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Ebooks: Accessing ebooks


The majority of Bodleian Libraries ebooks can be accessed via SOLO. Access to ebooks varies according to the type of ebook, its licence, and the library membership of the user. More information about accessing ebooks is given on this page.

Accessing ebooks

Access to ebooks via SOLO is dependent on the type of ebook being consulted, its licence and the library membership of the user. The two main types of ebook encountered via SOLO, green 'Online access' ebooks and orange 'Electronic Legal Deposit' ebooks, are pictured in the screenshot. Visit the tabs above for more information on accessing these ebook types. See the box below for more information about ebook licences.

Screenshot of two SOLO records for different ebook versions of the book 'Thinking Through Fashion' by 'Smelik'. The top record is a green 'Online access' ebook, the bottom an orange 'Electronic Legal Deposit item' ebook.

More information on accessing Bodleian Libraries resources remotely is available on the following webpage.

A screenshot of a SOLO record for the book 'Thinking Through Fashion' by 'Smelik'. The record is for a green 'Online access' ebook.

Green 'Online access' ebooks are ebooks which the Bodleian Libraries have purchased, or which are freely available on the web. 

Access for Members of Oxford University

Members of Oxford University (those in possession of a University Card) can access ebooks purchased by the Bodleian Libraries remotely 24/7 using an Oxford Single Sign-On. They can be read on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, e-reader or mobile phone. When using a university computer (e.g. a computer belonging to a department, faculty, or library), access to most electronic resources is available without the need to log in subsequently. This is also the case when using a personal device connected to the Bodleian Libraries WiFi network.

Access for Non-university Members

Non-university members, e.g. those with a Bodleian Reader Card, do not have remote access to purchased ebooks. It is not always possible for non-university members to download these ebooks in their entirety for a limited length of time either, but this depends on the website the ebook is from. Downloading sections as PDF documents may still be possible.

Non-university members can still use the majority of these ebooks when in any of the Bodleian Libraries, either on Bodleian Libraries computers or on a personal device when connected to the Bodleian Libraries WiFi network. Exceptions to this include:

  • VLebooks, which are only available to university members with a Single Sign-On; 
  • Select databases marked with a gold flag on Databases A-Z, as in the image below, which also require a Single Sign-On:

 Screenshot of Databases A-Z entry for the BAR Digital Collection, which carries a gold flag and can only be accessed by those with a Single Sign-On.

Note that not all green 'Online access' ebooks in SOLO have been purchased by the Libraries, some may be Open Access and freely available for anyone to read remotely.

A screenshot of a SOLO record for the book 'Thinking Through Fashion' by 'Smelik'. The record is for an orange 'Electronic Legal Deposit item' ebook.

Orange 'Electronic Legal Deposit' ebooks are provided by UK publishers because of the Bodleian Library's role as a Legal Deposit library. They can only be read on Bodleian Libraries computers, not a personal device, irrespective of library membership. Click on the orange link to be redirected to the content.

This guide does not consider Legal Deposit material in detail. For more information, please visit the guide below.


The Bodleian Libraries purchase ebooks with a range of different licences. Depending on the licence, access to an ebook may be limited according to the number of concurrent users, the total number of times it can be accessed, or the length of time it is made available (e.g. one year).

In line with its efirst policy, the Bodleian Libraries seeks to purchase ebooks with the most generous licences where feasible. Ideally, these are Digital Rights Management (DRM) free ebooks purchased in perpetuity. However this might not always be possible in instances where such a licence is prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable. Instead, the Libraries may choose to increase access by purchasing multiple limited-access copies of the same ebook, or supplement online access with physical copies of the book. These different copies appear on SOLO as separate records, as in the screenshot.

In instances where access to an ebook is limited by its licence, for example where access is only permitted for one concurrent user, those wishing to consult the book may be denied access temporarily. This is known as a 'turnaway'. Find out more about turnaways in the tab above.

A screenshot of a SOLO search for the book 'Queering the Underworld'. The search has returned three different records for the same book. The first two listed are different copies of the same type of green 'Online access' ebook. The third record is for a physical copy of the book.

Ebooks with access limitations may be temporarily unavailable if, for example, they only permit access for one concurrent user and the ebook is already in use. Access limitations can often be ascertained on the ebook's landing page.

In the screenshot below, the ebook's licence permits two concurrent users.

Screenshot of the EBSCO website landing page for the ebook 'Theravada Buddhism'. The number of concurrent users permitted by the licence is underlined in light blue.

With both copies of the ebook in use the following message appears and access is not permitted until a copy becomes available. 

Some platforms, such as VLeBooks and EBSCO, operate a queuing system, which allow those wishing to consult the ebook to assume a place in a virtual queue. These platforms will also email you when the book becomes available again. Ebook Central ebooks do not provide this service - users need to check back later to see if the book is available. The last copy of an Ebook Central ebook will also not be available for download, only reading online in the browser. This is to make sure it is available for the maximum amount of time. Find out more about these different platforms on the Using ebooks page of this guide.

Screenshot of the message returned by the EBSCO ebook platform when all available copies of the book are in use. The message reads 'Sorry, this ebook is in use'. The message invites users to sign in to the platform to place a hold on the ebook.

When this or an equivalent message is generated by the supplier, a turnaway is generated. Librarians monitor turnaway statistics closely and adjust provision accordingly where feasible.