Skip to Main Content

Research Support

An overview of the support that is offered for researchers by the University of Essex Library.

Ensuring your books are available to students

The University of Essex strives to make content available digitally via our online reading lists. As part of the Library’s ongoing work to ensure all students can access their essential readings, we want to partner with academics. This partnership starts from publishing and continues through to the curation of reading lists.

Making resources available online has a positive impact on the student experience for many reasons, including benefitting students based off-campus and meeting different accessibility needs.

E-books represent a significant portion of our online resources, yet there are often difficulties involved with providing access to these resources. We therefore want to work with you to ensure e-books written by our Essex researchers are as readily available as possible.

Agreements that authors sign when publishing e-books affect the ability of their students to read their work. This is because libraries can only purchase e-books which are licenced for universities.

In addition to this, some other things to consider are:

  • Kindle books aren’t available for Library purchase.
  • Some e-books are priced beyond the Library's budget. For example, one specific e-book cost £31.49 for the Kindle version, and £650 for a 3-user licence e-book for Universities (i.e., an e-book that can only be used by 3 people at any one time). Another example is a print book that cost £51.99, while the same text as a 3-user licence e-book cost £1,050. This sort of situation is unfortunately common.
  • Some licence terms mean that the e-books are not owned by the library or make it very difficult for students to access the e-books. Often there is no choice in the terms. They include:
    • Credit model e-books: payment is for a certain number of ‘credits’, which represent the number of times the e-book is used. When these credits have been used up, more payment is needed (often at a higher price per credit).
    • Subscription model e-books: an annual fee is paid to retain access to the e-book. The cost often increases each year.
    • Single-user licences: these e-books can only be read by one person at a time, removing a key benefit of e-books.
    • Changes in access: publishers sometimes stop selling the e-book version of a particular title, or may change the licence terms. For example, a 3-user licence for an e-book may change to a single-user licence.
  • Some e-books are only sold as part of larger packages. This can mean the Library has to spend more on unwanted resources in order to provide access to the few that are needed.
  • Some books are only sold as part of e-textbook models, where content is licenced for specific, very restricted cohorts on an annual basis.

Being aware of the above points when signing author agreements for publishing e-books can help to stop these terms restricting student and researcher access to your work.  

What you can do

When negotiating your contract with a publisher, we recommend that you ask your publisher about their e-book policies. The “Questions to Ask Publishers” below will help with this. If you’re not happy with their responses, you can ask that they insert into your contract the “Contract Clauses” suggested below.

If you’re still not satisfied with their policies and the terms of the contract haven’t been changed, you may want to consider a different publisher. Alternatively, you could also publish your book under an open access model, giving everyone access for free. The OA Books Toolkit is a great resource to help you with this. You can also get in contact with us in the Library for advice on publishing.

Questions to ask publishers

You can speak to our Research Support team or your Academic Liaison Librarian via our contact us page if you’re in any doubt about any of the answers you receive to these questions (or about the questions themselves).

  • Will this book be available as an e-book for libraries to buy?
  • Can libraries buy it as an individual e-book or is it part of a package?
  • What is the licensing model for your e-books? Is it single/multi/unlimited user access? Is it a one-off cost or an annual subscription or a credit model?
  • How much will the e-book cost?
  • On which platform(s) will the e-book be available? Will there be any difference in pricing and licensing on different platforms?
  • How accessible are your e-books? For example, do they meet UK legislation requirements including The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility regulations 2018 and the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 up to conformance level AA? Are they compatible with screen readers, browser accessibility features, and other third-party tools and/or do they have built-in accessibility tools?
  • If you are contributing a chapter to a book, is it possible to upload an open access copy to your institutional or funder repository?

Contract clauses

If you are unclear about, or are unhappy with, the publisher’s responses, ask them to insert the following clauses into your contract: 

  1. Except as otherwise provided below, each purchaser of an e-book licence is granted a non-exclusive licence to download a copy of the e-book to one or more purchaser's computers, tablets or mobile devices for use by any member of staff, accredited visitor or student associated with that purchaser, subject always to the following conditions:
    • the e-book may be distributed to registered staff, accredited visitors and students of the purchaser only;
    • the e-book may be copied by any authorised user to the extent permitted under exceptions to copyright as provided for under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and any related legislation, for example for the purposes of research or private study or quotation;
    • the e-book is not used in any way that infringes the Moral Rights of its author(s);
    • no copyright, trade mark or other proprietary notices contained in the e-book are removed, obscured or otherwise amended.
    • the e-book licence shall not be transferred or sublicensed to any third party without the express written permission of the Publisher
  2. The Publisher warrants that the e-book meets all appropriate accessibility requirements including The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility regulations 2018 and the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 up to conformance level AA. The Publisher further warrants that its e-book is compatible with screen readers, browser accessibility features, and other third-party tools to ensure appropriate accessibility.
  3. The Publisher warrants that it shall include any content in the e-book that was, prior to the signature of this Agreement, available as one or more preprints. Authors agree to update any such preprints with a link to the final e-book content.

Campaign to investigate the academic e-book market

A group of academic librarians, researchers, lecturers and students from across the UK have recently compiled an open letter asking the government to investigate the academic publishing industry over its e-book pricing and licensing practices. You can read and sign the open letter and find out more about the Campaign to Investigate the Academic E-book Market on their website. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter using #ebooksos.

Visit the Library's blog for more information about how we are supporting this campaign at Essex. Leave a comment on the post to take part in the conversation. 


The text on this page has been adapted from Can my Students Read my Books? on the Campaign to Investigate the Academic E-book Market website.

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work by University of Essex Library and Cultural Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.