E-books and Other Course Materials

The University Libraries is committed to supporting teaching and learning in a variety of contexts and environments.  Part of this commitment includes offering access to and supporting your use of e-books and other course materials.  The information here is designed to get you started with e-books (and other course materials) and offer you some guidance on searching for, accessing, and using these resources.  We've put together a comprehensive set of resources in the form of FAQs for both students and faculty.

Select the question to expand the answer.

Resources for Students FAQ

How do I find an e-book for my class?
How do I gain access to an e-book for research?

Check the following resources to determine if materials are available from the University Libraries:

Do I have access to e-books offline and on different devices? 

This depends on what platform you use to access the e-book. 

  • Via a library platform (e.g. a library database):
    • This will vary by publisher. The information for how much of the book you can access or read offline will be located on the page where you access the e-book. Sometimes you can access the whole book, other times it is only a few chapters. 
    • For different devices, you can access the e-books via the library website. If you want to use a personal reader, you can check this guide for instructions. 
    • Sometimes, you can access the book in full if you install third-party software to be able to read the book, at your discretion.
Why do I only have access to an e-book for a certain period of time?
This depends on what platform you use to access the e-book
  • Via a library platform (e.g. a library database):
    • These e-books are accessible in the library catalog and you will have access to them as long as you are a Penn State user. The book could tell you it has a, for example, one-week checkout or something similar, but you can then check the book out again (check out times vary by platform.) 
Why am I seeing a lock screen when I'm trying to access an e-book?

The lock screen appears when your browser is not accepting third party cookies. You can either change browsers or adjust the cookie settings in your web browser.

Why is an e-book from the library asking me for a login?

This means the link you used is not configured correctly to allow you into the e-book. First, notify the instructor or designer of the course that the link is incorrect. Second, go to the Libraries' homepage and paste the title of the e-book directly into the 'Find' box. The search will take you to the e-book. For help with searching for e-books, visit the E-books at Penn State Guide.

What are some other resources for troubleshooting and getting help with e-books?
What features are available when using e-books?

Like almost every other answer, it depends on the platform you use to access the e-book The platform you are using to temporarily use the e-book will impose limits. In general, you can do the following things in an e-book. 

  • Note-taking
  • Highlighting
  • Printing (limited) 
  • Downloading
  • Searching
  • Indexing
  • Use as study aids
I heard that people learn better from print books than from e-books.

There is a lot of research in this area and while initial studies did show that students retained information better from print resources, more recent research has focused on the idea that print and e-books have different constraints and affordances. They have different functions and if you find yourself using e-books for the first time, familiarize yourself with the e-book features and see how you can adopt it into your workflow and study habits.

Resources for Instructors and Designers FAQ

How can I provide course-related readings and texts to my students?
  • Read more related to copyright information and rapidly shifting your course from in-person to remote teaching.
  • Instructors can find open educational resources (OER) from a variety of sources. The following list is not comprehensive but provides a starting point for openly licensed textbooks and course materials in any discipline. The University OER Task Force also provides more comprehensive lists of resources for finding open textbooks and course materials
    • OER Commons: Offers a variety of OER in various disciplines and levels. 
    • Teaching Commons: Includes open access textbooks, course materials, lesson plans, multimedia, etc.
    • MERLOT: A searchable database of tens of thousands of discipline-specific learning materials, learning exercises, and Content Builder web pages.
    • OASIS: Search a range of OER materials from multiple sources. Includes textbooks, courses, ancillary materials, interactive simulations, and public domain books and resources. 
  • For assistance with copyright-related issues, please fill out the Copyright Request Form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.
How can I provide course-related video to my students?
  • Instructors may make video clips of “short portions” of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs to provide in-class or out-of-class viewing. Find more technical help, see creating these clips in Kaltura. Instructors are encouraged to rely on licensed videos the Libraries already provide for out-of-class viewing. 
  • The Libraries have subscriptions to a significant set of streaming audio options for Penn State users. Please contact your liaison librarian or the Libraries’ Music & Media Center for help determining if the audio or video content you need for teaching is available through the Libraries. If it is not, the Libraries may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media. 
  • Openly licensed videos provide another alternative that can be readily used. You can use the following search engines and databases to help in finding openly licensed videos: 
    • Creative Commons Search: Use this multimedia search engine to find various types of CC licensed items from sources such as Google Images, Fotopedia, Jamendo, Flickr, and more. 
    • Internet Archive has a collection of videos and movies which are openly licensed. 
    • Vimeo:  You can go to the main site and use the search features in the left hand menu to narrow your search to openly licensed videos or you can go directly to the Creative Commons Licensed Videos Site.  
    • YouTube has CC licensed videos which can be found by typing in your search term and then using the filter option for Creative Commons, which returns CC licensed videos. 
    • Penn State Media Commons also provides a comprehensive list of free media sources on their website.
  • For additional assistance with video and copyright issues, please fill out the Copyright Request Form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.