions to allow a student group to have exclusive access to that book for the year. Whilst that sounds great, it's really not what the Library's philosophy is. We want to make all our resources accessible to everyone at Keele regardless of the subject you're studying, but etextbooks are limited and extremely expensive!

Publishers have been cashing in on the increased demand for digital access during the pandemic and you can read more about that in this article from The Guardian.

Why can't I access the ebook? It's telling me it's already in use.

Well, just like print books, an ebook may not be available at the time you want to use it as it's in use by someone else. We really do try to buy licences that allow unlimited user access, but sometimes they're just not available or they're really expensive. If it's a key text and we can't get multiple user access, then we'll buy extra single or 3 user licences as long as they're affordable.

Some of the ebook platforms will invite you to set up an alert and will let you know when the ebook is available again, but they don’t all have this feature, so please feel free to let us know if you can't access an ebook. We do get reports from our suppliers when you're unable to access a title and can decide whether we need to buy more licences if the demand is there.

Hopefully, that helps to explain how ebooks work for libraries. You can read more about how to access and use our ebook platforms from our ebooks help page.