What’s so great about ebooks?

Ebooks are hardly a new invention but there might be some things about the ebooks in the University of Oxford that you don’t know.

Access anytime, anywhere

Although any people like the smell of books and the feel of paper in your hands ebooks have a great advantage in that they can be accessed from anywhere. All the ebooks we purchase can be accessed from anywhere whether the room in your college or travelling the world. You just need to sign in to SOLO then follow the View Online link to the ebook or sign in to the platform.

You can also download most of our ebooks. We have thousands of ebooks from many different suppliers so the methods of download can vary. If you are having problems check out the downloading ebooks section of our ebooks guide.

Ebook on tablet on towel, next to pool with sun hat and sunglasses.

Read ebooks anytime anywhere

Limited licences

We always try to by ebooks that will be accessible to the most people but this is not always possible. Some ebooks are only sold with a 1 user or 3 user licence. This means that only one person, or up to three people, can use the ebook at once. When we can afford to we buy multiples of these licences.

Many of our ebooks have unlimited DRM free access. This means that any number of people can access the ebooks at the same time and you can download it and keep the copy forever. We always try to get this type of ebook if it is available.

Screenshot of an ebook showing bibliographic details. The text limited User Access (6 Copies Available) is highlighted.

Some ebook platforms show how many licences we have for that ebook. Not all platforms do this.


In the past few years we have been begun subscribing to EBAs or Evidence Based Acquisitions ebook packages. These packages work by allowing us to access a range of ebooks from a publisher for a one year subscription. We pay a fee to access a large group of ebooks but it costs less than if we were to buy the individual ebooks. At the end of the subscription, we keep the most used ebooks. This allows us to purchase ebooks that we know are of interest to our readers. The more an ebook is accessed or downloaded, the more likely we are to keep it.

We have several EBAs relevant to science and medicine including

You can see the full range of EBAs that we subscribe to on Databases A-Z.

Ebooks and ORLO

So ebooks are easy to use and we have 1000’s and 1000’s of them, but it’s still annoying to have to search for them right? If you have an ORLO reading list then the available ebooks will be linked on the list. Scroll through your list and click the handy View Online button. You’ll see your ebook in one click!

Screenshot of a book on an ORLO reading list. The View Online button is highlighted.

Just click the View Online button to access the ebook.

Electronic Legal Deposit

Electronic Legal Deposit (eLD) items are materials which Oxford has received under Legal Deposit legislation which entitles the Bodleian Libraries to a copy of every item published in the UK. One restriction on using these items is that they can only be accessed on public computers in one of the Bodleian Libraries. Also, digital copying is not permitted under current legislation. You cannot copy and paste, take a screenshot, download or scan this material.

This can make electronic items difficult to access. If there is an alternative ebook try using that instead. If there’s no alternative you may want to recommend that we purchase an ebook of that item.

Screen shot of SOLO showing a normal ebook and an electronic legal deposit book.

Normal ebooks have a green dot and say Open Access under the title. Electronic Legal Deposit books have an orange dot and a notice that they are an Electronic Legal Deposit item.

Can’t find the ebook you want?

If there’s an ebook you want that we don’t have then use our recommend a purchase form. If it’s available and is suitable for our collections we’ll purchase it. Unfortunately, some ebooks are only made available for an individual to purchase not an institution. That’s why you might see something available for kindle but not in our collection. We’ll do our best to find the titles you recommend so let us know what you are looking for.

A cartoon of a penguin holding some print books and a toucan holding an ebook reader sayiing "Can you buy..."

Try recommending a purchase.


We try not to use jargon when talking about ebooks but sometimes there’s a lot of specialist terms. “DRM Free”, licences, eLD and much more. Hopefully we explained some of these terms but if you have any questions about ebooks contact your subject librarian or our enquiries team.

Wordcloud of terms related to ebooks.

2 thoughts on “What’s so great about ebooks?

  1. Thanks you for your kind words about the RSL and your fair feedback on ebooks. We’re aware that the ebooks we provide can be inconsistent. Some have excellent accessibility features and provide downloading and printing of the whole book. Other publishers and ebook platforms do not provide these facilities. Whenever possible we try to purchase ebooks that can be fully downloaded and printed so that our readers will have maximum access and review the accessibililty features of ebook providers before we subscribe to them. Colleagues and I will look into this ebook and see if the accessibility can be improved.

    I will pass on to the relevant subject librarian that you would like a print version of the 5th edition of Cognitive Neuroscience and we’ll try to get a print copy purchased. If we only have something as an ebook and you would like it in a print format please let us know and we will try to purchase it. If you have any questions about ebooks, print books or any other library services please just let us know (enquiries.rsl@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and we are happy to help.

  2. I recently visited the newly re-opened Radcliffe Science Library (it’s a fantastic refurbishment by the way). It’s been a few weeks since I joined the University as a member of staff. Somewhat fittingly for the Halloween season I wondered around the library like an undead aged Zombie. Hardly anyone was using a book. I was somewhat sad as I saw barely a single physical book taken off the shelves.

    But I would like to suggest that whilst e-books clearly have their advantages, there are drawback as well.

    I am almost partially sighted. I and computer screens do not agree with one another. Even with adjustments the glare can just sometimes be too much.

    I was in the library to find a textbook called ‘Cognitive Neuroscience’ which is published by Cambridge University Press. I should have looked it up before I came as it turns out that it the fifth edition seems to be only available as an e-book. The book is made available to the University via an online platform called Cambridge Spiral. You can download the Spiral app onto your phone, or tablet. It is also available on a computer of course. Sounds great right?

    Yes – but … Nothing is formatted as it is on the printed page. Pictures and diagrams do not show up when you try and print them. I had to find ‘creative’ ways of assembling the print-out, figures, and diagrams in a way that made sense. Nothing is available as a formatted PDF to download. Tables were available to download -seemingly in Excel format. My dreams of a nicely formatted table of neurotransmitters were – well let’s say I was disappointed a bit. I need something to cheer me up.

    I got a ‘printing allowance’ of 120 pages for the book from the publisher. Well, if you get the page range wrong for any reason tough luck. It still comes out of that allowance.

    I’m sorry for being such a scrooge. There are real and tangible benefits to eBooks. But they are not as wonderful as they seem, and the humble but mighty printed text still has its place (as it has done for hundreds of years at the Bodleian). On a more serious note, I do wish that eBooks were better formatted as they are for their printed versions. For anyone in Oxford do please pay the RSL a visit. It’s a good place and the staff are very knowledgeable and friendly.

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