How do I cite a Kindle?

An interesting one!  With more and more eReaders seeing the light of day, we will have to know how to cite and reference their content.

Chelsea Lee, blogged the following on the APA Style Blog

E-book readers, like the popular Kindle from Amazon.com, are revolutionizing the way we interact with the printed page. Although most e-book content has leaned toward the nonscholarly, major textbook manufacturers are now partnering with Amazon to produce e-textbooks, with a pilot program to be run at six universities in Fall 2009. They have recently debuted the Kindle DX ($489 retail), which in comparison to the original Kindle boasts a bigger screen (9.7” vs. 6” diagonally) and native support for PDFs, both key to good textbook reproduction.

For the students and scholars who use Kindles (or other e-book readers) when writing papers, the next question becomes, how do I cite material I read on a Kindle?

For the reference list entry, you’ll need to include the type of e-book version you read (two examples are the Kindle DX version and the Adobe Digital Editions version). In lieu of publisher information, include the book’s DOI or where you downloaded the e-book from (if there is no DOI). For example:

  • Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success [Kindle DX version].  Retrieved from Amazon.com
  • Brill, P. (2004). The winner’s way [Adobe Digital Editions version]. doi:10.1036/007142363X

Consult Chapter 7 of the 6th ed. of the Publication Manual (examples 19, 20, and 21) for some more help. If the full URL is very long (the one for Gladwell’s book was), you may give instead the homepage URL with a description of where to go from there, or the store name—your preference (e.g., Amazon Kindle store or http://www.amazon.com).

In the text, however, citation can get confusing because e-books often lack page numbers (though PDF versions may have them). Kindle books have “location numbers,” which are static, but those are useless to anyone who doesn’t have a Kindle too. To cite in text, either (a) paraphrase, thus avoiding the problem (e.g., “Gladwell, 2008”), or (b) utilize APA’s guidelines for direct quotations of online material without pagination (see Section 6.05 of the manual). Name the major sections (chapter, section, and paragraph number; abbreviate if titles are long), like you would do if you were citing the Bible or Shakespeare.

Gladwell’s book has numbered chapters, and he’s numbered the sections in the chapters. An example direct quotation might be this:  

  • One of the author’s main points is that “people don’t rise from nothing” (Gladwell, 2008, Chapter 1, Section 2, para. 5).

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