E-books: an introduction

MyiLibrary has migrated to Ebook Central

As of Wednesday, April 25, 2018, ebooks on the MyiLibrary platform are now available on ProQuest's Ebook Central platform.

All content currently available on MyiLibrary continues to be accessible through the Library catalogue with links automatically redirecting to Ebook Central.


Ebook Central migration

On Tuesday, July 11 and Wednesday, July 12, 2017, ebrary and EBL collections were migrated to a new ProQuest platform called Ebook Central. Due to this change, personal accounts from EBL and ebrary were moved to the new platform.


EBL bookshelf:

Your EBL bookshelf contents should automatically transfer to the new platform, including your notes, highlights, bookmarks, and your EBL bookshelf folder structure. The first time you log in to Ebook Central, you should find all your previous EBL content under your new Ebook Central Bookshelf.


ebrary bookshelf:

If you had a personal bookshelf on ebrary,  you can migrate it to the new Proquest platform as well, but it will not be done automatically. You will have the option to have your bookshelf contents copied over.


How to migrate your ebrary bookshelf

Screenshot of Proquest Ebook Central bookshelf page, showing the "Move ebrary bookshelf" button, circled in red.

1. Go to Proquest Ebook Central. (If you are on campus, you won't see a login page, it should automatically connect you to the platform. If you are off campus, you will then be prompted to sign in).  Click on "Bookshelf". You will be prompted to login with your McGill credentials via Shibboleth. (If you have already logged in as you are off-campus, than you will not be prompted again.) Once you have done so, you should see this page.

2. Click on "Move ebrary bookshelf" to start the process. If you click the "X" and discard the migration option, you will not see it displayed again. However, if you later decide that you do want your ebrary bookshelf copied over, you can email ebooksupport [at] proquest.com, identifying that you are from McGill University and that you would like your bookshelf migrated, and they will move it over for you. 


Screenshot showing the "Get Started" box that appears when you have clicked the "Move ebrary bookshelf" option.

3. Now you should see this page.  Click the "Get Started" button.


Screenshot of ebrary verification that user is not a robot

4. Remind ebrary that you are not a robot, and continue.


Screenshot of sign in request to personal ebrary account.

5. Now you can sign into your ebrary account. Your bookshelf should then migrate to ProQuest Ebook Central.

6. Close your browser.

An Introduction to E-books

E-books are electronic books and have become an important part of library resources. They are very useful for readers because:

  • They generally can be accessed anytime, anywhere
  • They can’t be damaged or lost
  • They don’t have to be returned

The McGill Library has access to many e-book collections on a great variety of subjects, from technical and academic topics, to literature and general fiction. However, it can take a bit of knowledge and help to navigate the world of e-books effectively.


Finding the right eBook:

You can limit your search in the McGill catalogue for only e-books. For more information as well as search tips, please look at the section on Finding eBooks.


Reading and using an e-book:

Once you have found a title, there are several factors which influence how you can use and read your e-book.


1. What kind of file is it? File types

Unlike books, ebooks do not exist in one standard format.  For example, here are some file types you may see:

  • .azw
  • .ascm
  • .doc
  • .html
  • .mobi or.prc
  • .pdf
  • .rtf
  • .tpz

…and there are more!

File types are not interchangeable and this can cause some problems. Not all devices can understand all file types, so it is important to know which file types are supported by your device. Laptops can generally access everything with the right program. For technical help with devices, please see the More help page, or you can Ask a librarian.


2. What collection is the e-book part of?

McGill Library’s e-book collections are available from different publishers and platforms, and each of their e-book sites work a little differently. For example, some of them allow you to download the e-book in whole or in part, and some don’t allow downloading at all. Thus, if you are looking specifically for an e-book you can read offline, you might be limited to certain collections.  For more information on the various collections and what each allows, please see Downloading e-books and Printing and copying.


4. Does your e-book have Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Digital rights management is something used and applied by rights holder, like authors and publishers, to help protect the copyright of their e-books, as it can stop people sharing e-book files without permission.  Unfortunately, DRM can be confusing, as it is not required for every e-book, but when used, it often requires special software so that the e-book file works. McGill Library has both e-books with, and without DRM. For more information, please see the page on Adobe Digital Editions.


5. Do you use assistive technology?

If you have questions on how to find accessible e-books, please see the page on Accessibility.

Free e-book resources

Q: Who invented the first e-book and e-reader? A: There are several candidates: Bob Brown conceived of a mechanical reader and book in his essay “The Readies” in 1930.  The first automated reader was invented by Angela Ruiz Robles in 1949. She hoped to reduce the number of books students had to carry to school.  The first text was put online by Michael Hart, a student at the University of Illinois in 1971. He put “The Declaration of Independence”, on ARPAnet, a precursor to today’s internet.

Sources:   Schuessler, Jennifer. “The Godfather of the E-Reader.”  New York Times, 8 April 2010, p. 27.  “E-Reader”. An Uncommon History of Common Things. Vol. 2.  National Geographic, 2015.  Font is Dana Library Hand by Margo Burns

  • The Online Books Page:
    The University of Pennsylvania hosts a large directory of e-books freely readable over the internet.
  • Internet Archive Ebooks:
    The Internet Archive has a collection of free e-books and texts. There is an additional collection of modern books that are free to borrow if you have a free archive.org account and Adobe Digital Editions.
  • Project Gutenberg:
    Project Gutenberg has many e-books and classic texts in various formats, as well as audiobooks.
  • Oapen Library:
    The Oapen Library contain freely accessible academic books, mainly in the areas of the humanities and social sciences.
  • Smithsonian Books Online:
    Smithsonian Libraries has a collection of free e-books online, most of which are in the public domain.



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