Citing eBooks

I got my Amazon Kindle about a year ago and I really enjoy it, but I am  finding myself become increasingly frustrated by the apparent lack of standards when it comes to citing eBooks.  On some occassions this isn't really a problem—if you need a particular page number you can often times type a phrase into Google Books and find what you're looking for (assuming the correct edition is available).  But to some extent this defeats the purpose of having an eReader.  Furthermore, Google Books often censors the content of a variety of books, so it's not guaranteed that you will be able to find the specific page that you happen to be searching for.  

I am clearly not the first person to find this frustrating.  Upon searching for an answer I came across this page with some comments written by a certain Stephen Smith.  The location numbers that eReaders like the Kindle feature should indeed be more accurate, as I understand it.  Depending on the reader's preferences you can change the size of the font.  But, as this will change the content featured on each "page" of the eReader, page numbers are not particularly useful guides when searching for specific content. 

The page referenced above suggests a solution offered by the Chicago Manual of Style, wherein a section title or chapter be listed for eBooks in place of page numbers.  But this is really not much of a solution.  Depending on the writer's style and length of the book, particular sections or chapters could be enormous, thereby making it difficult to track down what it is that you are looking for.  True, as this page points out, even hard copies of books have some issues with page numbers varying across different editions.  But this is only a problem when tracking content across multiple readers.  And even in a situation where two or more readers are working from different editions, the content is often similar enough where the page different might only be a matter of a couple of pages. 

The problem with eReaders seems to be that the reader/author themselves cannot accurately convey, by current academic standards, where it is that they are drawing information from.  And it is more difficult to translate a location number into a page number than it is to navigate from a page number from one edition to the correct spot in another edition of the same hard copy.  I haven't yet seen an article published in a political science journal that features eReader locations for some readings, in addition to page numbers for others.  A quick Google search for political science style guides did not seem to shed any light on the issue either.  I'm not sure this problem affects that many people at present, but it does seem like an issue that would, conceivably, be fairly simple to resolve.                

About Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Kansas State University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2013. His research focuses on the political and economic determinants of foreign economic and security policy, security issues, and state repression.

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