Citing a Kindle


I love my Amazon Kindle.  I have one of the original ones bought it the day they came out.   A feature I continue to ask for on the Kindle is some indicator of some page number one could find on a physical copy of the book.  Lacking this feature I had to get creative when citing a work I only have access to on the Kindle.

APA

Normally, using APA style, you would make an in-text citation for a book with this format:

(Author’s last name, Publication year, page number), e.g. (Smith, 1981, p. 56).

As previously mentioned, a Kindle does not give us page numbers.  So, what does APA say about such circumstances?  For electronic works without page numbers, APA actually allows for using the paragraph after some heading or using chapters and sections.

For a citation in my paper on virtual teams from Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin I used the following in-text citation:

(Covin, 2008, Ch. 2 ¶2)

The text is found after the Chapter 2 heading in the second paragraph.  This method is preferrable to using the location indicator given by the Kindle itself for the following reasons:

  1. Kindle location is inprecise, unless you’re only looking at the citation on the screen.
  2. This is more precise than merely saying “Chapter 2″.
  3. “Chapter 2, Paragraph 2″ can be used to find the text in question no matter what format or edition of the book is used.

The bibliography entry for the book looks like:

Colvin, Geoff. (2008).
Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
. New York, NY: Portfolio. Kindle Ed.

Colvin, Geoff. (2008).  Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.  New York, NY: Portfolio. Kindle Ed.

It is important to indicate that the work is a Kindle edition.  While the in-text citation is actually more portable than the normal in-text citation, academic readers will not assume you a referring to an electronic text and may just think you don’t know what you’re doing.

Update: Here’s a blog entry at APA from September 3, 2009 which agrees with my suggestion quite a bit, with slight differences.

MLA

MLA advises mentioning the author and title of the work in the sentence rather than using a parenthetical citation for Internet and electronic works.  If you do use a parenthetical citation, MLA only requires the name of the author.  However, this will likely cause some frustration on the part of the paper’s reviewer.  I would suggest:

(Author’s last name, section-paragraph), e.g. (Colvin, Ch. 2 ¶2).

The paragraph number is optional, but I always prefer to error on the side of verbosity.

For your bibliography, use this format:

Colvin, Geoff. Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. New York: Portfolio, 2008. Kindle.

Turabian

Turabian actually allows either parenthetical in-text citation or footnotes or endnotes.  If you use a footnote or endnote, simply insert the appropriate superscript number (MS Word and other word processors do this automatically when you insert a footnote/endnote).  In the footnote/endnote section use this format (continuing with our previous example):

1. Geoff Colvin, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (New York: Portfolio, 2008), Chapter 2 ¶2.

In this case, the paragraph is optional, as in MLA, but again – more information is better.  This is especially true when dealing with a new medium.

The bibliography entry would look like:

Colvin, Geoff. Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. New York: Portfolio, 2008.

When using parenthetical in-text references the format is similar to APA, except for the lack of punctuation between the author and year:

(Colvin 2008, Ch. 2 ¶2)

When using this format, the bibliography entry actaully changes to this:

Colvin, Geoff. 2008. Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. New York: Portfolio.

Warning

I am not an official source.  I am merely an indepedent scholar dealing with a situation and sharing my solution.  Please check with the body governing your research paper and be sure to continue to check for updates from APA, MLA, or Turabian.  Certainly, you’ll need to look at how they deal with multiple authors, journals, etc… and adapt my suggestions as needed.

UPDATE: On the latest generation Kindle and software for other devices some books now have page numbers corresponding to the physical version of the book.  This is huge and will negate the need for using locations on citations as this feature becomes more widespread.  It’s about time!



8 Responses to “Citing a Kindle”

  1. Kjetil Kringlebotten Says:

    “Kindle location is inprecise, unless you’re only looking at the citation on the screen.”

    No, a Kindle location is nothing but imprecise; it always points to the same position. If, let’s say, locations 125-126 is ‘Chris likes to play chess on wednesday afternoons,’ it is always that, no matter how large the font size. The only thing font size does is make the font size bigger (duh!) and change the amount of locations visible on the screen. So a Kindle location is in fact more precise than a page in a book.

  2. Judy Says:

    FYI: I like your citation suggestions; however, MLA doesn’t put a comma between the author’s name and the page number (or location). Therefore, your citation should read (Colvin Ch. 2 ¶2). I would question the allowance of numbering the paragraph. MLA specifically says to use numbers only if the source uses actual paragraph numbers.

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  4. polarffour Says:

    Pretty insightful post. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and you’re the only one that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up

  5. kindle3gwifi-guy Says:

    It is much simpler now and moving the prev-next buttons on both sides makes is easy for everyone. The 3G is definitely worth the price. Still no anything for library books. Everyone wants that feature. Amazon should stop being shady not allowing EPub.

  6. Evenstar Says:

    Very helpful indeed. I hope the publishers/reviewers accept it too.

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