As a basic principle, you should cite the version of a book that you have consulted. This means that, if you have used the ebook version of something that also exists in print, you should cite the electronic version. There could be differences between the two formats.
It is essential to find out which citation style (e.g. Harvard, MLA, Chicago etc.) you should be using. Different styles recommend different treatment for ebooks and you should follow the detailed guidelines for electronic material set out by each style.
You may also find Cite them Right (covers various citation styles) helpful.
The rest of this page gives guidance on some general issues that you might encounter when citing ebooks, regardless of style.
Many ebook platforms allow you to generate a citation for the item you are looking at. Some platforms offer a variety of citation styles. On the ebook's home page, look for a link or icon that says something like Copy or Export citation. This will usually be alongside print or download tools.
Even if the citation style you require is offered, you should use this feature with caution. Always check the citations generated against your departmental or publisher's guidelines. At the very least however, this feature can be useful for finding DOIs or persistent URLs which may not be readily displayed in your browser (see more about DOIs and URLs below).
You can also send citations straight to a variety of reference management software packages such as RefWorks from many of our ebook platforms.
Most citation styles require the inclusion of a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or URL after the ebook's publication facts. Here are examples using the Chicago style:
Fantuzzi, Marco. Achilles in love: intertextual studies. Oxford, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2017. DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199603626.001.0001
Fantuzzi, Marco. Achilles in love: intertextual studies. Oxford, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2017. http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199603626.001.0001/acprof-9780199603626
A DOI is a unique number that identifies an online source. DOIs are guaranteed to be permanent, unlike URLs. It is therefore better to use a DOI than a URL in a citation, if you can find one. Not all ebooks have DOIs however.
DOIs can often be found on the ebook's 'home page', along with other bits of information about the book. Here’s an example from Oxford Scholarship Online:
If you can't find a DOI, use a URL. Copy the URL from your browser when viewing the ebook's 'home page', or better still, export a citation (see above) and use the exported URL, which will be persistent. Try to avoid taking the URL from LibSearch, as these URLs often contain code that triggers a login, which would prevent anyone without Malmö University affiliation from following the link to somewhere meaningful.
Providing accurate page numbers is an important part of creating citations. However, some formats of ebook can present problems with pagination.
For precise page citation, ebooks in the PDF file format are the best to use as almost all retain the original layout and pagination of the print copy.
Ebooks in EPub, Kindle, HTML or other formats may lack page numbers altogether, or generate location numbers which change as the content adapts to the device or screen size. The best advice if in doubt whether the pagination can be relied upon is to use reasonable paragraph or section numbering instead. You may have to count the paragraphs from the beginning of the chapter yourself.