A Call for a Unified Referencing System for Academic eBooks

At AMERICANA eBooks we are well aware of one of the most common problems of using ebooks in an academic setting: citing, quoting from, or simply referring to passages in an ebook may be problematic, as it is the nature of a typical ebook format that it is not structured into pages, but is reflowable to allow the reader maximum comfort and ease of adoption by various reading devices. A more liberal view is to allow for ebook citations and referncing along the lines of the usual digital or online materials, i.e. stating the usual bibliographical data without the page numbers, indicating that one is using a digital object/document. However, there are stricter views on using references, requesting the exact indication of chapter, section and/or paragraph if page numbers are not available. While it should be fairly easy to count down to the referred paragraph in the given chapter of a digital document, we think this process should be made as evident and effortless for the reader as possible. To achieve it, AMERICANA eBooks announces a new initiative: publishers of academic ebooks are invited to join us in coding paragraph numbers in new releases so that using references to ebooks would no longer be a problem. We are also releasing a code snippet anyone can use freely in compiling their files – a set of simple CSS declarations that make paragraph numbering entirely automatic.

Just copy and paste the following code into your CSS (inline HTML or separate file work just as well):

.chapter {
 counter-reset: paragraph;
 padding-left: 10px;}
p {
 text-align: justify;
 line-height: 1.22em;
 margin: 5px 0 0 7px;}
p:before {
 position: absolute;
 text-indent: 0px;
 left: 15px;
 padding-top: 2px;
 font-size: 80%;
 color: #888888;
 content: counter(paragraph);
 counter-increment: paragraph;}

Here is how it looks in the browser (e-readers should more or less reproduce this layout). Of course, the style can be finetuned or altered, what is important is the counter property within the chapter and the paragraph containers. This solution works both in epub and in the new Kindle KF8 (AZW3) formats, i.e. most e-reading devices and software are expected to support it. (We tested it on Kindle Keyboard, Kindle Paperwhite, iPad, and Calibre, among others). In e-readers that do not support this feature, it degrades nicely – numbers will simply not appear with the first lines of paragraphs.

Let us make an effort to produce academy-compatible ebooks to promote their wide adoption.