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An introduction to ebooks

What are they and why do I need to use them?

What is an electronic book?

Commonly referred to as an ebook, an electronic book is a searchable full-text electronic version of a print book. You can use an ebook for quick reference, read a chapter, or read the whole book.


ebooks@cambridge provides access to ebooks for all current staff and students of Cambridge University at any time, on and off campus. It is collaboratively funded by almost all Colleges, major Faculties and Departments and the University Library.

Why use ebooks@cambridge?

Many popular titles and books recommended on reading lists are available as ebooks for a range of subjects.

Access 24/7, on and off campus: members of Cambridge University have access from anywhere with an internet connection, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Additional features such as searching text for particular phrases and adding bookmarks and notes are available.

Finding ebooks

Most ebooks@cambridge items can be found using iDiscover. For a step by step guide on using iDiscover for ebooks see our eGuide to Finding and using ebooks. Read the ebooks@cambridge blog for updates on new ebook purchases.

Electronic legal deposit

Electronic legal deposit (e-deposit or eLD) refers to UK published electronic material which is deposited to legal deposit libraries. Search results on iDiscover will have a “conditions of use” note on to highlight that the book is accessible via e-deposit (rather than paid for via library subscriptions). More information is available via the Electronic legal deposit LibGuide.

There are certain restrictions for access to, and use of, e-deposit books:

  • Accessible only on designated PCs at the UL and affiliated libraries – and NOT at Girton College Library
  • Only one person can access a book at a time (to correspond with the rules for printed legal deposit books)
  • You can print from designated terminals in the UL. Printing from affiliated libraries is only available in libraries running the DS-Print system – copyright restrictions still apply ( chapter in a book)
  • E-deposit books are available to all registered readers of the UL (not just current staff and students of Cambridge University)

Open Access

Open Access ebooks are freely available texts. There are numerous platforms where you can search for open access books and some are listed on the ebooks LibGuide. Examples include:

Online Repositories are also useful places to access material not covered by university subscriptions.  One example is Apollo, the University of Cambridge repository; you will also find its resources listed on iDiscover. To find and search other repositories use:


For all ebooks there are still copyright restrictions. For further information check the ebooks LibGuide.

Library Guides

We have wide range of guides for College members to use

Find out more