Secure electronic delivery

Guidance on how to use the British Library's secure electronic delivery service.



Secure electronic delivery (SED) is a method that allows documents from the British Library to be delivered in electronic format to your desktop. These are delivered as encrypted PDFs and are fully copyright compliant.

Only documents supplied by the British Library can be sent using this electronic delivery method, which is the preferred method of supply unless you indicate that you would prefer a paper copy to be sent to you.

Articles delivered electronically normally arrive in three days if they are immediately available at the British Library.

When the document is available an email will be sent to your email address, usually your university email account, with a link to download or print the document. This email will be sent directly to you by the British Library (from

Check your email regularly if you are expecting an interlibrary request. It is possible that your email software may identity the email as spam, so check your spam folders as well.

Some things to note:

  • The document must be downloaded and saved or printed within 30 days of receipt of this email, after which the file will be deleted from the British Library server.

  • You are only allowed to download the document from the secure server once.

  • You can only print one copy and you should not make any further copies.

  • You can save the document by clicking File > Save as. Saved articles should be available for up to three years.

Copyright law forbids copying of more than one article or paper from a single journal issue. If you require more than one article we will try and borrow the whole issue.

Opening a document

The email sent by the British Library will have a link that will take you to the download page. To open the document you must register for a British Library Account. 

You can register from the British Library’s website if you have not already got an account:

  • Go to the BL On Demand website and select the option to Register in the top right hand corner. Alternatively you can do this from the Register for On Demand link within the download page of your British Library document.

  • Follow the instructions which include activating your account. You will need your account username and password to log in and access your documents. Note that there is a delay of a few hours between registration and the account becoming live.

  • You may receive an automated email from the British Library asking if you want to link your account to your institution’s account. You do not need to do this to receive documents electronically from the British Library, so ignore this message.

  • You will need to have Adobe Reader version 10 or above installed on your device to view documents.

Problems opening a document

Basic considerations

You need to be connected to the internet to open your document.

You must use Adobe Reader 10 or above to view your document on any device you are using.

You must open and save the document within 30 days of receiving the email from the British Library. After 30 days the document will no longer be available. You can save the document by clicking File > Save as.

If your initial download attempt fails and you have only just registered for your British Library Account, try again later. You need to wait at least 10 minutes for It to update before attempting to download your article.

Browser settings

If your browser’s default PDF viewer is not Adobe Reader, it will have to be disabled before the documents can be read.

If you are using Internet Explorer or Firefox you should not have any problems. If you are using Google Chrome you will need to disable your PDF viewer before the document can be read:

  • If you are using Chrome v57 or later you can disable it by typing chrome://settings/content/pdfDocuments into the address bar, and switching on Open PDFs using a different application.

  • If you are using Chrome v56 or earlier, type chrome://plugins into the address bar, then scroll down and click Disable next to Chrome PDF viewer.

If you are a Mac user and are using Safari as your web browser you will need to disable the PDF viewer. You will need to change this by going to Safari (top left) and Preferences, then unticking the option to Open 'Safe' files after downloading.

Forgotten password

If you have forgotten your username and password, the British Library will be able to help with this. Click on the Forgotten username and password link on the download page of your document.

If you change your password, you can still access saved documents using your new password. You may need to clear the remembered account information in Adobe Reader.

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