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Ebooks @ UWaterloo : FAQ

What is an E-book?

An electronic book is a book published in electronic form. It could be born digital or scanned from print. In the context of this Guide, we are focusing on contemporary scholarly books and textbooks. Reference works and primary source materials are a lesser focus.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of E-books

On the surface, the advantage of an ebook is its portability, searchability and highlighting and notetaking etc. Where it gets complicated is in the vast array of formats, bookshelfs, platforms, e-readers, system requirements, various forms of digital rights management, particularly subscription/ownership and online vs downloadable, accessibility and the list goes on and on.

How do I get access from off campus?

Get Access Anywhere

"Get access from anywhere" is a means of making your off-campus computer appear to be on-campus. Use it to prove that you are affiliated with UWaterloo.  You will then be able to access online library resource, including ebooks.

Can I print out sections of an E-book?

Printing allowance is governed by the terms of the licence agreement between the University and the vendor. Specific allowances vary among resources.

Typically, ebooks hosted on a publisher platform are in DRM-free PDF and can be printed  on a chapter by chapter basis.

Can I download an E-book?

Downloading allowance is governed by the terms of the licence agreement between the University and the vendor. Specific allowances vary among resources.

Typically, ebooks hosted on a publisher platform are in DRM-free PDF and can be downloaded on a chapter by chapter basis. 

Two platforms (EBSCOhost and ProQuest Ebook Central) allow download of the complete book and transfer to mobile device. Digital rights management (DRM) restrictions apply and after the loan period ends, the book is no longer accessible. (The Download tab has more information.)

How many users can read an E-book at once?

Many of our ebooks are accessible to an unlimited number of users at the same time. Some are limited to one user at a time.

The Locations tab in the catalogue record will, in most cases, include an alert if there is a limited number of simultaneous users. Click on the Locations tab and then the Waterloo (or TUG) link to view the holdings information.

single user notice in primo record

What are common E-book file formats?

Below are the most commonly used E-book file formats.

  • AZW  
    Most AZW files contain DRM protection that only allows them to be viewed on the Amazon Kindle or with Amazon Kindle reading software.
  • EPUB  
    Free and open ebook standard; designed for reflowable content which means it can be viewed on most any device (whereas PDF may not display well on e-readers).
  • HTML  
    Ebooks in HTML can be read using a Web browser.
  • PDF 
    Most of our ebooks have chapters in PDF that can be printed or downloaded to a device (subject to licensing restrictions).
  • Plain Text 
    Displays in all devices.
  • Comparison of e-book formats from Wikipedia 

Can I read ebooks on portable devices?

Patrons using iPads or iPhones can download content to their Apple device and read via the free Bluefire reader app.

Downloaded ebooks can also be transferred to any portable ebook reader that supports Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). There's a list of these compatible devices on the ADE website.

In addition to these options, all portable devices with browser support can be read online via the web.

Can I use interlibrary loan/RACER to borrow the print version of a book that we already have electronically?

Yes, print versions can be otained by ILL if desired. Electronic books have many advantages but sometimes a print version would better meet your need, particularly when in-depth analysis is required. 

A request for purchase of the print copy should be directed to your subject librarian

What are usage rights?

Usage rights are a specific set of rules about what you can or cannot do with Library licensed content. eBooks and eJournals are almost always covered by Library licenses. Below is an example of how to use the usage rights information. More information about Library licensed content is available on the Copyright and Licensing page on the Library website. 


eBooks from the collection of University Press Scholarhip Online, have the following usage rights, as presented in usage rights bar:


For this set of eBooks you can use portions of the content on eReserve, in a Course Management System (CMS) such as LEARN, or link to the content, but you are not allowed to use the content in a Course Pack. For areas in the usage bar that state 'Ask', the Copyright & Licensing Librarian is available to answer questions. 

More information about usage rights for eJournals is available on the Finding Usage Rights page, or in the video: Using eJournal Content in LEARN