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Using eBooks at UNC

How to locate, access, and navigate ebooks through the UNC Libraries collection

What are ebooks?


eBooks are books available in electronic format that can be read on a digital device (computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.).  Many ebooks are exclusively available in electronic format, while many are also available in print format.

eBook Formats

eBook Formats


ePub is the most popular ebook format in digital publishing. An ePub file can be read on any device that has an ebook reader. Examples of ebook readers are Sony Reader, the Barnes and Noble Nook, Adobe Digital Editions, etc. The Kindle is the only ebook reader that does not support ePub files.

This is the most common type of ebook format utilized for UNC Libraries titles. The subscription platforms identified later in this guide provide reading options for various ePub formats of ebooks.


PDF files can also contain digital books. PDFs can be read on various devices. PDFs are not reflowable like ePub books, meaning they do not adjust or adapt to screen size.


MOBI or AZW ebooks are in a format exclusively available for use with the Amazon Kindle products and apps.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Most of the identified ebook formats identified above come with digital rights management (DRM). DRM controls how an ebook can be shared from user to user and device to device.

DRM may function in many different ways to control access to an ebook. For example, DRM may limit the platform where the ebook may be read. It may limit your ability to download or copy from the ebook.

In the case of libraries, it may limit how many patrons may view an ebook at one time or how long a patron may view a book. The discussion of utilizing ebooks on each of the platforms below will identify DRM in place for library patron use.