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Restrictions to be aware of when using e-books

Many of the common issues and restrictions related to e-book usage are due to the e-book licences that the Library has to purchase. We purchase e-books to be available to all of our users and these institution-wide licences are very different from the 1-to-1 licences that operate when you, as an individual, buy an e-book.

Therefore, restrictions apply to how many users can read an e-book at any one time, the number of times a book can be used each year, what proportion of the text can be printed/saved, the period of time that users can access content that they download etc.

Many e-books acquired by the Library are subject to Digital Rights Management (DRM). This is technology that e-book providers use to control access to and restrict usage of e-books. The Library aims to provide DRM-free content wherever possible (subject to availability and value for money): examples of e-book platforms that are DRM free at chapter level include JSTOR, Springer e-books, Wiley Online e-books.

The library also enables access to collections of open access e-books via Library Search. Platforms such as Knowledge Unlatched, OAPEN and Open Book Publishers offer online reading without DRM and can also be downloaded.

Some of the restrictions that apply to downloading e-books are specified in the Downloading e-books section.

Restrictions on how many users can access an e-book at the same time

Most e-book collections the Library subscribes to allow multiple users to access the content at the same time, enabling you to access titles when and where you want. However, some e-book collections include licences that restrict access to a specific number of users at the same time. The Library is alerted when access exceeds these levels and we aim to obtain another copy/licence as soon as possible.

If you are placed in a queue or received a message that ‘this e-book has reached its concurrent user limit’ it is because the book is being used by the maximum number of users permitted by the licence type:

  • You will be advised either to reserve the item/join the queue (after which you will be notified when the e-book becomes available) OR you will be advised to try again later.
  • Please close your browser window once you have finished reading the e-book, as this will keep waiting times down to a minimum.
  • Different e-book platforms have different settings for the number of reservations one user can make at a time, the amount of time that you have to activate the item once it becomes available and the number of opportunities that you will be given to activate this loan once this first opportunity has been missed.
  • Please see the section ‘What to do if all books are in use?’ for further information in relation to the relevant e-book platform. 

If you are repeatedly getting turn-away messages of this kind please contact the Electronic Resources Helpdesk.