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Accessing Resources

ebooks@cambridge: FAQs

A guide to finding and using ebooks at the University of Cambridge

ebook FAQs


To recommend an ebook please complete the online recommendation form. Requests for ebooks for teaching & learning will be routed to your faculty or departmental librarian for consideration. Research requests will be routed to the relevant department at the main University Library.

Ebooks will come up alongside other material types when you search Cambridge Libraries Collection in iDiscover (you will also find our ebooks if you search Articles and online resources). Ebooks to which we have  access will show up as ‘BOOK’, with either a green Online access link (record 1 below), or a grey Online access restricted to designated PCs … link (record 6 below):

(Record 6 refers to an Electronic Legal Deposit ebook).

If you want to exclude print books and restrict your search to ebooks only, select the ebooks filter from the dropdown next to the search box before running your search:

NB this filter will exclude Electronic Legal Deposit ebooks.


When searching iDiscover you will come across ebooks that look like this:

These ebooks have not been purchased by the libraries, but have been made available through Electronic Legal Deposit. The terms of the Legal Deposit regulations state that the content may only be viewed on library premises controlled by a legal deposit library. There are designated terminals at a number of locations across Cambridge libraries.

We sometimes purchase fully accessible alternatives to titles received on Electronic Legal Deposit, so check iDiscover to see if this is the case.

Cambridge alumni:

One of the benefits provided for Cambridge alumni is off-campus access to a selection of eresources (ebooks and ejournals). Log-in is via your email account, not Raven. Information and access is available via the Alumni Office's Journals and Online Resources webpage.

Membership of the UL also entitles you to access our full range of eresources (except Dawsonera, for which a Raven account is required) from within the University campus network, as described below.



Others with a legitimate research interest will first need to join the University Library. Once you have joined you will be able to use our eresources, including ebooks (except Dawsonera and VLeBooks), from within the University Library building using our IT facilities or your own device connected to the wireless network. You will not be entitled to off-campus access to eresources.

Each ebook platform/publisher is different, but most allow you to download ebooks for offline reading. Ebooks are offered in either pdf or EPub format. To download EPubs to your device you will first need to install an ereader app such as Bluefire Reader and obtain an Adobe id.

Kindle devices are designed to use Amazon's own e-book formats: AZW and AZW3 (KF8). Kindles also support other file formats, including ePub and pdf (the file formats of most eBooks). It is possible to transfer some pdfs and ePubs to Kindle either by connecting the computer or device displaying the pdf or ePub file via a cable, or by emailing the file as an attachment using Amazon's Send to Kindle service.

Ebook platforms should work across all of the main browsers, providing you are using an up-to-date version. Individual publishers’ help screens usually provide information on which browsers/versions are supported. That said, we do sometimes encounter incompatibilities between certain platforms and browsers. If you come across a problem that seems to be browser-related, it can sometimes be resolved by switching to a different browser.

Some ebook platforms (Ebook Central, EBSCOHost and VLeBooks are the main ones) use Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM schemes are access control technologies that restrict usage of copyrighted material, such as ebooks. For example, Ebook Central limits the length of time that an ebook can be used offline and the number of pages that can be copied or printed. When using an Ebook Central ebook, you will see the limits clearly displayed:

Not all ebook platforms use DRM. DRM-free platforms (such as Cambridge Core, Taylor & Francis Online) impose no technical restrictions on the use of their content. However, users are obliged to observe copyright law as well as any licensing terms governing the use of a platform.

A note about Electronic Legal Deposit ebooks:

Electronic Legal Deposit ebooks are different in many ways to the ebooks purchased by Cambridge libraries. Terms of the specific legislation do not allow copying or downloading in any form (this includes emailing, copy and paste or saving to a memory stick). Printing is permitted, although the amount that you can print is also limited by the legislation. Read more about Electronic Legal Deposit.

On some platforms (Ebook Central, EBSCOHost and VLeBooks) you will find ebooks that are restricted to a limited number of concurrent users. If you see this message, the limit has been reached. You will need to wait until one of the users finishes with the ebook before you can access it. Ebook Central lets you join a waiting list and receive a notification when the book is available.

The ebooks@cambridge team receives a ‘turnaway’ report every time one of our users tries and fails to access a title for this reason. We use this information to purchase upgrades where funds allow.

This and other issues related to referencing ebooks is covered on the Cite ebooks tab.

Assuming no technical or access problems (see Access ebooks if you're unsure), a padlock next to an ebook means that we have not purchased that particular ebook on that particular platform. More often than not, we only buy access to a selection of titles on a platform.

If you find a padlocked ebook on a publisher's or aggregator's platform, it is worth searching for it in iDiscover as we may have access through a different provider. For example, we might have bought access to an Oxford University Press title through e.g. VLeBooks. In this case, you would find the ebook unlocked and available on the VLeBooks platform, but padlocked and inaccessible on Oxford Scholarship Online. There would be no information on Oxford Scholarship Online to tell you about our VLeBooks access. This is why we usually recommend starting your search for ebooks through iDiscover.

If we do not have access to an ebook through any platform, you might want to make a recommendation

We have full ebook access to all of CUP's monographs via Cambridge Core. Titles can be downloaded as pdfs, and there is a handy Send to Kindle option too.

There can be up to one month's delay between a new ebook appearing on Cambridge Core and the same title appearing in iDiscover. 

For further information about Cambridge Core, see our platform hints and tips and this blog post (September 2016).

No! The University pays for academic ebooks so that you don't have to. By using a device connected to the Cambridge network, or by logging in with your Raven account off campus, you will be recognized as a legitimate user of any ebooks that the University has purchased and will not be presented with a paywall.

If you do come across a paywall while trying to use an ebook please let us know. There might be a technical problem, or more likely, we haven't purchased the title you are trying to access. We will consider recommendations for new ebooks based on availability of funds and suitable licence arrangements.

Check our Troubleshooting section and Raven FAQs on our Access ebooks page, or contact or your faculty or departmental library.

We gladly accept ebook donations that are published open access with a Creative Commons licence, or are freely available to read and download online with the author's stated permission. We ask that donated ebooks are hosted on a secure and stable website, and we will either add a record to iDiscover or link to the book from the Free and Open Access page on this LibGuide.

Contact us

Further ebooks information for Cambridge librarians can be found on the Cambridge Libraries Intranet.

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