Skip to main content

Tutorial: Finding E-Books:

Two ways to find e-books purchased by the Trent University Library.

Navigate this tutorial using the tabs inside the box.

Finding E-Books

Navigate through this tutorial using the tabs above.


E-books are online books which are not physically located in our Library. Rather, the Library purchases online access to them through the web. The Trent Library currently has access to about 300,000 e-books.

Library E-Books are Different than E-Books You Purchase

When you connect to an e-book purchased by the Library, you only use it temporarily, which is different than owning your own copy.  You normally use the book through the publisher's website, rather than downloading it.

  • The publisher, or a partner company, loads the books on a server which provides a platform (software) for multiple users to access the books.  In order to access these books, users sign in via their institution's login.
  • This platform establishes how the book looks and functions
  • Specific digital rights assigned to each title determine how many users can access it simultaneously, whether it can be downloaded, copied, or printed, etc.

There are a variety of platforms available for hosting e-books.  (Scholars Portal publishes a guide on major platforms for e-books, if you're interested.  See the link below.)

Download Options & Software

Increasingly, more publishers are offering the option to download a book to your own device, for a limited time.  These books require software such as "Adobe Digital Editions" in order to read them. 

See instructions (.pdf) on downloading the software and checking out books.

There are two methods for locating e-books available at the Trent Library: 

1. Search TOPCAT by title, author, or keyword.

  • Most e-books purchased by the Trent Library are listed in TOPCAT, with links to the books on the publisher's website. When you search TOPCAT, you find e-books and print books by default.
  • This is the quickest way to search for e-books, but it won't always find every book we own. (We add more all the time, but sometimes there's a delay.)
  • See instructions in the tab above to find an e-book in TOPCAT.

2. Go to one of the publisher websites (platforms) and search.

  • Use the Databases A-Z search on the Library homepage and select E-Books as a "Type", to find databases that include e-books.
  • A list of platforms is on our E-Resources page, under E-Books. (See the link below.)
  • The large platforms we use at Trent are ebrary, Scholars Portal Books, and eBooks on EBSCOhost. Some books are available on publisher's sites as well as these sites - think of them as extra copies kept in a different spot.
  • If you don't know the publisher of a book, this is a bothersome way to search because you need to search multiple sites.  TOPCAT is usually quicker.

When you search TOPCAT you find all our resources - including both print books and e-books. 

  • For print books TOPCAT, provides a call number and location where you can find it in the Library. 
  • For e-books, TOPCAT provides a link to the book. The call number is: Online Resource.

Sometimes we have a book in both formats, but often it's just one or the other.

Icon for links in TOPCAT  You can recognize an e-book in TOPCAT by the icon.  Click this icon to link to the book online.

Use an Advanced TOPCAT Search

Advanced Search is a keyword search with options for limiting your results.  Use it to limit your results to e-books.

  1. Click "Advanced Search" from the TOPCAT homepage.
  2. Enter one or more terms to identify what you're looking for.
  3. Beside "Type" or "Location", select "E-Book".  Find this drop-down menu with the limiters, beneath the Search button.
  4. Click "Search" or press <enter>.

TOPCAT will search for ONLY e-books that match your other search criteria.

Here's a screen capture showing an Advanced Search with the Location: E-Book selected.

  • We entered "fingerprinting" as a search term and selected "E-Book" from the drop-down "location" menu.

screen capture of a TOPCAT advanced search for "fingerprinting" with location: e-book selected

The results are ONLY e-books whose description contains the term "fingerprinting" somewhere.

The following screenshot shows the first two items found, in brief view. 

  • Each item is identified as an e-book by the icon to the right of the title. 
  • No links are provided at this point; click on a title to see the full record, including the link to the book.
  • The call number is "Online Resource" because it isn't physicallly on the shelf.

screen shot of the search results for e-books, with the icon indicating e-books labelled

The full record of an item is shown below.  Look for the link icon and click it to access the book.  It will open a new window/tab and display the book.  If the book is available from more than one location, there will be a link for each location.

screen shot showing the clickable icon to link to an e-book

Most of our e-books come as part of large packages from publishers. You can find these:

  • using the Databases A-Z list and limiting to Database Type: E-Book, or
  • on our E-Resources page in the section for E-Books. 

From there you can connect to a publisher's website to search.

Unless you know a book is available from a particular publisher, this may not be a very effective way to search.  TOPCAT is a better way to search for e-books.

If you've used Google Scholar to find e-books, it should link you to these sites.  Set your preferences for Trent - see link below to find out how.

The largest selections of e-books are on the Scholars Portal Books and ebrary sites, containing books from a variety of publishers.  They're a good place to start.

General Information About Library E-Books

  • E-books vary in their appearance and usability, based on the site that provides access. There are variations in the number of users that can access them simultaneously, how they display, and how you navigate through them. Our Library has no control over these differences.
  • E-Books purchased by libraries are not the same as those sold to individuals for use on an e-book reader. Library copies must be licensed and packaged for mounting on a server, accessible over the web to multiple authorized users without a fee. This is quite different from an individual purchasing one copy from a bookstore to load on his/her personal devices.
  • Some e-books can be downloaded to your computer or device for a limited amount of time, depending on the license agreement.  See the Scholars Portal guide on Mobile Ebooks.  Look for a "download" button in the software.  If there is no button, the book is not available for download, but you can access it on the web and save/print pages.  Look for "Help" within the database if you have a question.
  • Most platforms provide an option to create an account for yourself so that you can store books on a virtual bookshelf and make notations on pages.  Take advantage of these features when you can.  It only takes a moment to create your own account and it makes it very easy to find the books again.  You can even export them to RefWorks, to add to your bibliography.