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eBooks at Strathclyde: Academic Staff

Academic Staff - eBook information

eBook availability

The Library's collection development policy prioritises the purchase of electronic material where available. When a book title is requested the Library will try to purchase both an eBook version and print copies.

However, there are instances where the purchase of an electronic version of a title is not possible:

  • The publisher may not produce an eBook version in a format suitable for Library lending
  • The eBook version available from the publisher may have access restrictions which make it unsuitable for Library purchase
  • The cost of the eBook version available from the publisher may be prohibitive 
  • There may not have been an eBook version available when the Library purchased the print copies or the eBook version that was available has now been withdrawn

The Library purchases eBooks from a range of publishers using different purchasing/subscription models. The most common models are:

Model  Access
Unlimited access Unlimited number of users at the same time
NLL/Credit model Limited to a set number of credits e.g. 200. Multiple users can access at the same time until credits depleted
1/3/10 users Limited to specific number of users at the same time

Source: Adapted from National Acquisitions Group:

Some publishers have switched to a hybrid access model where there is a combination of credit and user models e.g. 3 users can access an eBook up to a limit of 200 credits which can cause difficulties for Library budget allocations. Increasingly publishers are choosing to provide eBooks in an eTextbook format which has significant implications for Library budgets and student access (see eTextbooks section below for more details)

Class size and access issues

Access issues can be a problem when there is a large class but only limited eBook options. A recent example is a 1 user licence costing £656, with a 3 user licence at £1312 for an essential reading list text for a class of 180. The concern was that even with a 3 user licence students would be turned away at a high rate which would cause frustration. There is an argument for purchasing more print copies when the eBook price is so high, but this can also cause issues e.g. when access to print stock is restricted or for students studying remotely.

Your Faculty Librarian and/or the Reading List team will liaise with you when looking at these issues to try and provide the best access options possible.

Using eBooks for assessments/exams

The switch to online exams in 2020 resulted in some students having problems accessing eBooks during a set exam time. The different access models highlighted above can mean that students are not able to access a particular title within their assessment window. Therefore it is important that the Library is made aware of texts that are likely to be in high use during an online exam so we can look to increase access (either by purchasing more licences/credits if possible or by reducing the lending period of the title on the relevant platform). If you are aware that a particular title is needed for an assessment/exam and you would like the Library to check the access options, please get in touch with the Library on as soon as possible.


Another type of access and licensing model that is becoming increasingly used by some publishers is eTextbooks. The purchasing model of eTextbooks (usually from suppliers such as Kortext, VitalSource or Bibliu) is a single copy per student model, where the student rather than the Library 'owns' the copy purchased. This has implications for the Library because these copies can't be used again and again by different students over many years unlike print copies or other eBook licence models. Publishers who make their titles available via these eTextbook providers don't usually offer any other eBook licensing model to Libraries. This has a substantial impact on the ability of Libraries to offer electronic access to some titles as committing to purchasing individual copies of titles to individual students year in, year out is not financially feasible within current Library funding and budgets.

Digitisation as an alternative

If the Library is unable to provide access to a title electronically, digitisation may be an alternative. The Library's Digitisation service can scan certain material for teaching purposes under the conditions of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Photocopying and scanning HE licence. This usually restricts scanning to 10% (or 1 chapter) of a title although  for some publishers this can be increased to 20%. Contact the Digitisation service or your Faculty Librarian for more information on this option.