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Exploring Textbook Alternatives at SDCC Library

Finding E-Book Collections at SDCC Library

The SDCC Library has several collections of e-books available. The collections are listed in the A-Z Databases list page, or can be found during searches of our SDCCD Books + catalog and OneSearch.

Using Library e-Books as Course Texts

Library e-books can be helpful when academic or trade books are assigned for course readings. However, not every title is available for the library to purchase as an e-book, and standard textbook publishers rarely offer library e-book versions. Please ask your liaison librarian for more information about using e-books in your courses. Here are some points to consider:


  • Students can access them for free with an institutional login from off campus.
  • No particular ebook reader or other special device is needed: Library e-books can be read via an internet browser on  a desktop computer or laptop.
  • Unlike print reserves, less staff effort is required for processing.
  • Some library e-books can be purchased in unlimited multiple user versions which allow simultaneous access.
  • Some library e-books may be accessible to students with special needs.


  • National surveys show that students prefer studying with print books that they can highlight and annotate. Some students may still opt to purchase the print book, while some students are very happy with a free library e-book. The library e-book provides an option for low income students that may otherwise try to get by with just lecture notes.
  • Many library ebooks must be read online and have only limited options for downloading or printing content.
  • Many e-book titles are only available in a one-person at a time version.
  • Although e-books work well on computers and laptops, they don't always work or display well on phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Multiple user e-books vs. Single user e-books

  • Some library e-books allow multiple users or an unlimited number of users to access the book simultaneously.
  • Some library e-books can only be purchased as a single user book, such that only one user at a time can access the book and a 2nd simultaneous user must wait for the first user to stop reading the book. 

Assigning e-Books in Your Course

  • When assigning a substantial number of chapters from a book, it's helpful to also place orders for a print version with the book store. This provides an option for students who prefer to purchase a print copy.  
  • If you are assigning just one chapter from an e-book, consider also placing a print copy of the book on library reserves, as this provides an option for students who are less comfortable using e-books.
  • If assigning an e-book, it is important to understand access procedures. Most important is to provide a fail-safe link that works from off campus. Consult with your librarians on the best way to provide e-book links.
    • Unlike with most web pages, referring students to the link you see in your browser address window is likely to fail. The link from the browser might not work at a different time and place. It also might not work from off campus.
    • If your students experience problems with accessing an e-book, discuss this with your librarian. The problem may be something other than limited licensing for the book, such as browser bookmarking or user login errors.

Ownership vs Subscription for e-Books

  • Many e-books in library collections are purchased and owned by the library in perpetuity. Some other e-books are accessed as part of subscription services rather than owned by the library.
  • For the typical researcher it doesn't really matter--if they can read the book, they have what they need. For an instructor who is using a book for course readings, it can make a difference. There is a small chance that books accessed via a subscription service will "disappear" from the collection. (This is actually true for videos and articles provided as part of subscription databases.)
  • Let your librarian know when you are planning to use a library e-book for course readings, as they may be able to point you to a more stable version.

Linking to Library Resources in Canvas

See Linking to SDCC Library e-Resources, a step-by-step guide to finding and creating links from resources in the SDCC library databases. Directions are given for each of the major databases, including an example link and a graphic showing where to find links in the database. 

screenshot of linking to sdcc library e-resources guide

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