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What is HEB and what makes it different from other e-book services or initiatives?

ACLS Humanities E-Book (HEB) is a nonprofit, subscription-based online collection of around 5,000 titles in the humanities. HEB is unique in offering a curated titlelist, recommended and reviewed by scholars; the content of some other collections is determined by publishers. Our collection makes available books of time-tested intellectual importance and pedagogical value, as well as innovative works in new fields of scholarship.

What is ACLS?

The American Council of Learned Societies, founded in 1919, is the pre-eminent representative of humanities scholars in the United States. ACLS awards up to $15 million in research fellowships annually to advance scholarship in the humanities. ACLS is a federation of 74 national and international scholarly membership organizations.

What are the humanities?

The humanities are fields of inquiry that study and document how humans create meaning in language, art, thought, and in their very history. The core disciplines of the humanities are literature, linguistics, history, art history, philosophy; but the humanities also include much work in anthropology, political science, sociology and economic history.

What are learned societies and why is their participation important?

Learned societies are voluntary membership organizations that bring together scholars dedicated to particular fields of study. Examples would be the American Historical Association, the American Philosophical Association or the Middle East Studies Association. Almost all society members are both researchers and teachers in universities, colleges and secondary schools. When societies participate in HEB, they help choose titles for the collection that are both intellectually important and pedagogically valuable.

What subjects are covered by HEB?

The collection covers a large number of subject areas in the humanities, from Medieval History to Women's Studies, Film and Media to Religious Studies. For more information, see

How do I get access to the collection?

Access to the collection is exclusively via institutional or individual subscription. For more information, see

Why do I have to subscribe to and cannot purchase HEB titles?

HEB titles are licensed from copyright holders solely for online access by subscribers, and we don't have permission to make the source files available. However, it is possible to obtain an extended license, allowing for easy and affordable longterm access to the collection. Contact for more info.

If my institution has a subscription, how can I access books? Can I access titles from off-site/off-campus?

When on campus at a subscribing institution, your IP address will be automatically recognized and you can instantly view and read all titles. When off-campus, you will need to log into your university account in order to access your institution's digital resources.

What if my institution does not subscribe to HEB?

You can purchase an individual subscription to HEB for $40. Membership in one of ACLS's 74 constituent learned societies is a prerequisite for this. You may also want to recommend a free trial of HEB to your institution's digital resources librarian. For more information, see

Is there a limit to the number of users that can access HEB at a time?

No, user-access is unlimited and available 24/7.

Do I need specific requirements on my PC to access the collection?

No, access to the collection is via any standard web browser.

Are your titles accessible for people with disabilities who use assistive technology?

We are happy to report that most features of the HEB collection now allow for navigation by standard automatic screen readers. Our books are designed to be accessible with a variety of hardware devices, software configurations, and assistive technologies. While the majority of HEB titles are derived from page scans, they all feature underlying OCR (optical character recognition)-derived text that can be accessed when the “text” page view option is selected.

How do I find titles of interest? Is there an index of titles I can browse?

There are a number of options available to find titles in the collection through our search interface. Titles may also be browsed by author, title and subject:
A spreadsheet listing all titles currently available in the collection can be downloaded here:
Finally, HEB includes Library of Congress subject headings in our MARC records; these headings can help users find relevant titles.

Aren't most of your books old?

Actually, the collection features titles dating from 1857 to 2016. Even though HEB has many newer titles, it should be noted that “old” books retain their value in the humanities, both as an object of study (“What did people think about economic inequality during the Great Depression?”) and because they remain intellectually influential long after their original publication. Our older titles are an asset to the collection as many of these titles are out of print and hard to find but still valuable to scholarship. For more information, see

Does the HEB collection duplicate e-book holdings to which my institution already subscribes?

Our research shows that an average of 90% of the HEB collection is unique and does not overlap with the title lists made available by a number of other providers (including JSTOR, Project MUSE, ebrary, EBSCO Academic and EBL Ebook Library). The HEB collection is centered on backlist titles of enduring value to research and teaching. The titles held in HEB are often the only digital versions of these books currently available and thus remain unduplicated.

How are your titles selected?

Thirty-one learned societies of the ACLS currently participate in developing lists of recommended titles. We also receive title recommendations from individual scholars and authors of frontlist titles included in the collection, which also features a number of prize-winning scholarly works.

Can I send suggestions/requests for titles?

Yes. If you would like to recommend a book of high quality and lasting merit in the humanities, please e-mail us at with the title, author, publisher and publication date; as well as your name, position and affiliation. All titles will undergo a review process before being added to the collection.

How do you obtain the books?

The vast majority of books in our collection were granted to us by publishers. In cases where publishers have informed us that rights have reverted back to authors we seek rights from them. HEB also includes public domain works that were published before 1923. The collection includes many out of print books that we source from the used book market or from the University of Michigan libraries. As a result, HEB offers many rare books along with classic and popular books.

Is the HEB collection static? How stable is the collection?

HEB typically adds several hundred books per year to its collection, which is expected to continue to grow each year; all existing subscribers automatically have access to any new additions. While individual titles have been removed over the years in cases where the rightsholder could not be found, or a publisher informed us of a change in availability of electronic rights, the collection is extremely stable. As of November 2016, the number of titles removed since inception stands at 161. Please see the following link for a list of all titles removed to date:

Can I print titles?

HEB follows fair-use rights and restrictions for all books on the site. Since most material on this site is licensed for electronic distribution only, this means that you may print pages for your personal research use only. After choosing the “PDF” page view option for any given title, ten pages may be viewed and printed at a time to allow users to follow a citation or extract a quotation.

What format are your books in? Does HEB use any new media?

Most of the collection consists of page-image books (marked with the symbol), which are derived from scanning and contain exact page images of the print book, as well as underlying OCR-derived text to enable searching. HEB also features about 90 XML books (marked with the symbol), which use encoded text and interactive features such as links, enlargeable images, audio and video clips and other supplementary media.

Are HEB titles available for download? Can I read them on my Kindle, iPad, etc.?

HEB is in the process of launching a handheld/mobile editions program, in which a subset of several hundred titles from the online collection will eventually be made available for handheld devices. For the time being, these books will be available for individual purchase rather than included with a subscription package. For a list of titles currently available in mobile-friendly formats, please see:

I am a librarian. How can I ensure users will be able to find HEB titles of interest?

The best way to ensure books will be found by users is to import MARC records for the collection (provided for free by HEB) into the library catalog. Librarians may also want to send out a notice to students and faculty when starting a subscription to encourage use of this resource. HEB is happy to provide tips and sample copy for this. Please contact

Where can I download MARC records?

MARC records are available for download directly from the HEB website: A complete set of HEB records, including OCLC IDs, can also be found on WorldCat.

Can InterLibrary Loan be used with HEB?

No, institutions must themselves be subscribers in order to access our collection.

How can I access usage statistics for my institution?

HEB provides free custom and COUNTER-compliant usage stat reports to subscribers. For more information, see:

How can I update IP addresses for my institution?

If you would like to add an IP address to your authorized range (or remove one), please send us your update request by contacting

rev. 11/30/2016