How to cite e-books

I spotted an item today in which a blogger was pondering how one should cite an e-book, in particular the kind you download to read from a device such as the Kindle (note to fellow book lovers: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, I was actually pleasantly surprised!)  The post was called “The Future of Footnotes” and it talked about the difficulties of using these non-traditional sources when one needs to cite for academic purposes.

He (Jonathan Rees) said:

“…I think I expected e-books to look something like the screen on Google Books: All the pages are intact, but they’re electronic [however] … at least when using the Kindle for iPad app, there are no page numbers at all. There are these long 4+ digit location numbers, but they don’t precisely match the words on the page and I don’t see any way to use them to locate particular snippets of text. I suspect this is because page numbers would differ depending upon what device you read the e-book on or even at what magnification you set your own device. While this is perfectly fine for reading a novel that you’ll never open again, for historians this ought to pose a problem. How can we tell people where we found what we found?”

There is some help online, and not surprisingly Mr Rees wasn’t alone in his frustration.  The question of page numbers was dealt with on “How do you cite an e-book’s ‘page number’?

From the article :

 “In the follow-up discussion of the article, some readers point out that the Chicago Manual of Style offers a guide to citing e-books:

“If a book is available in more than one format, cite the version you consulted. For books consulted online, list a URL; include an access date only if one is required by your publisher or discipline. If no fixed page numbers are available, you can include a section title or a chapter or other number.”

And it includes an example of a “Kindle edition”. A “location” number would seem to be a perfect example of an “other” number. In fact, it might even be more useful than a page number, because the “location” would be about the same no matter which device you read a Kindle e-book on, whereas a page number only applies to one specific version of the printed book.”

Along with the guide in the quote above there are many  other sites to help with citation such as “How to Cite E-Books” from  And as the Teleread article concluded:

“the academic world does need to come to terms with how to do citation of e-books without page numbering, because e-books are only going to get more popular from here”


One response to “How to cite e-books

  1. Pingback: 转载:关于如何引用电子书的讨论 « 西蒙译话

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