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Course & Subject Guides

Ebooks @ Pitt: Universal Digital Library

This guide describes the many ebook resources available through the University Library System and how to access them.

Towards a Universal Digital Library

"A universal digital library is within reach … We owe it to future generations to try," was the message from Dr. Pamela Samuelson, former Pitt law faculty member in her Feb. 19 [2013] Sara Fine Institute lecture [at Pitt]. Samuelson...made the case that Google’s approach "got us closer than ever before to being able to achieve that."

For a concise synopsis of recent lawsuits concerning Google Books and HathiTrust read this University Times article by Marty Levine.


Q. How much of these collections are in the public domain?

HathiTrust: 3,334,521 volumes(~31% of total) in the public domain out of 10,677,593 total volumes. (April 2013)

Google Books: This information is not available from Google.

Internet Archive: Almost 3,000,000 public domain books and texts. (October 2012)

Q. What is my access to these collections?

HathiTrust: The ULS is an institutional partner and all of the public domain ebooks are downloadable as a PDF. All of the books are full-text searchable.

Google Books: All of the books are full-text searchable. Anyone can search and view the ebooks. Public domain books are downloadable via PDF.

Internet Archive: All of the books and texts are full-text searchable. Anyone can search and view the ebooks and texts. Public domain books are downloadable via PDF and eHub formats.


"HathiTrust is an international partnership of academic and research institutions dedicated to ensuring the preservation and accessibility of the vast record of human knowledge. The partnership owns and operates a digital repository containing millions of public domain and in copyright volumes, digitized from partnering institution libraries and other sources. The preserved volumes are made available in accordance with copyright law as a shared scholarly resource for students, faculty, and researchers at the partnering institutions, and as a public good to the world community." - from HathiTrust website

The University Library System (ULS) is continuing as a HathiTrust partner, and has configured the institutional authentication necessary to allow special services for affiliates of HathiTrust partners. Currently those are:

  • Full-PDF download for public domain (out of copyright) works.
  • All of the full-text of books (in copyright and out-of-copyright works) are searchable.
  • Access to the My Collections tool, which makes it possible for users to aggregate works into permanent collections either for private use or to share publicly with others. (follow login directions below)
  • Data Mining and Text Analysis possibilities over the entire HathiTrust collections (in copyright and out-of-copyright works) for university faculty, graduate students, and researchers from the HathiTrust Research Center.

Directions to download the full PDF in HathiTrust.

  1. From the HathiTrust homepage, click on the yellow login.
  2. Select University of Pittsburgh and click continue.
  3. Enter your Pitt username and password and click Login.
  4. Now you will be authenticated as a Pitt user.
  5. Search. Click 'Download whole book (PDF)' (if available) and the PDF will be created for you (this could take a moment).

Google Books

Google Books searches and preview millions of books from libraries and publishers worldwide. Book Search works just like web search. Try a search on Google Books or on When a book with content matches your search terms, it is in your search results.

If the book is out of copyright, or the publisher has given Google permission, you'll be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases the entire text. If it's in the public domain, you're free to download a PDF copy.

You also have links to "Buy this book" and "Borrow this book" to see where you can buy it or borrow the print book from a library.

Google obtains books in two ways: the Partner Program (publishers & authors) and the Library Project.

How Books Appear in Google Books:

  • Full View: You can see books in Full View if the book is out of copyright, or if the publisher or author has asked to make the book fully viewable. The Full View allows you to view any page from the book, and if the book is in the public domain, you can download, save and print a PDF version to read at your own pace.
  • Limited Preview: If the publisher or author has given us permission, you can see a limited number of pages from the book as a preview.
  • Snippet View: The Snippet View, like a card catalog, shows information about the book plus a few snippets – a few sentences to display your search term in context.
  • No Preview Available: Like a card catalog, you're able to see basic information about the book.

Internet Archive

Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies, music, & computer software as well as 292 billion archived web pages. It has many different components and projects and was started in 1996.

Book-related projects:

  • The Internet Archive Text Archive contains a wide range of fiction, popular books, children's books, historical texts and academic books. You can download free books and texts from here as PDF and eHub formats.
  • The Open Library is a project of the Internet Archive. The site seeks to include a web page database for every book ever published. It holds 23 million catalog records of books, in addition to the full texts of about 1,600,000 public domain books, which are fully readable and downloadable. Open Library is an open source project, with its source code freely available.