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Kindle Report: Citiation Issues

February 8, 2011

Teaching with texts on a Kindle quickly brings up the question of how to cite such works in a scholarly paper.  Citing books or other works read on an Kindle (or any other e-book reader) is not explicitly covered in the MLA Handbook (7th edition, 2009), which is the style used by the UGA English Department. (The UGA Libraries’ short guide to MLA 7 is available as a .pdf file.)  The topic has been the subject of some debate online, at the Chronicle of Higher Education forums and on numerous blogs and other sites.

Consensus seems to be that one cites the work as if it were a combination of a print book and a digital file, adding “Kindle Edition” if the work is purchased from the Amazon Kindle store, and using a location number (or a chapter number) in lieu of a page number for quotations.  For works found at Project Gutenburg, or other sites providing digitzed books in Kindle formats, one should probably cite the work in its original print incarnation, and add, i.e., “Kindle Edition from Project Gutenberg” and location numbers as needed.

For students, a consultation with the professor for the class is advised before submission of the paper, to see if the professor has any personal feelings on the subject.

Here are the suggested examples the professor and I came up with (using MLA):

In-text: “The sun illuminates only the eye of man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.” (Emerson 54)
Works Cited list: Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Nature.  Project Gutenberg, edition for Kindle, 2009.  E-book.

In-text: “Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day;” (Thoreau 77).
Works Cited list: Thoreau, Henry David, Walden. Amazon Kindle edition, 2004.  E-book.

Just yesterday, however, came the news that Kindle books will start having page numbers; it is implied that these will correspond to the page numbers of the print edition from which the Kindle edition is derived.  This makes things easy, for books that have a print edition – but plenty of books already do not, and more will not in the future.  It’s a brave new world.  Luckily Walden is timeless.

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