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Using ebooks as textbooks

This page is for faculty who are looking for no/low-cost alternatives for using library and open-access eBooks and eTextbooks.  It may also be appropriate for students looking for online books to use to brush-up on a topic.

Best practices for using library eResources in your course

These suggestions apply to all eResources that you use to support your teaching, including: eBooks, streaming videos, and other items from the library's collection, periodical articles from library databases, open-access textbooks and Open Educational Resources, and other online resources (e.g. YouTube videos and websites). 

Link students to their program Research Guide (curated lists of best databases, search tips, and training).

If you have pre-selected course readings from library databases or websites:

  • Include a complete citation when listing or linking materials on World Classroom (WCR) or the syllabus to help your students (or library staff) search for the item if the link doesn't work.
    • Many library databases have a 'cite' tool (sometimes indicated with quotation marks [" "]) which generates a citation for you.
  • Scan and upload PDF files to your World Classroom course page or ask the library’s eReserves staff to scan them for you. (For the latter, allow at least 5 business days advance notice). 
  • For content from a library database, the link should include the library proxy server string ( so that users are prompted to log in/authenticate into the database so access is limited.
    • The database may have a 'permalink' or 'share link' tool to capture a persistent URL that includes the proxy string.
  • If you need help capturing URLs or citations, please ask our Research Librarians of the Subject Librarian for your program.
  • Each term, check all links before sharing them with your students.

Follow Copyright & Fair Use guidelines when posting or distributing all content to students. Limit access to only students in your course.

Collaborate with your subject librarian to:

  • Share your research assignment or design one with us in advance (1 to 2 weeks, please) to ensure resources are available.
  • Link students to pre-recorded videos and training tips. 
  • If your students might benefit from targeted library instruction, work with us to create and front-load it into your class to save time and student frustration.

Open educational resources (OER's) allow faculty and students copyright-free access to educational materials, including many no- or low-cost textbooks.  For a comprehensive list of finding aids for OER's and textbooks, see the Open Textbook Projects guide.  Listed below are a few of the library's favorite resources for finding open textbooks: 

Searching and linking to ebooks

Searching the library catalog

To search the library's collections of eBooks, use the eBook search express form or the eBooks search tab on the library homepage.  

From a list, click a title to view the eBook catalog record.  Look for a local note that lists the number of users for that book.  If none is available, follow the "Connect to" link into the database record to see the number of simultaneous users.

Your next step depends on the number of simultaneous users available for the eBook you want to use.  See the section, "Simultaneous users", below. 

An eBook catalog record showing the direct URL link and the number of users high-lighted in yellow

Simultaneous users

If unlimited users are available for an eBook, you may elect to link students to the eBook directly within your World Classroom / Canvas course page. 

From the catalog record, follow the "Connect to" link and capture the URL for the target eBook.  It should contain the library's proxy server string  (There are no spaces between  ‘url=’ and the url for the book.)  This string will prompt users to log in to library eResources to access it.  

eBook database record showing number of simultaneous users

If there is a limited number of simultaneous users available for an eBook, it may be difficult for all students in a course to link directly to the item in the library database. Note that there may also be limits on the number of pages that Webster University users may download or print. Please consult your subject/liaison librarian or your international campus librarian for more options for making eBook content easily accessible to your students. In addition to information about the eBook and your course(s), please discuss the answers to the following questions (and possibly others) with your librarian: 

  • When do you intend to use the eBook as a course text?
  • How do you intend to use it -- the entire book, or only selected chapters?
  • Will this class be taught in future semesters by you or other faculty?