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University of York Library
Library Subject Guides

Ebooks Guide



The University of York owns and subscribes to individual electronic books (ebooks) and also to several collections which are only available to University of York staff and students.

All individual ebooks are listed on YorSearch with direct links to the full text. For some titles you will see we also have the print version.

Like physical books, ebooks are protected by Copyright Law. Some providers use Digital Rights Management (DRM) to control what you can do with an ebook in terms of printing, downloading and copying/pasting. Special software (such as Adobe Digital Editions or Bluefire Reader) will need to be installed on your device to download these titles.

DRM-Free ebooks will generally be in a PDF format and do not require you to have an Adobe ID or special software. There are no technical restrictions on these ebooks, but you must keep within the limits set down by Copyright Law.

In some cases only one person at a time can look at a particular ebook. If you can't access it, please try again later or add yourself to the queue when prompted.

Our ebook collections can be found in the E-resources Guide where you can filter by subject or category. You can access a resource by clicking on the title. You may then need to login with your University of York username and password.

Direct Links to Ebook Providers' Help Pages

Ebook Central
Ebook Central
Ebsco User Guide
VLeBooks User Guide

For other ebook providers please check the providers' own help pages.

Finding and accessing ebooks

How do I find and access ebooks?

The easiest way to access ebooks is by searching in YorSearch by title, author or keywords. Then click on the title to show all the available options. If an ebook is available, you will see a list of ebook providers.

Our Digitisation and Accessibility pages may also be of interest if you use assistive software or programmes.

Do I need to create a separate account to access titles?

Some ebook providers allow you to create a personal account so that you can annotate text and save searches, but it's not always necessary.

For EBSCO you will need to create an EBSCOhost account to download the whole book, but you won’t need an account to download a chapter.

For guidelines on how to create an EBSCOhost account please see the EBSCO LibGuides

What software is required? What browsers can I use?

To read ebooks online you just need a web browser. The latest version of most browsers should be compatible.

To view a downloaded ebook you will need software such as Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) if the ebook is DRM-protected. Most of the ebook providers will offer you a link to install ADE if you do not already have this. You can also find it on the Adobe website.

If the title is not DRM-protected then you will need Adobe Reader to view it.

ADE and Adobe Reader can be installed from the Software Center if you are using a managed desktop PC.

Why can’t I get access to a title?

Some ebook providers impose a limit on the number of users who can access an ebook at the same time. This can range from 1 user upwards.

If the ebook can’t be read because another user is reading it, check your YorSearch results page in case we have links to other providers.

Even though you may not be able to access it now, some providers offer a reservation/queuing system which will notify you when the ebook is available.



How do I “place a reservation” or “join a queue”? When will it become available?

Depending on the provider you may be given the option to make a reservation or join a queue by supplying your email address if the maximum number of readers has been reached.

Waiting times vary depending on number of readers in the queue. If you are not given this option you can try again later.

When the ebook is available you should be notified by email and you will be able to access the title.


I am being asked to log in or pay for content - should I have access to this ebook?

The ebook provider needs to recognise that you are from the University of York.

In some cases it may be that we do not own or subscribe to an ebook or there may be an issue with the ebook website.

If you are still unable to access an ebook after following these instructions, please contact us.

Can I access ebooks when I’m not on campus?

Yes! The recommended way is to log into Yorsearch with your University username and password and then selecting the ebook link.

In some cases it is necessary to follow a link on the service web site which says 'UK Federation', 'Shibboleth', 'Institutional Login' or 'Log in at your home organisation'. Choose University of York and then log in with your University username and password. 

Why has the title I was using vanished from YorSearch?

The title may have been part of a collection that the library no longer has access to.

If this happens, please put your request through our purchase request form as we may still be able to purchase it from another provider.


Printing, Copying & Pasting

How much of an ebook can I print or copy and paste?

Different ebook providers have different policies - some allow printing and copying while others do not.

For reasons of copyright, some providers use DRM to control what you can do with an ebook in terms of printing, downloading and copying and pasting.

Ebooks that are protected by DRM will allow you to print or copy up to a certain limit. The amount that you are allowed to print and copy varies depending on the provider and should be displayed on the screen. If you don’t see it displayed, then it should tell you once you click on the ‘Copy’ or ‘Print’ buttons.

