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eBooks: eTextbooks FAQ

Information about eBooks at University of Stirling.

This Frequently Asked Questions Web page is being developed. Please send any questions or suggestions to and we will get back to you.

Why is the title I want not in the Library as an ebook?

There are various reasons the Libary does not have an ebook including:

  • An ebook may not have been created by the publisher or suppliers.
  • The publisher or supplier might only sell to individuals.
  • The publisher may not allow an ebook to be added to Library stock.
  • An ebook might not have been available at the time we purchased our print copy. 
  • The book is not licensed for sale in the UK.
  • The licensing model may be too restrictive.
  • The cost may be prohibitive e.g. a book sold to individuals at t £40 may cost £100's or several thousand pounds just for one or two library licences.
  • The publisher or supplier may only provide a title as an eTextbook .

If you would like us to check a particular title use the Request a Book for the Library form.

What is the difference between standard Ebooks and eTextbooks?

Standard ebooks are  usually one off purchases or subscriptions available indefinitely via the Library. eTextbooks are purchased for each individual student on a module and cannot be used by other student or reused by other students. The University must pay for each new cohort of student. Further explanation follows for each model.

Ebook - One off Purchase

The Library pays a single price (generally anything between £50 - £2,000 but can be more) and can make the title available indefinitely. This includes:

  • Concurrency model: single user, multiple user (mostly sold in bundle of 3 users) or unlimited user licence
  • Credit model: any number of students can access a title, up to a total number of accesses in a year. The number of credits varies from 100 to 400. If credits run out during the year (e.g. demand during exam period, we have to purchase more). The credits are reset annually without further payment.

Ebooks - Subscription to Individual Titles

  • Subscription to single titles: some books have unlimited user access but the library pays an annual subscription for access (often between £50-£500 per annum)

Ebook Collections – Subscription

  • Publisher Collections:  Through membership of Scotland and UK wide purchasing consortia the Library has secured access to thousands of titles from key publishers including: Oxford Scholarship Online, Springer’s English language collections (via SpringerLink), Elsevier’s Freedom Collection (via Science Direct). We also have subscription to CUP Textbook Collection.
  • Academic Complete: A collection of 200,000 ebooks (including >16,000 non-English titles) from a wide range of publishers available via Ebook Central.

Books in these collections are added to LibrarySearch so there is no need to separately search the publisher databases unless you wish to.


Some publishers have never sold ‘textbooks’ with the ebook models described above and most others have withdrawn those models for textbooks. Textbooks are mostly sold in print or as an ‘eTextbook’ i.e. electronic version sold directly to student.

If the University makes an eTextbook available, it has to pay a unit cost x number of students i.e. we buy each student a copy. Access is  usually for one year so the titles have to be purchased for each new cohort.

Payment options for eTextbooks

Previously, an up front payment was required for the anticipated number of students using each eTextbook. This led to leading to significant costs whether or not all the students used it. It was a surprise to see how little uptake there was for some titles in 2021/22.

For 2022/23  the suppliers are offering a pay as you use pricing model for many titles. Kortext calls this ‘registrations’ and BibliU calls it ‘user activated acquisition (UAA)’. The unit cost is slightly higher for ‘registrations’ or ‘UAA’ than purchasing a bundle of copies for a whole class but should be more economical when not all students on the module use a copy.

This brief video explains the ebookSOS campaign and call for the Government to investigate the academic ebook market. Read and sign the Open Letter to Government.

What are eTextbooks?

eTextbooks are 'core' texts likely to be in heavy demand. Publishers and book suppliers market these directly to students. If universities provide eTextbooks, they must purchase a copy for each student on a module. This is a significant cost and can't be afforded for many titles.

The Library has provided a selection of eTextbooks that students can download for a Semester or longer (it varies between titles) and are available via some Resource Lists in Canvas or from the Library Catalogue. Typically these are from eTextbook suppliers Kortext or BibliU.

How does eTextbook purchasing work?

This is the way eTextbooks currently work;

• Publishers usually won’t sell a regular ebook edition for library use as they are trying to maximise sales by marketing to individual students.

• To provide an eTextbook, the University must normally purchase a copy for each student on the module (e.g. a book at £45 for 100 students can cost £4,500)

• When a student uses a copy, it gets associated to their account with the eTextbook supplier and can't be transferred or used by anyone else.

• Any unused copies expire 1 year after the date of purchase.

• The University has to purchase more copies the following year for the next cohort or other module that needs it as a Core text.

• Once a student has got their copy, it usually lasts at least one year from the time the Library paid for it, (although some publishers allow access for longer).

• The University must purchase ore copies the following year for the next cohort.

• eTextbooks are a significant cost and can't be afforded for many titles. Only one eTextbook can be requested for a module.

Cost, affordability and availability - what can academic staff do?