Skip to Main Content

Accessing Resources

ebooks@cambridge: Cite ebooks

A guide to finding and using ebooks at the University of Cambridge

Citing ebooks: where to start

This page gives guidance on some general issues that you might encounter when citing ebooks, regardless of citation style. Our advice is intended as a starting point only, and should not replace guidelines issued by your faculty or department. This Reference Management LibGuide can help you with more detailed advice, and for further information you should contact your faculty or departmental librarian.

You may also find Cite them Right (link opens in new tab/window) (covers various citation styles) helpful. The Chicago Manual of Style (link opens in new tab/window) gives detailed information about the Chicago style, but might also be useful for general principles.

Cite them Right Online

Cite them right cover

Chicago Manual of Style Online

Chicago Manual of Style Online

Section 14 of the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style includes advice on citing electronic sources, including ebooks.

Page numbering in ebooks

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. The PDFs on Oxford Scholarship Online/University Press Scholarship Online are a significant exception to this. These PDFs have been generated from the HTML (Read Online), rather than from the print, editions. See the Other formats section below for further details.

Other formats

Ebooks in EPub, Kindle, HTML (Read Online) 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.

Oxford Scholarship Online/University Press Scholarship Online offers HTML versions of texts, with the option to download PDFs generated from the HTML version, not from the print edition. However, both the HTML and PDF versions have original page numbers embedded in the text as shown below:

Screenshot showing embedded page numbering in Oxford Scholarship Online

The embedded number indicates the start of that page in the print edition, so in the example above, page 40 begins with the phrase ‘they begin to practice …’. These page numberings can be relied upon for citation purposes.


Citing Electronic Legal Deposit (eLD) ebooks

When citing Electronic Legal Deposit ebooks, there are a several issues to think about:

Page numbers

A large number of the books received on Electronic Legal Deposit are coming through in EPUB format and lack page numbering. Moreover, the page numbers displayed on the software's toolbar are counted from the cover and do not correspond to the pagination in the printed work, so must not be relied upon.

These issues have been raised as a matter of concern by the Legal Deposit Libraries. Meanwhile it is suggested that reference is made to chapter and paragraph number, as in the following example (in the Harvard style):

In-text citation:

In his analysis, McClelland (2016, chapter 4, para 2) argues that the pervasive four-measure groupings…

Reference list:

McClelland, Ryan C. (2016) Brahms and the scherzo: studies in musical narrative [Restricted Access Ebook]. Ashgate Publishing. Available at:

Unfortunately you will need to count the paragraph numbers yourself from the beginning of the relevant chapter.

Adding a format description

Access to eLD ebooks is restricted to certain terminals, unlike standard ebooks. It makes sense to provide readers who may attempt to follow up your references with some indication of this via a format description in your reference list:

McClelland, Ryan C. (2016) Brahms and the scherzo: studies in musical narrative [Restricted Access Ebook]. Ashgate Publishing. Available at:


Many citation styles require the inclusion of a URL for electronic sources. For eLD ebooks, we recommend using the standard for all titles. Readers of your references who are not using a special eLD terminal will be redirected to information about Electronic Legal Deposit access and a list of available terminals.

How do I know if I’m looking at a PDF or EPUB title?

To find out which format you are dealing withon an eLD terminal, check the dark grey bar which appears along the top of the screen when viewing a book. On the far left you will see the file name of the book. EPUB files appear with the .epub extension.

Read more about Electronic Legal Deposit here.

Exporting citations from ebook platforms

Image of typical  'cite' icon from ebook platformMany 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 Zotero and Mendeley from many of our ebook platforms.

DOIs and URLs

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.

About DOIs:

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:

Screenshot from Oxford Scholarship Online showing a DOI








Can't find a DOI?

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 iDiscover, as these URLs often contain code that triggers a Raven login 'wall', which would prevent anyone without Cambridge University affiliation from following the link to somewhere meaningful.

Contact us


Visit the University of Cambridge's guidance pages on plagiarism and good academic practice to find out more about the University's view, as well as further advice on how and when to reference.

Question mark image

Why not further your understanding of plagiarism with this Plagiarism LibGuide, which includes a useful mini quiz to check what you know?

Further ebooks information for Cambridge librarians can be found on the Cambridge Libraries Intranet.

© Cambridge University Libraries | Accessibility | Privacy policy | Log into LibApps