About E-books

E-books are books that are available to be read electronically on a variety of devices, including traditional computers, iPads, Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony e-readers, iPhones, and more.  Sometimes e-audiobooks are also considered e-books.  

Columbia University Libraries (CUL) offers e-books that are part of larger packages as well as individual titles.  Some examples of the packages that are offered include NetLibrary, Books 24x7, Knovel, and Ebrary.  Columbia also licenses e-books that are part of larger publishers' packages, including Cambridge, Oxford, Wiley, Springer, Safari, and Kluwer.  While most of our e-books are licensed for Columbia affiliates only, there are e-books available publicly.  CUL's Digital Humanities Center offers information about publicly available e-book collections.

Finding E-books at Columbia University Libraries

You can find many e-books in Columbia University Libraries Online Catalog, CLIO.

  • From the Basic Search (default search) screen:
    • Enter your search terms (the default setting is for Keyword).
    • Select "Electronic Resources," which is the second option, from the Limit To drop-down menu. This limits your search to electronic books and electronic journals.
  • From the Advanced Search screen:
    • Enter your search terms (the search defaults to Keywords Anywhere).
    • Select "Books," which is the second option, from the Format drop-down menu toward the bottom of the search screen.
    • Select "Electronic Resources," which is the second option, from the Medium drop-down menu below Format.

You can also search individual e-book packages to which the Libraries subscribe.  For a continually-updated list of the Libraries' e-books packages, see the list of E-book Collection Databases

CLIO, the Libraries' search interface, allows you to search for e-books by selecting "E-Books" from the Content Type (data source) list on the left side of the screen. You can also use the "Articles" content type, and once you've done the search, simply limit your results to "Book / E-book" from the left column on the Results Screen.  Find Articles does not include print materials.

Subject-specific information about e-books are part of our Digital Centers: the Digital Center for the Humanities, the Digital Social Science Center, and the Digital Science Center. 

For help or more information about searching for e-books, Ask a Librarian

Downloading and Reading on E-book Devices

Devices and Textual Formats:

  • Amazon Kindle: PDF; Kindle format (.azw); Mobipocket (.mobi or .prc); Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX); HTML; TXT; RTF (doesn't support EPUB format)
  • Barnes & Noble NOOK: PDF, EPUB, PDB, and NOOK format
  • Sony Reader: PDF, EPUB, TXT, RTF, and BBeB Book

Please note: most Columbia Libraries' e-books do not work using proprietary devices, such as Kindle and NOOK, but will work on most tablets.

Downloading and reading books on E-book Devices:

Not all e-books are available for download.

  • iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch
    Step-by-step instructions are given in this blog article on how to add books to the iPad, iPhone and iTouch.  To read PDF files on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, try the Good Reader (or another reader) app. Apps are available via iTunes.

Information about downloading and reading books on other devices can be found online (see below) or in the documentation you received with the device.