Frequently Asked Questions - e-Books

Unfortunately there is no way to "recall" or queue for e-books. If demand for a title is high, a second copy may be purchased and/or the loan period may be reduced to allow greater access to the e-book. 

Unfortunately there is no way to "recall" or queue for e-books. If demand for a title is high, an additional copy may be purchased and/or the loan period may be reduced to allow greater access to the e-book.

Where is e-book development going?

McMaster is part of OCUL (Ontario Council of University Libraries), a consortium which has licensed e-book software from ebrary. Over the next several years, OCUL will be developing an integrated e-book "platform" on Scholars Portal which will provide, among other things:

  • a single interface ("look and feel") for e-books from multiple publishers (including purchased and subscription e-books)
  • print-on-demand e-books

e-book standards and technologies are still evolving. Stay tuned!

Could an e-book be printed on demand, either the entire book or certain chapters?

At the moment, only a portion of an e-book can be printed (different portions, depending on the publisher). In the future, OCUL (Ontario Council of University Libraries) is looking into providing print-on-demand services (for more information, see the FAQ "Where is e-book development going?")

Do we have unlimited access to our e-books? If a professor wanted to assign a particular book to say, 800 students, could they all access it simultaneously?

It depends on the e-book supplier. For example, all EBSCOhost e-books (fomerly netLibrary)  limit access to one user at a time. Other vendors allow unlimited or multiple concurrent users. Please check eBooks@Mac for usage limitations (Notes column).

Can e-books be downloaded onto one's own computer and does the file remain there for an unlimited time?

Yes, and no. Some of our e-books can be downloaded, but they will only be available for a limited time. Providing unlimited downloads would mean we were distributing free copies of copyrighted e-books, which is illegal. Most of our e-books are "tethered" to the Internet and their copyright is "protected" by the publishers, using some form of "digital rights management" (DRM). The e-books Mac Libraries provide our community can be read on multiple computers by authorized McMaster users (using either your MAC ID or an on-campus staff computer to logon). This model contrasts with, for example, Amazon, which sells individual copies of e-books to customers, which can be downloaded to a handheld electronic device or to a dedicated e-book reader.

Can e-books be used on a Macintosh computer?

Yes. Publishers aim to provide e-books on standard operating systems (i.e.. PC;Macintosh) and web browsers (i..e. Internet Explorer; Firefox). If we discover problems, we contact publishers and work with them to solve technical issues.

Some e-books have this note: "View e-book for 5 minutes and/or request a loan or purchase". How does that work?

How do I get a 5 minute preview?

  • click on the "Link to online resource" link
  • log in with your MAC ID and you'll go to the Ebook Library page
  • on the left, under "Loan Options", click the "CLICK HERE TO BROWSE" button, or the "EBL Read Online" button

How do I request a loan?

  • on the left, under "Loan Options", select "Click here to request a loan."
  • fill out the request form
  • request your loan period: either 1 or 7 days
  • for urgent requests: please note this in the comments box
  • click on "Send Request"

What happens then?

  • the request goes to a librarian who reviews all of the requests several times throughout the day during business hours
  • when your request is approved,  you will receive an email giving instant access to the e-book

What can I do during the loan period?

  • you can download the book or read it online
  • you can print a portion of the book (but not the entire book)
  • you can copy and paste parts of the text into another document

When does the loan period start?

  • it begins the first time you click on the link to the e-book in your email to ‘open' the e-book

What happens when the loan period expires?

  • the downloaded title will become inaccessible on your computer
  • if you try to open it, you will get a message that your loan period has expired

Can I renew?

  • no, but you can request another loan on the same book

How do I request another loan on the same book?

  • first remove all previous instances of the book (and prior loan) from your computer:
    • go to the "My Digital Editions" folder in the My Documents folder, and delete the title
    • open the Adobe Reader; in the Menu bar, click on FileDigital EditionsMy Digital Editions
    • in the My Digital Editions pop-up window, click on the expired title, right-click the image of its cover, select Remove, and click OK
  • now you can request a second loan in the same way you did the first loan

What are the restrictions on printing and copying?

  • For each title, you have the following permissions:
    • print = up to 20% of text
    • copy/paste = up to 5% of text
  • the Online Reader will tell when you have used these permissions
  • Adobe Reader can also tell you about your remaining permissions: while viewing the book, click File MenuProperties


How do loans of EBL books work?

It is important that you use the link contained in the approval e-mail to access the book. Please note that these links are very long and often run across multiple lines in the e-mail. The link should begin with and end with ^u. If clicking the link gives you an error message, you may need to copy and paste the link into your browser window.  If you do that, and ensure that there are no spaces in the URL, and it still doesn't work, please contact our "Need Help? Just Ask!" service and report the problem, and someone will help you.


If the library only holds an e-book copy can I request the print book through RACER (Interlibrary Loan)?

Unfortunately, no. For more information on what can be requested through Interlibrary Loan, visit this page.

Who can access e-books?

  • From campus, or anywhere in the world with MAC ID:
    • Currently registered McMaster students
    • Current & retired McMaster faculty & staff
    • IAHS and Conestoga students in collaborative degree programs
    • Faculty of Health Sciences appointees and affiliates, including clinical faculty
  • Visitors who are in the library may request a Guest Internet Account.


When we buy e-books, do we own them?

Most we own; others we subscribe to. Here are a few examples of: