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Finding and using books and theses

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Searching for ebooks

For a quick introduction to ebooks, take a look at Understanding ebooks.

The easiest way to search for ebooks is to use Library Search.

  • Search for a specific ebook by putting its title in the search box to check availability.
  • Search for available ebooks by a specific author by putting the author’s name in the search box.
  • Search for ebooks on a topic by using subject keywords.

Library Search may not include all available ebooks so you may want to browse or search individual ebook collections. You can search a collection for ebooks on a topic by using keywords, or you can browse by subject area. A list of our ebook collections can be found on our ebooks page.

Reading ebooks

  • Some ebooks display in your web browser and some will open in special software, which you will be prompted to download.
  • Ebook navigation varies, depending on the supplier. For example, you may be able to navigate using the table of contents, or using navigation arrows to turn the pages.
  • Most ebook collections allow saving titles in folders and exporting citations.
  • Some suppliers, such as EBSCO, require that you create a free personal account in order to download from their platforms.
  • Some ebooks are limited to a certain number of users at one time. If you cannot access an ebook, try again later as the ebook may already be used by the maximum number of users.
  • For more information about what you can do with different suppliers, please see their Help pages.

Downloading and printing from ebooks

Ebooks are subject to Copyright Law. You can find out more about your obligations as a library user on the page Copying and download policy.

General guidance is that you may print one chapter or 5% of an ebook, whichever is greater. Many suppliers apply this limit automatically, by restricting the amount you can print and copy – some do not allow printing or copying the text at all. Many ebooks have to be read online, as there is often no facility to download them in formats that are compatible with ebook readers.

Searching for theses online

Open Research Online (ORO)

Theses by Open University students are available via Open Research Online (ORO). You can search and view a digital version of a thesis, if it has been provided by the author.

Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS)

You can search for and download doctoral research theses from UK Universities using the Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS). This is a service provided by the British Library. If a thesis you are looking for is not already available, you can make a request to EThOS for it to be digitised, for which charges may apply.

Open Access Repositories

Many universities worldwide have their own research collections freely available online. If you know which university has awarded the thesis required, it is worth checking if they have a research repository and if the thesis has been made available. For a list of repositories see the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) or the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

Getting print materials

  • Current students and staff can use and borrow books from other University libraries by registering for the SCONUL Access Scheme.
  • If you live near the OU campus in Milton Keynes, you can use and borrow books from the Walton Hall Library. For more information, see our page Borrowing at the Walton Hall Library.
  • The Library building holds print copies of Open University theses. OU staff and research students can borrow a consultation copy of a thesis (if available). Please contact the Library Helpdesk at least 24 hours before you need the thesis giving the author and title of the thesis you wish to borrow.
  • Staff and MPhil/ PhD Research students can request non-UK theses or UK theses, which cannot be supplied via EThOS, through Document Delivery.