Electronic Books at the Vanderbilt Library: Introduction

Welcome to Electronic Books

The Vanderbilt University Library provides its users with access to over 1,500,000 electronic books.  If a book is available in electronic format, there will be a web link at the top of the Library Catalog record.  Follow that link to access the electronic content of the book.    

eBook or eJournal?

You can distinguish between an electronic book and an electronic journal by looking at the Library Catalog record.  An ebook will have a web link at the top of the page.  An ejournal will have this button

This button is used to reach journal content.  It is not used on an electronic book.

PDF/A standard

PDF/A refers to an ISO standard that attempts to keep a PDF document in its original format.  In the case of a PDF/A document, the reader will be unable to annotate, highlight, or change a document.  For example, Springer uses this format and chapters from their ebooks cannot be modified.  This format does not preclude printing.

Some ebook collections use a pdf that cannot be annotated in the basic Adobe reader but, if opened in the full version of Acrobat, can be annotated. 

Basic Information on Electronic Books

Because our ebooks come from a variety of sources the methods of access will vary

  • Some of these ebooks consist of chapters which can each be downloaded directly while others will be checked out to you for a limited time. 
  • Some books are purchased directly from the publishers while other books come through the Library's subscription to a provider.
  • Some providers offer content on their own platform and some use a more universal format, such as pdf.

  How you access, use, and print this material will depend on the manner in which the owner makes it available.  This guide contains information on the individual providers and on some of the issues you might need to know about.

How to Access

Many of these providers use IP authentication to determine if you may view their content.  If you are off campus that will mean you need to proxy in.  The way to do this is to locate the item through the library's web site (a title search in Library Catalog, for example).  Then, when you are prompted to enter your VUnet ID and epassword, you will be allowed access to the source, even if you are off campus.

Digital Rights Management

Digital rights management (DRM) refers to access technologies used to limit the use of digital content. For books in electronic format this can mean downloaded books cannot be shared with another user or that downloaded ebooks will no longer be accessible after a given loan period.  What this loan period will be depends on the agreement the Vanderbilt University Library has with the ebooks supplier. Some of our ebook providers do not use DRM and for titles available under those agreements, downloaded chapters can be retained indefinitely.

Devices and Desires

Clearly there are many devices that can be used to read electronic books.  Besides a laptop or desktop computer, many of these books can be read on a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or even a smartphone.  Again, this will vary by provider.  In this guide we try to touch on the issues a particular device might cause with each platform.

However there are often software hoops to jump through in order to get these to load and in some cases a particular provider cannot talk to a given device.  In these cases we recommend you use your desktop computer to access these books.


If you need further assistance you can Ask a Librarian.