For those providers which don’t use DRM, you should remember Copyright Law and license agreements limit the printing and downloading of ebooks.


Can I print from a downloaded ebook?

It depends on the ebook provider. Some (e.g. Dawsonera) allow printing only when you are viewing the title online, but some will allow printing from a downloaded title.


Why can’t I download an ebook?

All our providers allow ebooks or specific sections to be downloaded, but occasionally the publisher will have imposed restrictions on downloads. Please check the provider’s site for information on specific download limitations.

Some providers also require Adobe Reader or Adobe Digital Editions to be downloaded beforehand.

The ebook may also be in heavy demand, which will limit the number of downloads. If this is the case, you may be asked to ‘join a queue’ or try again later.

Can I renew or return an ebook?

Ebooks can’t be renewed. However, in most cases, once you come to the end of a download period you can download it again immediately.

Ebooks can’t be returned. Your access will end only at the end of the download period that you have chosen. .

Why has my permission to view an e-book expired?

You have probably exceeded your download period. To view the ebook, access the title through YorSearch and download it again.

Can I download an ebook to my Kindle / ebook reader / mobile device?

It depends on the DRM used by the ebook provider in addition to the file formats your device is compatible with. Content from providers that don’t use DRM can be downloaded to and read on any device compatible with PDFs. This goes for Cambridge Books Online, Oxford Scholarship Online and some others.

For Kindle, you can download PDFs to view on the device, but not DRM-protected ebooks because Kindles are not compatible with Adobe Digital Editions.

For providers that do use DRM, there are a number of applications available for iOS and Android devices which support Adobe Digital Editions. If you’re having trouble accessing ebooks on your mobile device, please contact us.

How long can I download an ebook for?

Access to a downloaded ebook varies on the provider. You may be able to access a downloaded ebook for anytime between a few days to an unlimited amount of time. If there are restrictions, the information will be provided with the download.

What's the difference between reading online and downloading?

Downloading ebooks allows you to read them offline. This will save a section or the whole book onto the device you accessed the book with.

You can only read ebooks online with an internet connection and logging into the University of York institution.

If I reach my download limit can I still view other sections of the book?

You may be able to read other sections online if you have reached the download limit. Check on the ebook provider sites for further information.

If I download a section of an ebook can I keep it forever?

This varies depending on the provider. Some allow a pdf chapter to be downloaded which you can keep forever but others will only provide a downloaded version for a limited time.


Can I read ebooks with a screen reader?

You can download some or all of an ebook as a PDF, which should be compatible with most screen readers. Some can also be downloaded in epub format.

All ebook providers must meet internationally-recognised Web Content Accessibility Guideline standards. This means you will be able to do the following with your browser:

  • listen to most of the website using a screen reader

  • change colours, contrast levels and font size

  • zoom in up to 300% without the text spilling off the screen except where content has been created by a user in such a way to not make this possible (for example within a non-responsive table)

  • navigate the website using just a keyboard

  • navigate the website using speech recognition software

We also provide the self-service facility, Sensus Access to create alternative formats. This service is for converting documents for your own personal use. 

Some screen reading software is available freely available through the university IT pages. TextHelp is a package of tools which can help you read texts online, which includes a PDF reader and has screen reading functions. Members of the university can find out more about the package and obtain the software for free from our TextHelp IT pages. The software Thorium is also available - this gives various options for reading PDF and epub files, including a screen reader function and can be installed on managed and unmanaged university devices. 

If you need specific academic support and adjustments to support your studies, please contact the university's disability services to put arrangements in place.


Accessibility Statements

The University of York has provided an Accessibility statement which the Library upholds. Please click on the link below for more information.

University of York Accessibility Statement

Ebooks available through the Library catalogue provide accessibility information through the providers. The providers are encouraged to meet the WCAG standards and each provider has an accessibility statement outlining the standards. The accessibility statements can be found on the providers' help pages. Links to the main providers can be found below:

Ebook Central



Where accessibility information is available, we provide a direct link in the "More Information" section of resources listed in our e-resources guide. For other ebook providers, please see the publishers' own help pages for their accessibility information.

This statement was prepared on 11/09/2019. It was last updated on 15/08/2022.

Contact us

If you cannot find the answer to your question on this page please contact us.

If you are having problems please include details of the resource you are trying to access, the route you have taken, the browser and device you are using, and any error message you have received, including a screenshot if possible.