This guide helps you understand how library e-books work and how to access them.
If you're new to using e-books and want to know how they can support your studies: check out the books and e-books section in our Library Research Skills Moodle module.
Where you can find e-books
The best place to find individual e-books is LibrarySearch. You can filter your search results to only show digital resources.
Have a look at our e-book collections as well, because:
- a few of our e-books are not included in LibrarySearch
- e-book collections are great for browsing, especially for books within subject areas.
If an e-book is not available in the Library please get in touch or fill out our request a book form and we'll try and order it for you. Sometimes we can't buy an e-book due to cost or license restrictions. We'll let you know if this is the case and we're happy to discuss possible alternatives.
Read online or download
If given a choice, choose Read online rather than Download:
- this enables as many people as possible to access our books simultaneously
- we can't provide Adobe Digital Editions on student PCs on campus.
For some e-books, the number of people who can access them at the same time is limited. Downloading is like borrowing a book. While it's on your device it won't be available for anyone else to use, even while you're not reading it.
If you can't work online, you can download the e-book to your own device. You will need a specific application.
We recommend Adobe Digital Editions, which is available on PCs, Macs, iOS and Android.
Downloading e-books to your own device or computer
When you download e-books from some providers you'll need to use Adobe Digital Editions.
To access University Library e-books, you need to create an Adobe ID which matches your Kent email address (signing up is free). If you want to read across multiple devices, each device must be activated using the same Adobe ID.
When you download the book, it creates a .acsm file in the ‘Download’ area on your computer. When you open this file you will see a pop-up window that says 'Authorize Your Computer'.
- Set the ‘eBook Vendor’ dropdown to Adobe ID
- Enter your Adobe ID and password
- Click Authorize
Do not tick ‘I want to authorize my computer without an ID.’ It would tie the book to the device and you wouldn’t be able to access it on other devices.
When you open the e-book on another device you need to sign in with the same Adobe ID again to authorise the new device to access the book.
If you have tied the e-book to one device by authorizing without an ID you need to erase the authorisation from the device:
- open Adobe Digital Editions
- from the ‘Help’ menu choose Erase Authorisations.
I've chosen a PDF, why am I getting an ACSM file?
When you download e-books, these will be in regular file formats like PDF or EPUB. However, in the first place you download an ACSM file which allows you to then download the PDF/EPUB.
The e-book platforms use ACSM files to control usage and to manage the number of days that the e-book is on loan to you.
- Download the ACSM file and open this with Adobe Digital Editions (ADE).
- ADE will download the e-book from the platform.
- Read the e-book in ADE. Even though the e-book is a PDF or EPUB, it can't be read with the applications you normally use for these files.
This is because the e-book has Digital Rights Management control. This can only be authenticated by ADE.
We have a range of free tools, apps and software that can save you time, make it easier to access e-books, study materials and increase your productivity.
There are sometimes restrictions to reading and downloading library e-books depending on the publisher
On the website where the e-book is hosted you can find information about the availability, choice of reading online or downloading and the length of time you have access to the e-book. These details often vary across platforms, so you'll need to check in each instance.
Limited user access
For some e-books, the number of people who can access them at the same time is limited. When this limit is reached, you'll be able to preview the e-book for 5 minutes or sometimes be given the option to be 'added to a queue'. You'll get an email when the e-book becomes available.
Don't choose the option to buy a copy.
Time limits on downloads
Sometimes downloading an e-book is a bit like borrowing a physical book: loan periods may apply. This means you can only keep an e-book for a certain period, depending on the provider. After this time you can no longer open it on your computer or device.
Unlike print books, e-books are not automatically renewed. You may be able to download it again if no-one else has "borrowed" it.
If you finish with a downloaded e-book before the end of your loan period, please return it via Adobe Digital Editions. This will unlock the e-book so other library users can read it.
Printing from e-books
Most e-books will only allow you to print from the 'Read online' view, not from a download. For copyright reasons you can usually only print 10% or one chapter, whichever is the greater.
If you are having any problems with e-books, including technical problems with Adobe Digital Editions or issues with particular e-book platforms, contact the IT & Library Support Desk.