How to use ebooks in academic reference styles?

Ebooks are great, a comfortable way of reading, cutting-edge technology, useful, etc., but once it comes to using the text of an e-book in your research paper or book, it may become difficult to find just the right method of referring to a particular piece of content. Open any number of style sheets or reference manuals, you are likely to be left without any valuable information as to how to refer to the location of a specific quote. We, at AMERICANA eBooks are certainly interested in finding a convenient and widely accepted format that would set the convention of referencing in the case of this new medial phenomenon that is prone to stay and infect the academic world. To start the discussion about the issue of reference formats, we first turn to Kindle and send out a modest proposal to the world of Kindle-users and academics worldwide.

In our view there seems to be two options for solving the problem of academically accepted reference style in the case of Kindle ebook versions. One is a rather conservative and a bit tiresome solution; the other is more progressive and we believe is more likely to strike chords with the Kindle community of academic readers:

  1. using a pdf version alongside the Kindle version and thus refer to the traditional page-mode of the pdf file;
  2. using the “Location” parameter of Kindle, set to default (i.e., no change in font size and type, nor in orientation of the screen).

The drawback of the first option is that once you find something to quote in the Kindle version of a book, you should then look up the same text in the pdf version and refer to that in your text. The other problem is that not all ebooks come in a pdf+prc (or pdf+azw, or any Kindle-compatible format) bundle, which does not make it an entirely reliable solution to the problem, even if editors of style sheets in this case would have nothing to do: you can refer to a pdf version just the same way as you would do it with a printed book.

The second option is clearly more progressive and embraces the new format completely. We suggest that the academic community use the “Location” reference of Kindle in the following way:

Author’s name. Title of book. Place of publishing: Publisher, Year of publication. Kindle ed., Loc. 1544-52/2577.

The new part of this reference system is of course the one that starts with specifying the type of edition (in our case it is a Kindle edition, just as Amazon provides this information on its website), then comes the “Location” part that specifies the exact place of the referenced material. The last bit, “/2577” specifies the entire length of the ebook, and can be used to ensure that the settings on your Kindle device are the same as that of the author of the ebook.

These, of course, are preliminary thoughts thrown out into the wild, but we would be very happy to hear your opinion – and your suggestions, either with Kindle types of editions or any other format. Let us set the conventions now for the sake of the academic community and of the present and future of electronic publications.

2 replies on “How to use ebooks in academic reference styles?”

Well, in a way you are right: the location gives the location of words, which does not change by altering font sizes. However, the range of location given can be confusing with different font sizes: e.g. with default settings you may have a “page” at Loc. 3245-3255, but when you change the size, it may be Loc. 3246-3250. Of couse, if you go directly either of the locations, you will find the cited part, but none of them will give you the exact place (the word that begins the sentence or phrase and the word that concludes it). I wonder though if you clip the cited part, would it give the exact location range? I’ll need to look into it 😉

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