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Help from Home: Finding electronic versions of print books

How to build your digital syllabus for distance teaching

Build your digital syllabus

The Library Department has started preparing for a fully online fall. One of the challenges we've encountered is that many faculty members assign print books for classes and, as a result, students rely on physical Library access to use these books. Although not every textbook can be purchased electronically, and many publishers make it difficult for libraries to get electronic access (the issue is explained very well here and in more detail below), the Library would like to avoid the tumult of the past semester by working with faculty, now, to find digital alternatives to print textbooks. 

As we look ahead to the fall, we want to make sure students and faculty have access to acceptable digital versions of their textbooks for the fall. 

You have a few options for locating digital versions of print books for your class:

1. Search the LaGuardia Library

The library already offers thousands of books as eBooks. You can find them using OneSearchThis image shows you what filter options to choose to search for eBooks.

2. Search Local Public Libraries

Since our area public libraries are limiting their hours, many are making additional content available electronically.

‚Äč3. Open Education Resources

There is lots of information about OER online. Perhaps too much! We recommend starting with these three collections of cost-free, digitally accessible textbooks:

Many faculty have started assigning an OER textbook as a backup book for students who cannot access the assigned commerical text. If you want more information, visit our scholarly communication guide.

4. Ask us to help you find your book!

Email: or contact your Library Liaison

5. Self-digitize

The pandemic has changed the nature of Fair Use. You might be able to digitize a work yourself for your students. The CUNY Office of Library Services Copyright Committee has a useful COVID-19 and Fair Use guide here. The Graduate Center has a helpful guide to making PDFs with your phone.

With the move to remote teaching and research in the COVID-19 pandemic, copyright specialists revised fair use considerations summarized in a Statement on Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research and discussed in an April 2020 Association of Southeastern Research Libraries webinar.

CUNY library resources provide readily available online course content. Link to library-licensed articles, books, chapters, and recordings rather than upload them to a course platform. Some vendors have extended access to their products in response to the pandemic. This access will be short-lived, not durable. Contact librarians to help locate content that is available library subscriptions, or published openly.

If a licensed version of a work is not available to link to, conduct a fair use analysis to determine the suitability of providing a copy. Sharing reproductions of in-copyright works --  scanned texts or copied digital files -- requires consideration similarly applicable to distributing copies in-person.

  • It falls within fair use guidelines to share portions of works with students, for non-commercial, educational purposes.

    • Copy only as much as is needed for the pedagogical purpose.

    • It is less likely to be considered an infringement to reproduce parts of works, not entire works.

    • In unusual circumstances, or when works are otherwise unavailable, it may be considered fair use to copy lengthier portions of a work.

  • Limit access (using password protection) to enrolled students, only for as long as it is required by the course.

Adapted from “Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online” by Nancy Sims, University of Minnesota Libraries, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

The Challenge of Ebooks

The information below outlines key concepts to keep in mind when requesting e-books via LaGuardia's libraryTo get help ordering an ebook, contact your subject librarian here.


  • Vendor licensing agreements regulate how libraries may provide patrons with access to e-books (and other resources).
  • The cost of an e-book for one user, multiple simultaneous users, or unlimited users is not the same as the cost of a single user e-book for an individual.


  • Not all print books are available as e-books.
  • Although an e-book may be available to individuals via one platform, that platform may not be available to institutions. Consequently, it may not be possible for the library to acquire an institutional copy for our patrons.
  • Textbooks publishers prefer not to allow multiple simultaneous or unlimited usage.

     wHAT CAN I DO?


Icons from the Noun Project:

This guide based upon City College's wonderful guide:


Library Media Resources Center
LaGuardia Community College
31-10 Thomson Avenue, room E101
Long Island City, NY 11101
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