Skip to Main Content

Library Ebooks as Course Materials

Creating a link to library ebooks

The best ebook link to provide library users is the link created using the library catalog. 

Click on the correct ebook in the results list to navigate to that ebook's entry in the catalog. Scroll down to locate the "permalink" button (between "View It" and "Details"). Click on the permalink button to generate a link to be shared with students.

Permalink button in a Primo record.


If you require a direct link to the ebook, however, individual platforms will have slightly different directions on how to create such a link. Please contact the Open Educational Resources Librarian for additional information.

Please be aware that if the publisher changes their ebook URLs that the links you generate from individual platforms may stop working.

We do NOT recommend copying the URL in your browser as it may not include the information needed to access VCU materials off-campus, or it may be unique to your session and, when shared, may no longer work.  

Linking to an ebook in Canvas

Linking to an ebook in your course site helps students connect with the resource. You have three options when linking to an ebook in Canvas; you may use the Redirect Tool app to add the ebook to your course navigation, add as a Module link, or simply add the permalink as an external URL on a Page.

For each option, use the URL/permalink generated in the above box, "Creating a link to library ebooks."

Adding an ebook to Course Navigation (Redirect Tool)

  1. From the course navigation, click on “Settings.”
  2. Click on the "Apps" tab across the top.
  3. Search for "Redirect" in the search bar provided.
  4. Click on the “Redirect Tool" that appears once the search is complete.
  5. Click the “+ Add App” button that appears
  6. Enter the “Name” for the link. This is the word/phrase that will appear in the course navigation.
  7. Enter the URL/permalink.
  8. Adjust the settings as needed:
    Open in a new tab – This is the appropriate setting for an external URL/permalink
    Show in Course Navigation – This puts your link within the course navigation bar.
  9. Click the “Add App” button
  10. The link now appears in the course navigation at the bottom. You can go into your navigation settings to rearrange it.

redirect tool add app dialog box redirect add app with example name and URL

The images above show the dialog box presented in step 5 first and example inputs for steps 6 to 8 next.

Adding an ebook as as an External URL in a Module 

  1. From an existing module, click the + icon
  2. From the dropdown menu, select to “External URL”
  3. Paste the permalink into the URL box 
  4. Name the page 
  5. Select “Load in New Tab”
  6. Click “Add Item”

add ebook to module example

The image above shows the dialog box presented when adding module content in Canvas with the example inputs for adding an ebook.

Adding an ebook as an External URL on a Page

Using the permalink, use the same method for adding external links using the Rich Content Editor on a Page of your choice.

insert link box in Canvas

The image above shows the dialog box presented when adding a link in Canvas.

Reporting Adoptions to the Bookstore

According to the VCU Textbook Adoptions and Sales Policy, all "faculty shall submit textbook and course material adoption information to the respective university bookstore." Universal reporting to the bookstore

  • Creates a comprehensive list of all course materials being assigned.
  • Creates transparency for students, so they are aware of what they need to purchase. Or, in the case of open texts, are aware there is a text for the course, even if it's free.
  • Ensures that those students who are required to use financial aid dollars marked for course materials at the bookstore can use their funds to purchase materials.
  • Ensures that those students who may want their own copy or a print copy can obtain it through the bookstore. 

Due to both the policy requirement and the additional benefits, VCU Libraries recommends reporting textbook adoptions to the bookstore, even for texts which are freely available, including library ebooks and OER. However, for those freely available books, you should include a note alerting your students that a free version exists.

Reporting to the Bookstore

Barnes & Noble @ VCU now uses the Barnes & Noble Adoptions and Insights Portal to report adoptions. This site draws from a number of publisher databases to assist you in easily locating the correct text. Make sure that you share information about what format (e.g. print/ebook) you recommend students obtain if you have a preference.

If you're using an OER or other text that you can't find on the site, reach out directly to the bookstore for assistance. Alternatively, for OER, you can also indicate that no book is assigned, but add a note to the alert students that a book actually is required, although it is free.

Adding a note about free editions

Whenever there is a free version of your course material available, VCU Libraries strongly encourages faculty to add a note in the Barnes & Noble interface. Letting students know a free version is available

  • Creates transparency so students know and can evaluate their options of obtaining the required materials.
  • Eases worries of students worried about the cost of the textbook or, alternatively, how they can succeed if they can't afford to purchase the materials.
  • For OER indicated as "no textbook required," lets students know they actually do have a textbook, it's just freely available.

Notes can be added through the Adoptions and Insights Portal or by contacting the bookstore directly. The note will appear alongside the book listing on the Barnes & Noble site.

Sample notes include: 

  • Please talk to your instructor before purchasing this text.
  • This book is available as a free version online/through VCU Libraries. Please see your instructor for additional information.