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 from your department (or publisher) 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. This Reference Management LibGuide can help with this.
You may also find Cite them Right (covers various citation styles) helpful. The Chicago Manual of Style gives detailed information about the Chicago style, but might also be useful for general principles.
The rest of this page gives guidance on some general issues that you might encounter when citing ebooks, regardless of style. For further help, please contact your Faculty or Departmental library.
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).
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:
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.
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.
When citing Electronic Legal Deposit ebooks, there are a several issues to think about:
Some Electronic Legal Deposit ebooks are provided in PDF format and others in EPub format. Follow the pagination advice above, depending on the format. To find out which format you are dealing with, check the dark blue bar which appears along the top of the screen when viewing an Electronic Legal Deposit ebook. On the far left you will see the file name of the book, with either a .pdf or .epub file extension.
The URLs for Electronic Legal Deposit ebooks are not displayed when viewing the ebook on the eLD terminal. To find the URL in order to include it in your citation, first find the item on iDiscover. Display the full record, and right click on the link in the 'View Online' section. You can then copy the link to your clipboard:
Adding a format description
In view of the fact that access to eLD ebooks is restricted to certain terminals, it makes sense to include a format description in your citation. The following is an example of a reference to an eLD book in the APA style:
McClelland, Ryan C. (2016). Brahms and the scherzo : studies in musical narrative. [Restricted Access Ebook] Retrieved from https://cam.ldls.org.uk/vdc_100030849974.0x000001
Read more about Electronic Legal Deposit here.
To find out more about the University of Cambridge's view on plagiarism and good academic practice, as well as further advice on how and when to reference, visit these guidance pages.