Using eBooks in courses

How to make the best use of eBooks in your course.

eBooks are an alternative to print books and can be more convenient.

Unfortunately, eBooks from public online stores like Amazon can only be used by the person who bought them and not loaned. Libraries have to get eBooks from platforms that enable library lending. Publishers don’t always include their books on these platforms and licenses are expensive and usually have strict restrictions. For example, most eBooks have a licensing restriction on the number of people who can view or download the eBook at one time – if one user downloads the eBook it’s treated as a loan preventing anyone else from accessing it for a week or more.

There are a few options to work around this when preparing your course reading list.

Using the eBook:

If we only have the print version, or don’t have the book at all, email Library Content with details of the book and your course (including whether it’s an in-person or online course). We can find out if the publisher has made the eBook available to libraries.

If we already have the eBook in LibrarySearch, simply add it in your Leganto reading list and select the access option(s) you’d like us to investigate. Alternatively email us with the title of the book, the course code and the number of students in the class (if you know). We can then advise you what restrictions the publisher has placed on the eBook, and we can usually disable downloads to prevent it being ‘checked out’ to a single student.

Note that if a student has already downloaded it, we can’t force its return, so it’s important to contact us before the course begins so we can get it ready in time.

Also note that we reset changes at the end of each semester, so if you use the book again for future years you will need to notify us again. (Leganto automates this process.) 

PDF of one chapter from print version:

If you are only using a single chapter of an eBook for the whole course, you can make a PDF of one chapter or up to 10% of a print version of the book available to the course. If the library doesn’t have a print version, we can request the chapter via interloans. This PDF must be uploaded via Leganto so that we can comply with our copyright licensing obligations.

Usually, this option is not the best choice if you want to make multiple chapters available throughout your course, but you can email to discuss possibilities if that’s something you need to do.

Open access eBooks:

If you don’t need to use a specific title, you may be able to find similar content as part of an Open Access eBook. You can search for OA eBooks in:

  • LibrarySearch – Search by subject keyword, then use the facets on the left to narrow your results to Show Only = Open Access and Material Type = Books or Book Chapters. Or search directly in Leganto to add items to your course reading list
  • The Directory of Open Access Books – includes OA content from large publishers including Springer and Routledge
  • OpenStax peer-reviewed textbooks tend to cover broad disciplines at a range of levels
  • Open Textbook Library contains peer-reviewed textbooks affiliated with universities and other scholarly organisations
  • Milne Open Textbooks contains textbooks authored and peer-reviewed by SUNY faculty and staff.
  • OER Commons is a searchable collection of open educational resources including shorter readings, lecture notes and course modules that you can also use (or, depending on the license, adapt) for your course.
Publish open access:

You may already be writing a book, or you may have found that existing books don’t meet your course’s needs. Please consider publishing your book with Open Access.

Traditional publishers may give the book some prestige and pay a small amount. However, their models mean fewer people can afford to read the book – some lecturers even find themselves in the position of their own students not being able to access their own book.

Increasingly academics are publishing their books Open Access to make sure they’re available to all and avoid the problems that come with publisher restrictions. There are different ways to do this, and we’re keeping an eye on a number of ongoing projects in New Zealand to identify the advantages of different approaches. If you’re interested in knowing more about publishing an Open Access eBook, email us to discuss your options.